The weather’s nice and you finally have time to take a break. But if no one’s around to help, you may be wondering how to water plants while away on vacation?
Fortunately, there are some techniques to help your indoor plants survive while you’re away from home for extended periods. We share our tips on things to consider for your houseplants before you travel, and some easy methods to keep your plants hydrated until you come back.
How much water do your plants need while you are away?
The majority of houseplants can survive happily for up to two weeks without water. They may not survive neglect regularly, but if you’ll be on vacation for two weeks, most of your plants will be okay. Just remember to give them a good drink before you leave.
Some factors impact the frequency of your houseplant watering, which you’ll need to consider before going on vacation. These include:
Plant size and age
Larger plants need more water than smaller ones. Younger plants that are growing vigorously may also have higher water requirements.
Some plants require low maintenance and don’t mind being neglected for a week or two. Others need special care to keep them thriving while you’re away.
Season and temperature
If you’re going on a summer vacation, take note that the season significantly affects how often watering house plants is needed. A higher indoor temperature will increase the rate of evaporation of water from the soil, meaning your plants will dry out faster. Watering plants while on vacation in summer can be a little trickier.
Indoor humidity also impacts the evaporation rate. If you’re traveling during winter and your windows will be shut, your home will have lower humidity, which makes it easier for water to evaporate into drier air.
Tips and DIY methods for watering plants while on vacation
Here are some easy DIY tips for how to water plants while away for extended periods. They are easy to implement to ensure you come home to happy and healthy plants.
Water Before You Leave
Water the plants well just before you leave. If you’ll be away for a week or less, you may only need to do this step. Give them enough water so it drains from the bottom and let them drain completely. I’ve found the night before you go is good, you won’t be an hour from home and suddenly remember you forgot to water your plants.
Cover Plants with a Plastic Bag
Cover your plants with a plastic bag. This creates a mini-greenhouse and helps retain humidity. Poke a few tiny holes in the bag to prevent it from suffocating or retaining too much moisture. This will reduce the need for watering plants while on vacation, because they won’t be losing as much water.
Place some rocks, pebbles or marbles on a tray and fill the tray with water. Place your plants on top of the pebbles so that they’re not sitting in water but above it. The water beneath the pebbles will help provide humidity without oversoaking the plants and help them maintain the moisture they need.
A wicking system is an ideal method for how to water plants while away, especially for house plants that are too big to move or need lots of moisture.
Take a length of water-absorbing cord or fabric (such as cotton string rope, rolled up paper towels, or torn strips of old cotton towels or T-shirts). Bury one end in the plant’s soil and the other in a deep container filled with water (such as a bottle, jug, bucket or even sink).
This acts as a lifeline between the plant and water, and the plant will soak up water through the ‘wick’ and in the soil as needed. Make sure the wick reaches all the way the bottom of the reservoir so that it’ll still absorb moisture as the water level drops.
Similar to wicking, water spikes can be a great way to water plants while away. Being made of terracotta, the water soaks through them into the soil, keeping the soil moist. 1L of water can last up to 7 – 10 days depending on the size of plant and pot. You do want to use them in a reasonably large pot, or support your pot so it doesn’t tip over. If you have a smaller pot, or a less thirsty plant, you could just use a smaller bottle with less water in it. They’re easy to use with any sort of bottle and can be reused multiple times.
Group Plants in the Bathroom
The bathroom is a great place to water plants while you’re away. As a generally smaller room, it’s easier to maintain humidity for plants. Grouping plants together in here also helps keep the air around them more humid. Make sure there is adequate light from indoor lighting or a window. If your bathroom is too bright and sunny, pull the curtains to keep the room shadier for your plants.
If you have a bathtub, line it with wet towels and don’t put in the plug. After watering house plants thoroughly, place them on the towels.
Alternatively, you can adopt a similar method to the pebble tray by leaving a small amount of water in the tub, and setting the plants on upside-down bowls to raise them off the bottom.
The extra humidity from both methods helps reduce water loss and your plants will love the moist atmosphere.
Find a House Sitter
You may be lucky to have a neighbor, friend, family member or house sitter who can look after your plants. Be sure to leave clear written instructions for how often and how much to water each plant.
Plants that will be okay with less watering
If you travel frequently, cacti and succulents are the ideal plants to have as they need very little water and attention. Many cacti can easily manage a month or longer without water while remaining healthy.
The Zanzibar Gem (or ZZ plant) is another great plant for frequent travelers. This virtually indestructible plant can go without a drink for extended periods due to its waxy, bright green leaves held on stiff stems with thick bases that help the plant conserve water.
Another plant that thrives on neglect is the snake plant (also called Sansevieria or mother-in-law’s tongue), which can go without water for long periods.
When to get a ‘plant-sitter’ to water plants while you’re away
Keep in mind before traveling that some plant types and species are fussy about their houseplant watering requirements.
Exotic and tropical plants originate from regions that receive lots of rain and therefore tend to have fairly high water requirements. Ferns, for example, like consistently moist soil and high humidity, and will suffer if you allow the roots to dry out. The African violet is another water-loving plant that needs to be watered every three days. If you love these plants in your home, it might be best to have someone help with watering plants while on vacation or if you only have a few, drop them to a friend to look after for you.
Plants with glossy and dark leaves tend to absorb more heat and so they need a lot of water. Plants with larger leaves (such as the elephant ear plant) also need greater amounts of water.
As a general rule, the smaller the pot, the more frequently the plant needs watering.
With thoughtful consideration to the duration you’ll be away, your particular plant requirements, and setting up some easy watering systems, both you and your plants can have a stress-free time. We hope our advice and techniques for how to water plants while away gives you the confidence and freedom to go on vacation and enjoy yourself without having to worry about coming home to sad, dry and crispy plants!