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Going on vacation? Here are five tips to keep your plants happy while you’re away

Updated: Jan 2, 2023

You’ve been so diligent with your plants over the last year. You’ve been keeping them well watered, fertilized and you’ve even been rotating them regularly to keep their growth nice and even. But summer is here, people are getting vaccinated and travel is on the menu again. Don’t allow the temptation to rush off to the nearest airport to blemish your heretofore spotless plant parenting record.

We have some simple tips that can be used alone or in combination to help keep your plants happy and hydrated during your vacation. If you plan to be away from home for more than two weeks, we encourage you to have a plant sitter swing by at least once to attend to your plants.

Also, before you use any of the tips below, we highly recommend testing them 2-3 weeks prior to your trip while you're still at home so you can measure how many days your specific plants can go without another watering. Let's get into it!

1. Put water in the saucer

As a general rule, we advise plant parents to not leave their plants in a saucer of standing water for more than 30 minutes after watering their plants. However, when you’re leaving on vacation, disregard this rule.

Thoroughly water all of your plants the night prior to leaving for your trip. The next morning, water your plants again and top off all of their saucers such that they are all sitting in standing water. This will give them a reserve to start drawing on while you’re away.

Although keeping plants in standing water is generally discouraged, in the summer plants evapotranspire water much more than they do in the winter. This means that summer is the perfect time to use this plant hack to keep your plants happy and hydrated while you’re away. (Do not employ this technique for succulents, cacti, orchids, or other plants that do not tolerate wet feet).

2. Use Mulch

Whether we're talking about houseplants or in-ground plants, mulch is a plant parent’s best friend because of its incredible water-retaining abilities. In the summer, especially when you plan to be away and won’t be able to keep a watchful eye on your plants’ water needs, mulch can make the difference between life and death.

A thick layer of mulch (3 to 4 inches outdoors and 1 to 2 inches for indoor and potted plants) will act as an incredible buffer against daytime water loss. Not only that, mulch slowly breaks down and feeds beneficial microbial activity in the soil. Bark mulch, stones, or gravel are great options for indoor mulch depending on the look you'd like to give your particular plant.

3. Add a watering stake with a Wine Bottle

There are innumerable self-watering attachments for wine bottles and water bottles on the market. If you choose to use one of these products to water your plants while you’re away, plan ahead and test the contraption for a length of time equal to the length of your trip before you leave. Observe the water level and confirm that it releases water at the rate you expect.

4. Move your plants into lower light

Plants metabolize and transpire in proportion to the amount of heat and sunlight they receive. Plants need light to live, so don’t put your plants in total darkness to stave off water loss.

However, those plants in your collection that are currently in full sun or on the sill of your southern window ought to be pulled back into a milder and dimmer environment. This will greatly diminish the amount of water your plants will need while you’re away, extending the time they'll need to be watered again.

5. MacGyver a Micro Greenhouse

One of the most effective ways to keep your plants from losing excessive moisture while you’re away is to cover your plants with a transparent or semi-transparent bag so as to increase the humidity level and decrease evapotranspiration. The key to this method, though, is to keep your plants out of direct sunlight. If you bag your plants before you run out the door and they're sitting in the sun, the bag will act as an oven and cook your plant.

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