Vacation Care For House Plants

Just as your sorting out plans for taking a vacation you realise "who is going to make sure my beloved african violet and madagascar dragon tree gets enough water?".

holiday illustration

If your fortunate enough to have a family member or friend come to visit your home to make sure everything is ok, they can follow your care advice for plants you own. However, if your leaving your plants home alone for 2 weeks or more there’s a few things you can do to keep them happy.

All plants will be fine for 7 - 10 days, and can cope with having a good watering before you leave. It's only after about 10 days you need to make sure most of them have more water. Flowering type plants are more of a concern than many of the foliage types, because they drink much more water and most require very moist soil, unlike foliage types.

Someone Visiting To Help Care For Your Plants

Your most likely going to need to leave a few instructions for the person planning to visit your home while your on holiday. This will prevent them from giving your plants too much or little of something. It's useful to leave these instructions because some people think all plants need a good soaking, which is not the case.

Leave a list of plants which need watering, how often and how much. I would avoid feeding while on holiday which plants wont mind (its best they have less than too much fertilizer). You can put a sticky note numbering each one on the pot and leave advice for each one on a note with numbers that correspond with the sticky notes.

Useful Watering Methods To Use

If you don’t have anyone to help you care for your plants while your on vacation then another option is creating a bed of moist peat in trays and place the plants in a shaded spot on the trays. Even plants that require bright light or direct sunlight will be fine for a couple of weeks in a shaded spot. Giving the plants less bright light will reduce the amount of water they need, however, make sure you check the care instructions for each species first, just in case the light reduction could be harmful.

You can also create a wick from a strip of capillary matting (or other material) coming from a water container into a hole created in the potting soil. The wick will provide a small amount of water constantly from the container to the soil. It's not going to provide the amount they really need, but it can provide enough while your away.

A capillary mat can be used by trailing a section into a sink with the plants sitting on the other part of the mat on the draining area. If you plan to place the plants on a capillary mat - make sure the water can be soaked up by the potting soil. This mat transfers water from the sink or bowl to underneath the pots. This wont work on pots with pebbles or broken clay at the bottom, because the soil cannot soak up the water. It's also not the best method for plants in clay pots, because the pot is porous and soaks up water and it evaporates quicker than plastic.

Other devices can be bought such as water spikes and aqua globes or you can learn how to make a water feed. These water feeds can be made from a plastic bottle or bag with a small hole that allows a small amount of water to leak out, similar to an IV drip. The water feed is placed in or on top of the soil so the water can then drip out slowly.

Plants That Don’t Require Much Watering

If your away from home very often then you may want to consider housing plants that can go without water for quite some time. Cacti and succulents are the obvious choice that can survive without water for months. Other plants like dracaenas, aspidistras, and palms can go without water for 3 – 4 weeks at a time.

Winter Vacations

You will not have the same problem with most plants during the winter regarding water. They are not actively growing and the reduced amount of daylight reduces the amount of water needed. The main concern is temperature. If you can keep the room temperature above 60°F (15°C) even tender plants will be fine.

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