What To Do To Help Your Houseplants Thrive Before Your Next Trip
Whether you’re traveling home to visit family, jetting off to a white, sandy beach, or out of town for a weekend wedding, you should give your plants some TLC before you leave.
You worked hard to help your houseplants thrive despite 0% humidity and frigid temperatures this winter, so it would be a shame to return home to brown-tipped leaves and dry soil when your plants should be flourishing.
Here are four steps to keeping your plants healthy and happy while you’re away. Or four steps for those sometimes forgetful plant parents out there (hi!).
Step 1: Clean Your Plants
If we’re being honest, most of us don’t clean our houseplants as often as we should.
Houseplants collect dirt, dust, and toxins, just like your kitchen and bathroom, and if we don’t clean them, they won’t live long.
So whether you’re a frequent flyer or staycation specialist, it’s time to clean your plants. We both know it's been too long.
Here’s are 4 things you should be doing to clean your house plants:
1. Check the soil in your planter and remove any dead leaves (they attract bugs and promote root rot).
2. Trim away any brown leaves or tips and throw them out (not into the soil!) as dead leaves steal essential nutrients from your plant.
3. Clean out the drip tray and give it a good wipe down.
4. Dust your leaves with a microfiber cloth and then give your plant a good misting.
Make sure your plant is looking as fresh as your new vacation cut before taking off.
Step 2: Amp Up the Humidity
There’s a reason most plants won’t grow in the desert.
It’s because, unlike your hair, plants love humidity.
But most of us don’t have a humidifier big enough to hold an entire vacation’s worth of water, so instead, you need to resort to natural humidity boosting methods.
One of the best ways is to put all of your houseplants together in the smallest room in your home (just make sure it’s a room with a window! Windowless bathrooms are plant killers).
Place some towels on the floor, water your plants well, mist their leaves, and then leave them be.
Your plants will work together to naturally create a microclimate and raise the humidity of whichever room you’ve put them in.
Step 3: Phone a Friend
Just like you need a gym buddy to help you get to that 6AM Orangetheory class, our plants need friends to stay healthy, too.
If you have high maintenance plants, ask a friend to housesit or make a couple of visits while you’re away.
Don’t assume that they know how to care for your dracaena janet craig without instructions, though.
Make sure you leave clear misting, watering, and fertilizing instructions that walk your friend through your exact plant care routine, so that your planet doesn’t experience “shock” (it’s a real thing).
Step 4: Water Your Plants
Unless you taught your Roomba to water your plants when it vacuums, they won’t water themselves while you’re away.
Not without some pre-planning, anyway.
There are four ways to “water” your plants while you’re laying on the beach: water-wicking, drip systems, baths, and showers.
We’ve ranked the methods from most effective to usually effective, so choose wisely if your plants are finicky about how much water they like to receive at one time.
*Note: These methods are for plants that need regular watering (almost anything with fragile, long leaves). Let your succulent terrariums dry out while you’re away - they’ll thank you for it.
1) Water Wicking
This old school method will supply your plant with exactly the right amount of water while you’re gone and is best for plants that don’t like too much water at one time.
Find a large container (think bucket or plastic tote) and some cotton rope (like cotton clothesline).
Cut a piece of cotton rope that’s long enough to span the distance between your water container and your planter.
Take one end of the rope and push it several inches into the soil of your plant, as close to the roots as possible without actually disturbing them.
Put the other end of the rope into your container and fill it with water, making sure the rope won’t slide out of the container.
The rope will “wick” water from the container to the pot, giving your plant a constant stream of moisture.
2) DIY Drip System (A.K.A. the Wine Bottle System)
Cersei Lannisters of the world, this one's for you.
Chances are that you’ve seen multicolored glass watering globes with long tapered spouts stuck into pots and plants at your grandmother’s house. Those globes slowly release water into the soil, allowing plants to receive continuous, even watering over time.
Most hardware stores carry watering globes, but if bright red, speckled glass isn’t your aesthetic, you can use an old wine bottle instead [Cersei drinking wine emoji here].
Rinse the leftover wine out of the bottle and fill it with water. Then place your thumb over the end and stick the bottle into the soil as far away from the roots as possible. Press the bottle into the planter until the fatter part of the bottle reaches the top of the soil.
When you get home from your trip, remove the wine bottle, and recycle it.
3) Give Your Plant a Bath
If you’re not into DIY (🙋), don’t drink wine, and have plant pots with good drainage systems, the easiest way to water your plants while you’re gone is to give them a good soak.
Fill your sink or bathtub with a couple of inches of water. If you have a white enamel sink or bathtub, be sure to place a towel around the edges to prevent scratches.
Then place your plant pots inside your sink or tub.
The soil will draw water up to the roots and keep your plant hydrated for up to one week.
Going to be gone for more a while? Fill the sink up with extra water. Just make sure the waterline doesn’t sit above the lip of the plant pot.
4) Shower Your Plants
Looking for a totally low-effort plant watering system?
Look no further than your shower or your garden hose.
Stick your plants in the shower and turn it on, or take them outside on your lawn and spray them down (just make sure not to spray the plants directly, which could damage them - you’re going for an “arc” of water here).
Let your plants rest and let the water drain before placing them back on their saucers. The plants will absorb the water while you’re away.
It’s best to do this the day before you leave so that you can check for any standing water in the saucer and dump it. Standing water can cause root rot and kill your plant.
If your plant prefers to be watered sparingly, we don’t recommend this method. Some plants are more susceptible to death-by-overwatering, so be careful before employing this method.
Plant parent life can be as frustrating as it is rewarding because plants require just as much care while you’re away as while you’re at home, and they can pricey to replace when they die.
But with these tips, you can fly away without worrying.
Now go buy an extra bottle of sunscreen into your carry on and thank us later.
Want more advice on how to live sustainably? Check out Sustainable Living 101: What You Can Do to Live Sustainably.
Are you an experienced plant parent? We would love to hear your favorite vacation care plant tips.