So we have all these gorgeous houseplants that look beautiful in our homes and purify the air for us. All year long we look after them and water, feed and give them the correct position in our homes for their wellbeing.
Now the time comes when we go away on holiday, maybe it's just a short break or maybe it's for 2 or 3 weeks even longer. Our houseplants still need the same care so how can we go away on our well deserved break and still have healthy houseplants to come home to?
Many of these methods also work for if you know you will have a time you cannot take care of your houseplants for example the birth of a baby, a period of planned hospitalization or surgery. Or if you need to be away for work reasons.
I have left my houseplants for usually about two weeks successfully using these methods but once or twice I have left them for a month and they have all been fine.
Some house plants are undoubtedly much hardier than others when it comes to being left without care for a few weeks. In general my spider plants, mother in laws tongue, all cacti, succulents and swiss cheese plant are just as good as the day I leave them.
Other more delicate plants require more considered care and may not be quite so good at being left a long time. All of mine have survived but just needed a bit more care on my return.
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Check Over Your Houseplants
First, at least a couple of weeks before your vacation do check over your plants for any signs of damage, pests and diseases and rectify anything that is wrong. You will want your plants to be as healthy as they possibly can be before they are left.
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Ask For Help From Friends
Ask a friend or neighbour to come into your house to look after them for you. If they are not used to looking after houseplants, especially the more specialised ones, you may need to leave a checklist of what to do or even take them through it before you leave. If you only have a couple of plants you might want to take them to your friend's house and put them in the correct position for them to take care of but for most of us, there will be too many plants to do that.
Personally, I would always leave instructions for the plants and also label the plants so the person knows which is which. It is helpful to group plants that need the same watering regime together as well so that it is quicker and easier for friends to do that task. My advice is to not assume they know how to look after your houseplants. Leave concise and clear instructions.
A lovely gift to say thank you when you return is always appreciated. You may wish to offer to reciprocate for your friend when they go away.
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Group House Plants Together
Group houseplants of the same needs together in your home before you leave. For example, those who like shade in a shadier cooler part of your home and those who like dry conditions so that the friend helping you can know these are to be watered as much. That way they can derive benefits from each other and it's easier to help them survive.
Methods of Watering Indoor Plants
For those plants that do not mind added moisture make sure each one has a saucer or outer container and give them a really good drink before you go. There will be excess water that pools into the container but if the plant can cope with standing water then it should be Ok. Over the time you are gone they will drink up that excess water.
Do not use this method for any plants that hate being in standing water as it will certainly damage and likely kill them.
For plants that will not cope with being in standing water but who like being well watered place them in a tub or bucket or even a bath a few inches deep of water and leave them there for up to about 20 minutes. Then place them on a draining area for another hour to let any excess water drain away. After that, they can go back to their outer pots.
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If you have plants that like being moist, then they can be left in the bath or sink with a small amount of water so that the roots can access water at all times. Only use this for plants that can cope with being in a wet environment.
For others that like humidity, you can place them on a tray of pebbles and water the tray so that all the pebbles are covered. If the plants are well watered just before you leave, this should be enough moisture to enable them to be alright for about two weeks.
For most plants, I would suggest moving them out of areas where they get direct sunlight. A partial shady cooler spot is best if you cannot water them regularly, even for sun loving plants.
I would also remove any away from near radiators or heat sources and out of very hot windowsills. If you cannot move them all give them shade by drawing blinds or partially closing curtains.
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Plant Watering Spikes Devices
For plants where you really need to keep them regularly watered you can buy water drips which I have used effectively for specific plants. You put them deep into the compost and use with a wine bottle or a plastic bottle that fits the end of the spike. You may need to support the bottle in the pot.
You can make home made versions with holes in plastic bottles, but I have not had the same success with them. I always seem to get too much or too little water dripping so I just find it easier to stick with these.
I prefer the terracotta ones as they just seem to work better, get less clogged with soil and also are reducing our plastic use. Water is absorbed through the terracotta and into the soil. However, they are much more breakable so need to be used with more care.
Rather than just forcing them into the plant pot it is best to dig out a specific hole for it first. That way you can ease it in without hopefully breaking the terracotta and causing possible damage to roots. You do need to make sure that most of the spike is under the soil as it helps with stability and less risk of breakage. Check the bottle fits neatly and easily into the spike as a trial run. Wine bottles will be heavier than plastic bottles so bear that in mind also. Then carefully place the bottle into the spike. It is better if the soil is moist before you go away as it will last longer.
Do test out this method a few weeks before you go away to make sure it works for you and that your plants receive the water they require. Some plants may need one spike, others may need two to get sufficient water. You may also need to experiment with how much water you put in the bottle for the plant to be happy
Cacti And Succulents
To avoid this issue altogether, or simply feel it will be too much, too often to cope with the watering methods suggested here the solution is to choose plants to suit you and your life.
In general cacti and other succulent plants will cope just fine without being watered while you are away up to about a month, as long as they are healthy and well looked after before you leave them.
These plants do need water but not as much as most other plants and do very well if you are away a lot or for a long time. Do take account of their individual needs and take care with the siting in your home so they do not get scorched by sun or too shaded.
I think they are really interesting and attractive plants to have in our homes. If you travel often for more than a week or go away for very long vacations or work trips, these will be the easiest and most successful plants for you to keep as your houseplants.
Capillary Matting Or Rope For Watering
Another suitable method for watering plants is to use capillary matting or a cord. Simply attach the cord or matting to a water source like a tray or bucket filled with fresh clean water and pop the other end into the houseplant.
A tip is to thoroughly wet the cord or material before attaching it to the water and the houseplant. You will find it best to bury the cord firmly into the soil. Also, I find it better if the water source is slightly higher than the plant pot.
Do be aware that the cord can drip water onto the floor or surface between the water source and the plant so either put down a drip tray or put the arrangement somewhere it will not matter so much like on a sink, in the bath or on a waterproof surface. This is a good method of watering but can take up a bit of space.
This will be perfectly adequate while you are on holiday. Again do test out before you need it. Experiment with how much water you need at the source and how much capillary rope or matting you need per plant.
I tend to use a mix of the capillary rope and the plant watering spikes for my plants that need a constant water source.
Taking Indoor Plants Outside?
You can consider taking some hardy houseplants outside in a sheltered spot, though I think this is the riskiest strategy. I have not done this with most of my houseplants, except for the Bottlebrush as it lives on our warm and sheltered porch most of the year so is hardier but does like to be outside in the summer. Our weather is too unpredictable even in the summer ranging from very sunny, hot and dry to rainy downpours, windy and cold snaps, to risk it with my other indoor plants, but it may suit your climate.
Personally, if I was going to do this I would try it out first while I was there for a few days or a week to see how the plants coped. That way if any of them looked unhappy you can bring them in immediately.
I would also be very careful which plants I put outside, only the healthiest and most hardy, who could cope with the potential weather changes.
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When You Return, Check Your House Plants
Once you are back home do check every one of your plants over for any signs of ill health, pests, or disease and treat them as needed. For those that have not had access to water do give them a good drink. Move all the plants back to their optimal conditions in your home.
I have used pretty much all these methods to some degree over the years and most of my house plants have been healthy and survived while I have been away on my holidays. They will thank you for the time and care you took over their well-being and give you pleasure and joy for the rest of the year.
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