Your trip is booked, your bags are packed and your “out of office” email has been sent. It’s finally time to relax and unwind. But, wait! What about your plant babies? We talked to houseplant experts to find out the best way to water plants while away from home. Check out their top tips to ensure your plants thrive while you're out of town.
If you're gone for the weekend, try the chopstick test
Plants are more resilient than you think, says houseplant enthusiast Brandon Hurst, who shares tips onTik Tok as Brandon The Plant Guy. “I personally wouldn’t worry too much if you are going away just for a weekend,” he assures.
One weekend away is not going to kill your houseplant, agrees The Houseplant Guru Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, author of several houseplant books including Houseplants. “If your plants can't survive a weekend, there’s a bigger problem with the plant.”
Check to be sure your plants aren’t already thirsty by poking a chopstick or wooden dowel down through the surface of the soil. After you remove the dowel, if there’s damp soil clinging to the stick, your plant has plenty of water to survive the weekend. If it comes out dry, give it some water before you head out. Need a visual? See Hurst demonstrate the chopstick test.
If you'll be gone for a week:
Follow these 4 steps to ensure your plants are perky upon your return.
1. Give them a bath
For smaller, moveable plants, Hurst advises filling a bathtub or sink with an inch or two of water and allowing the potted plants to soak up as much water as they need through their drainage hole on the bottom of the pot. Then, after 20 minutes, remove the potted plants — allowing excess water to drip away — before returning them to their original places. That final step is an important one, says Hurst, because if you allow the plant to sit in standing water for too long, it can cause root rot, which occurs when overwatering cuts off the roots’ exposure to oxygen, causing them to die.
Set the thermostat
It might be tempting to drop the temperature down while you’re away and save money on the gas or electric bill. But in the colder months when your heat is running more often than not, be sure your delicate plants don’t get too cold, says Steinkopf. To ensure your plants stay healthy while you're away, she suggests: “Keep the temperature at or above 60 degrees when you’re away during the winter months.”
Run a humidifier
Turning on the heat also means a drier atmosphere. Bundling plants near each other can raise the humidity level by releasing water vapor through a process called transpiration. What’s more, putting a couple of humidifiers on a very low setting near your plants raises the humidity level — until the humidifier’s water runs out. “Certain plants require higher humidity levels than others,” says Hurst. So you may want your ferns, monsteras and other tropical plants huddled together.
Open the blinds — a bit
Plants need sunlight to thrive, so a completely dark atmosphere won’t bode well for a whole week. But there’s a fine line between too dark and too sunny, says Steinkopf. “If your plants are right up against a sunny window, move them back a little bit from the windows,” cautions Steinkopf. Overexposure to sunlight will cause your plant’s leaves to dry up, wilt and turn yellow.
If you'll be gone for two or more weeks
The majority of houseplants prefer a weekly watering But, leaving your leafy babies for two weeks can be done! In addition to the steps above, try one of these expert-approved solutions.
Make a DIY greenhouse
To configure your own at-home greenhouse, try this trick from Steinkopf: "Put a large, plastic see-through bag — like one from the dry cleaner — and place it over your potted plant. This will raise the humidity and act like a little greenhouse," Steinkopf reveals. Take note not to let the plastic bag touch the plant’s leaves though, that can cause damage to the leaves. Also, be sure the plastic bag is see-through to let light shine on your plants, which allows photosynthesis to still occur. Opaque plastic bags will be too dark.
Try the string method
Also known as wick-watering, this method allows a constant source of water for your plants while you're away. Simply put a pot, jug or any large container full of water on a surface slightly higher than your potted plant. Then, for each plant, cut an 18" length of string and tie a paper clip to one end. Put the clip in the water (to hold the rope in place); bury the other end of the string in the plant’s soil. The water will saturate the rope and travel down to the plant, keeping the soil moist for days. Steinkopf notes, "Acrylic yarn works best for wick watering because it doesn’t rot."
With over 2 million views, the wick-watering method has gone viral. See for yourself, below
Make your own watering globe
One option for frequent travelers is a watering globe. You simply fill the globe with water and insert the slender stick into the soil of the potted plant, taking care not to disrupt the roots in your soil. This allows your plants to rehydrate with a steady, slow drip of water. Hurst notes, "Watering globes water your plants little by little while you are away from home." And while you could shell out for a store-bought globe to keep your plants flourishing, it's easy to make your own! Just fill a clean, empty glass bottle with water and stick the neck into the soil. As the soil dries out, it will gradually draw more moisture from the bottle, so your plant will continue to receive the perfect amount of water for up to a week.
The plant-watering mistake many travelers make
You may have seen online influencers claiming that putting ice cubes in the soil of your potted plants is a great way to water your plants, because the ice melts slowly over time. But this theory has been busted by many horticulture aficionados, including Hurst and Steinkopf.
"I personally would not recommend ice cubes. It doesn’t allow the soil to get a good soaking, which is crucial," says Hurst. Adds Steinkopf, "I would never recommend putting ice cubes on an indoor plant. It could be very damaging."
The bottom line is, it is entirely possible to water your plants while you're away without having to pay a professional house sitter. So, grab those bags and go enjoy some much needed R&R.
For more on houseplants, keep reading!