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Ok, to be perfectly honest, leaving my plants isn’t really something I struggle with, because a) I rarely go away for more than a few days and b) I have a large, aggressive rabbit that requires more care. So I try to push my plants out of my mind.
And they’re always absolutely fine. They don’t even notice I’m gone.
If you’re prone to overwatering your plants, they may even appreciate a break from you. If you err more on the underwatering side of things, just be sure not to forget to give all your plants a good soak before you go.
If you go away for a week or less
Just leave them.
They won’t do anything.
Before you go, make sure everyone has plenty of water. Dust all the leaves and check thoroughly for pests. If you spot any but don’t have time to eradicate them, then isolate the plant to avoid spreading the problem.
Don’t do anything drastic, like leaving it outside, unless you’re 100% sure you want to kill the poor sod.
If you go away for a fortnight or less
Follow all the steps that we covered above, but also fill your bath. Well, not fill, but put an inch or so of water in the bottom.
If you don’t have a bath, any large receptacle will do. I personally use a rabbit litter tray, but even a large mixing bowl or sink will do if you only have a couple of plants.
This is for your ferns, Calathea, carnivorous plants and any other plants you have that you think will dry up whilst you’re away.
Although if you have carnivorous plants (side note: I sometimes write carnivorous pants by accident and laugh every time) you’ll need to use filtered water.
If you don’t have enough, then add a bit of fish tank dechlorinator.
I sit a lot of my plants in pasta bowls, so if I’m going away I just fill the pasta bowls with water.
Easy, and I don’t have to move anyone and risk trailing mud all over the carpet.
If you can, get someone to come in around the halfway mark and drain the water.
This is why the bath is the easiest option – they just have to pull out the plug, rather than dicking about with a turkey baster.
(ok, that wasn’t a sentence I’d ever envisioned writing)
You can also reduce the light available to your plants. Either move them away from windows or close curtains.
Just make sure they’re sheer enough to let in some light. This reduces the growth rate and therefore the water consumption.
I’ve just found this tip on Google and it’s pretty clever/low cost/easy, which is the holy trinity of life hacks.
Those water globe things are an option (I don’t really like them, but a lot of people do) but make sure your plants are watered first, otherwise they’ll just empty straight out.
If you go away for an extended period
You have a few options:
- Take your plants with you. If you’re in an Airbnb and have less than a dozen plants this may be your best option.
- Task a friend with taking care of them. Arm them with a moisture probe and a link to this website. Hell, give them my email address if they need any help.
- Give them away. This is a bit drastic, but if you’re either really worried about leaving them, aren’t that bothered about your plants, or would quite like to start your collection from scratch, there’s no reason to feel bad about doing this.
- Ask a local garden centre to care for them. They may let you book your plants in, or will send someone to your house. Seriously, more garden centres should offer this as a service. Though don’t assume that you’ll get an expert. My local garden centre chronically overwaters all their plants.
- You could try the whole moisture wicking thing (put one end of some string in a pot of water, and one end in the plant pot. Hey presto, self-watering pot). I’ve never done it, but loads of people swear by it.
If you’re just getting into plants but worry that you travel too much to take care of them, then just buy plants accordingly.
Stick to succulents, ZZ plants and the odd pothos, and they won’t care that you can only water them fortnightly.
What not to do when you leave your plants
- Ask a friend to water them
Ask a friend to take care of your plants, by all means, but phrase your question well and be clear that they don’t need to water them more than weekly unless specified otherwise.
I definitely wouldn’t ask anyone that isn’t plant savvy to do anything like fertilising. Your plants will be ok without food for a few weeks.
- Leave your humidifier/grow lights on
Nooo. Turn everything off.
(Except the fridge. We can trust the fridge)
This is just asking for trouble. I’m an incredibly risk-averse person, and even setting up a camera to check that everything’s ok wouldn’t be enough for me. Turn it oooffff.
Also, we’re not trying to promote growth here. We basically want to leave our plants in suspended animation whilst we’re away.
- Invest in self-watering pots
If you want self-watering pots anyway, go for it. it just seems super wasteful to buy all new pots just because you’re going on holiday for a fortnight. Go for the string-water-wicking method outlined (albeit briefly) above.
Your. Plants. Will. Be. Fine.
Enjoy your vacation, and don’t spend it worrying about your crispy tips.
So long as everyone’s watered and pest-free before you go, you shouldn’t have any nasty surprises when you come back. Or at least, nothing that isn’t recoverable within a week.