Whether you’ll be spending a long weekend down the shore or a few weeks abroad – we’re sharing our top tips and tricks below for keeping your houseplants happy and healthy while you’re away.
It only takes a little time to prep your plants so you can focus on more important things – like strong sunscreen and a good book.
If you’ll be away for a week or less, a good soil-soaking* before departure should be sufficient. While you shouldn’t regularly overwater your plants, this is a rare exception to the rule. Make sure to let any excess water drain from your potted plant before you’re on your way – so the soil is moist but your plants aren’t sitting in a saucer of water, which could attract pests or lead to root rot.
*This is only necessary for plants that need to be watered once a week or more. Your drought-tolerant houseplants will be fine without a soaking.
If you’ll be away for more than a week, there are a couple of ways to prepare your plant. Try one of the tips below or a combination, depending on the length of your trip and the variety of plant (i.e. how much water does it usually need?)
- Add mulch, rocks, or wood chips directly to your plant’s soil to help hold moisture before giving the soil a good soaking. We’ve heard damp newspaper can also do the trick. Remove any excess water from the saucer. Again, you want to make sure your soil is damp/moist – not soaking – to avoid any potential pest problems or rot.
- Water your plant thoroughly and then cover with a clear plastic bag to just below the lip of the planter, creating a makeshift greenhouse. Make sure to cut a couple slits in the plastic to allow for ample air circulation – plants need to breathe, too! Use birch sticks (of leftover chopsticks) to hold the bag up and completely away from the foliage.
- Line a shallow tray with small rocks and fill the tray up with water to slightly beneath the top of the rocks. Set your planter on top of the rocks – the base of the planter should not be touching or sitting directly in the idle water but right above it. This will help to increase humidity and moisture levels, but should not lead to over-watering or root rot because the base of the plant isn’t sitting in the water.
- Transport your humidity-loving plants, like ferns and air plants, to your bathroom (provided you have a window that receives some natural light) or another small room and group them together. The smaller the room – the easier it is for your plants to maintain humidity and moisture.
- Call on a friend! If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time and have a friend that’s willing to water your houseplants for you – take them up on the generous offer! Houseplants can be unpredictable and a slight change in their environment can cause them to need more water, or less. Leave your friend with crystal clear plant care instructions, or walk them through your watering schedule a week or two beforehand. We won’t judge if you ask them for photo updates while you’re gone. Just make sure to bring them back a decent souvenir…
The more sunlight your plant receives, the more thirsty it will be! This is for a few reasons, the biggest being that plants utilize the most water during a process called transpiration, and the rate of transpiration is dependent on, and increases with, the amount of sunlight the plant receives (learn more about transpiration here). So the more natural light your plant is getting, the more water it’ll need.
To help your plants from wilting while you’re away from lack of water, you can move them a little bit further away from their source of natural light – the window. Place them in the middle of the room so that the heat and light from the windows does not dry them out as quickly. Even if it’s a full-sun plant, it can handle a week or two of lower than ideal light. Once you return, you can move your plants back to their usual spot!
Remember that the majority of houseplants prefer a stable environment with a temperature between 65-85 degrees fahrenheit. Whether you’re home or away, never leave an air conditioning blasting on or near a houseplant! Although a luxury for humans, an AC tends to rob the indoor environment of the heat and humidity most houseplants crave.
If you occasionally use fertilizer on your houseplants, make sure to hold off on it until you return. Do not fertilize your plants in the weeks prior to your departure. You’ll want your plants to grow as slowly as possible while you’re gone, which will help them to conserve energy and water!
In addition to pruning off any dead, dying, or unhealthy-looking foliage – you can prune off buds and flowers, which usually require more frequent waterings to stay happy and healthy.
The tips above apply to mostly tropical, foliage plants. Drought-tolerant plants like succulents and cacti, ZZ plants, and snake plants can go over a month without a watering. If you’re an avid traveler – those are the plants for you.
Whatever preparation you to take – give yourself a big pat on the back when you return to a healthy and happy houseplant. It missed you, too.
Have a tip you’d like to share? Comment below!