Before you fade away into sweet summer vacation oblivion, take a little time to prep your plants so you can focus on more important things - like strong sunscreen and a good book.
- If you're planning to 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 an 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 soaked but your plants aren't sitting directly in a saucer of leftover water, which could attract pests.
- If you'll be away for more than a week - there are a couple ways to prepare your plant. You can try one of the tips below or a combination, depending on the length of your trip and the variety of plant.
- Add mulch, wood chips, or rocks directly on top of your plant's soil to help hold moisture before thoroughly watering. Last minute trip? We've heard damp newspaper can also do the trick. Again, make sure your plant is damp (not soaked) to avoid possible pest problems upon your return.
- Water your plant thoroughly and then cover it from the top with a clear plastic bag, creating a makeshift greenhouse. Make sure to cut a couple slits in the plastic bag to allow for air circulation. Use birch sticks (or leftover chopsticks) to hold the bag up and away from the foliage. Do not cover the planter's bottom and drainage holes.
- Line a shallow tray with small rocks, then fill the tray with water almost to the top of the rocks but not quite. You do not want the base of your planter to be sitting directly in the idle water - but instead resting on top of the rocks, with the water level slightly beneath the top of the rocks. This increases levels of humidity and moisture, but helps to prevent possible root rot.
- Transport all of your plants to your bathroom (provided you have a window that receives natural light), or another small room like a galley kitchen, and group them together. The smaller the room - the easier it is to maintain humidity and moisture.
2. Sunlight & Temperature
- The more natural sunlight your plant receives, the more thirsty it is. (Why? Click here to learn why plants need water!) Most plants are likely to wilt if placed in direct sunlight for an extended period of time, especially if there's a sudden lack of water. Because you will not be around to keep a close eye on your plants, move those that are usually kept on a sunny sill to the center of the room, or a spot lit by indirect sunlight, while you're away. This helps to keep the plant's soil from drying out completely, so it is still able to conduct photosynthesis and transpiration, and keep its leaves from burning. Once you return from your trip, you can move your plants back to their usual spots.
3. Fertilizer & Pruning
- If you occasionally use fertilizer, make sure to hold off until you return. You want your plants to grow as slowly as possible while you're gone - so they are exerting the least amount of energy and losing the least amount of water possible. Prune off any dead of dying foliage, along with flowers and buds, which require more water.
(The tips above do not apply to your drought-tolerate and sun-loving cacti and succulents. If you are an avid traveler, with a space that receives bright light, those are the perfect plant picks.)
Whatever preparation you decide to take - give yourself a big pat on the back when you return to a healthy and happy houseplant. And if you don't - don't beat yourself up about it. Show me someone that hasn't killed a houseplant and I'll show you a liar ;-)
Have a plant care tip you'd like to share? Comment below.