How to Take Care of Plants When You're on Vacation

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Just like pets need care when you head off on vacation, houseplants need care too. Exactly what is required for your houseplants depends on a few factors including plant type, placement in the home, and atmosphere. But the most important factor to consider is the length of your time away.

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Here are our best tricks for how to take care of your greenery when you're away from home, from a weekend up to a week.

Prepping Plants for Vacation

Plants that are healthy when you leave are far more likely to be healthy when you get home, so take the time to tidy them up before departure. This includes trimming off dead or damaged leaves and removing any stems that are soft or rotting. Then check the surface of the soil and clean it of any dead leaves or other foliage.

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Remove dust from your houseplant's leaves by spraying with water and/or wiping down with a damp cloth. This ensures that the plant's leaves can "breathe." As you are doing the cleaning, look for insect pests like aphids and spider mites and remove them. Generally these bugs come off with a sharp spray of water but you can also use insecticidal soap if necessary.

After these steps are accomplished, water each plant well. Keep giving a houseplant water until the excess drains out through the drain holes. Once the plant has drained, empty the saucer beneath it so that the plant isn't sitting in a pond.

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Prepare a Good Home Environment

Not too hot, not too cold, is generally the best rule for houseplants. Remember that plants are accustomed to having a certain home temperature and any significant changes could disturb them. Maintain the temperature at or near the temperature you usually keep the house. Some experts suggest a slight lowering of temperature when you go, but the operative word there is "slight." That means no more than a few degrees.

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Don't leave any houseplants in direct sun. This will dry out the soil too quickly and, if it gets hot outside, could result in blackened foliage. Sunscald is a real thing! Indirect sun is usually best although some plants do best in shade. Don't transfer potted plants from bright light into shade or they will not be happy. Consistency is key.

Arrange Water for Houseplants

The primary issue for plant owners heading out on vacation? Water! While watering plants before you leave is helpful, the soil drains, water evaporates, and the plants go dry over time. Even tough drought-tolerant plants (think succulents) will die if they don't get any water for a long period of time.

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The period of time a plant can survive without any water varies greatly, and that's one factor in determining just how to treat a plant when you are leaving it home alone. If most of your houseplants are tough and drought-tolerant, like succulents, cacti, and orchards, you are in luck. These plants can probably do just fine without water for a few weeks or even longer..

But other plants — especially leafy, tropical plants — are thirsty. Group your houseplants according to their water needs. That will make it easier to get them the water they require to thrive.

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Provide Water for Thirsty Plants

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There are more than a few hacks available for watering plants for a few weeks when you head off on vacation. These can supply requisite water for a few weeks. If your trip is longer, you'll need to find a neighbor, friend, or paid plant care person to do the honors. But for a weekend, a long weekend, or even a week or two, any one of these might do the job.

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  • Good for a weekend:‌ Position a plant (in a pot with drain holes) in a saucer with some water in it. As the soil dries out, the plant will absorb water from the saucer.

  • Good for a few days:‌ Purchase some water release crystals, also known as hydrogels. These are small not true crystals but pieces of man-made, water-absorbing polymers that absorb and hold water. When these are soaked, then inserted into a houseplant's soil, the plant soil can stay moist over time. Experts do not recommend their use for more than a few days however.



  • Good for a long weekend or up to five days:‌ Punch holes in the sides of a small plastic bottle, then bury it in the soil of a houseplant with the top opening of the bottle exposed. Fit it with water after it's in place. This works best for plants that prefer soil that is constantly moist.

  • Good for up to a week:‌ Put about an inch of water in the bathtub, then place plants into the tub. This is best for tropical plants that need water but can do without much sun.

  • Good for up to 10 days:‌ Buy some water spikes made from terracotta clay and soak them long enough that they can absorb water. Press the tip into a houseplant's soil. As the soil dries out, the spike release water into the soil.

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  • Good for a week or two:‌ Fill a bucket with water and place it on a low stool with several houseplants grouped around the stool on the floor. Run a length of cotton rope from the bucket to each houseplant, and bury the end of it in the houseplant's wet soil. Water will travel down the "wick" as the soil dries.

Find one (or more!) of these methods that will work for you. And have a great vacation!

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