How to Care for Indoor Plants While You're on Vacation

We all deserve a break once in awhile, and a vacation is ideal for “getting away from it all”. But it can be such a disappointment to come home only to find that our indoor plants have suffered from neglect while we were away having fun. Fortunately there are some techniques that will help indoor plants and outdoor potted plants survive while we’re away from home for extended periods of time.

You may be lucky enough to have a friend or relative who you trust will take good care of your plants while you’re gone. If this is the case, be sure to leave them with good instructions for how often and how much to water your indoor plants and any potted plants you may have outdoors. All too often, a “plant babysitter” has killed an unfamiliar plant with kindness by overwatering it, so written instructions – perhaps even a note left by each plant – will help ensure proper care while you’re gone.

If you’re not fortunate enough to have a well-trained plant babysitter, there are other options for keeping your indoor plants alive in your absence. The first thing to do is to water the plants well just before you leave. Give them enough water so it drains from the bottom of the containers, but do let them drain completely. The plants should not be left in standing water. Too much water is just as harmful as not enough water.

Avoid fertilizing your indoor plants and potted outdoor plants before you leave. The goal is to keep the plants growing as slowly as possible while you’re gone, and fertilizer would only encourage them to put on new growth and use more water. Hold off on the fertilizer until you return.

Move indoor plants to a cool room where they will need less moisture. A temperature of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. If you normally turn the thermostat down before vacationing in the winter, turn it no lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about the lowest temperature that tropical plants can tolerate.

Outdoor potted plants can also be brought indoors, out of the bright sunlight. If that isn’t possible, move them to a shady area where they won’t dry out as quickly as they would in bright sunlight. You might also consider adding some mulch over the soil in the containers to help them retain moisture. With any luck, outdoor plants will have the benefit of rainfall while you’re away, but keep them in the shade as an added precaution in case it doesn’t rain.

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The bathroom makes a great place to keep indoor plants while you’re away. Because it is usually a smaller room, it is easier to maintain some humidity for the plants in a bathroom. Grouping plants together also helps to keep the air around them more humid. Consider placing the well-watered plants in the bathtub, then cover the tub with a sheet of plastic. Cut a couple of slits in the plastic so the humidity doesn’t stay too high. Alternately, individual plants may be covered with plastic shopping bags to help retain humidity, but again, these should have a couple of slits in them to avoid retaining too much moisture. If your bathroom is bright and sunny, be sure to pull the shades or close the curtains to keep the room more shady for the plants.

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Never leave the plants sitting in water, whether they are indoor plants or outdoor plants. However, the containers may be set on pebbles that are in a tray of water. The water beneath the pebbles will help provide humidity without over-soaking the plants.

Finally, another method of watering indoor plants while you’re on vacation is to use a wick to soak up water from a reservoir. Garden centers sell wicks just for this purpose, but you can also use strips of an old cotton towel or even new oil-lamp wicks to soak up water. Soak the wick first, then insert one end into the plant’s soil, and the other end into a bucket or other reservoir of water. Make sure the wick reaches all the way to the bottom of the reservoir so it will still absorb moisture as the water level drops. This method requires some planning ahead, as you’ll want to try it out before you leave to make sure it provides enough water to the plant, but it can be used for both indoor plants and outdoor potted plants.

With these simple tips, you can safely go on vacation and enjoy yourself even more without having to worry about returning home to sad, crispy and dry plants.

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