You’re heading out on vacation…at last! You’re so psyched to hit the road, except for one little detail. What are you going to do with your houseplants? During the pandemic, your inventory of green roommates probably increased immensely as you bulked up on botanicals by your side. And you deeply love them all. You definitely don’t want them to suffer while you are seeing the world. So, we are coming to the rescue with got some ideas to keep your plants happy, healthy, and alive when they are Home Alone.
Before leaving home, here’s a stopgap measure that will be helpful no matter what other method you might try. Before leaving home, check out root systems and repot any plants that are even slightly cramped. If you can see healthy roots winding around the soil, it’s time to give that baby a graduation. Don’t go crazy and give your houseplants huge new pots. You don’t want the roots to be swimming in soil. But cramped roots are always thirsty, and that’s never a good idea when you can’t serve drinks with regularity. One or two inches of new soil all around is going to make a huge difference to minimize the need for water. And Coast of Maine Bar Harbor Blend Organic Potting Soil is crafted with just the right ratio of drainage to water retention to keep your plants chugging along while you are away.
If you will be away over an extended period of time and/or you have lots of botanical buddies indoors, a “plantsitter” is definitely the way to go. No matter how much experience your “plantsitter” has under his/her belt, acclimate your surrogate with a walk-through and instructions before leaving town. Tell them how often you usually water. If you have plants tucked in out-of-the-way places, point them out. Do a plant tally and share the exact number of how many plants are in residence so they can do a countdown every time they come. If cacti and succulents don’t need frequent water, explain that trait to your “plantsitter” so they won’t be tempted to hit your non-drinkers with the watering can while taking care of business. Really importantly, all plants should have generous saucers that will catch excess dribble. Going with a bowl under each plant while you’re away might not be a bad idea.
Pull plants away from bright windows. That’s key. Unless it is very humid in your home, most houseplants should be fine for a week or even longer without bright light. And of course, basking in bright light will make a plant powerfully thirsty quickly. If you are growing low light foliage plants, you might consider tucking them into the shower—especially if it is dark and humid, like most showers. For a week or so, they should be fine. A cluster of plants naturally keeps the group moist for a few days while you are having fun elsewhere.
Throw some Shade
If you have access to some shade outdoors, send your plants out to summer camp. Under a tree, on the north side of a building, or tucked under an overhang—you’ll be amazed at how long plants can survive without water in the shade. And while they’re outside, you might get some help with watering from Mother Nature in the form of rain. But even if the weather is hot and dry, watering won’t be needed as often in the shade.
Go the Terrarium Route
If you happen to have a terrarium or a cloche, you’re in luck. Glass cases can serve as “plantsitters” while you’re away. Just place the terrarium in a low light location (be sure it remains shady throughout the entire day), give your plants a generous drink and put them inside, and you’ve got a biosphere. Your little world will be on autopilot, keeping the assemblage inside evenly moist. This method won’t work for succulents or cacti because the humidity might melt them, but most other plants will be fine for a week or two. Again, be sure to pull your terrarium away from the light – that’s key, or they will fry.
Of course you can always invest in a houseplant drip irrigation system, they are surprisingly inexpensive and readily available. With tubes that feed into each plant, a timer, and a water reservoir, your plants are going to feel like they’re on vacation. You will need to gather the plants together into one location that can be reached from the central water source. And setting up the system is going to take some tech skills. But when it’s all ready to roll, you’ll have a whole contingent of Happy Campers, which means you can sit back, relax, and have fun on your journey. Be sure to send postcards home.
Written by award winning author, Tovah Martin. Photos also taken by Tovah Martin. Find her books and more information on her website: tovahmartin.com