You’ve got the hotel, the plane tickets, a plan for activities and you’re all packed, but what about your plants? If you’re anything like me, one of the worst parts of traveling is having to leave your plants behind and not being there to care for them.
In this article, we’ll look at some techniques for caring for your plants while on vacation. From a quick weekend trip to a multi-week tour of Europe, the below will help you maintain your garden’s health even when you’re not home.
How Long is Too Long?
Before getting into the details, it’s important to keep your vacation length in mind. Depending on your trip length, some of the below points may not apply.
For a short vacation, say under 3-5 days, then you probably don’t need to prepare much at all. Most plants will survive this amount of time without care, so you can vacation worry-free.
Longer vacations, above the 12-14 day mark, and the below might not be enough. While some hardy plants might be okay in this range, others will find it hard to survive.
What constitutes a “long” vacation from a plant’s perspective depends on the variety. Succulents or cacti, for example, can go weeks without care; even a long vacation is unlikely to cause issues for them.
On the other hand, something like an orchid would not do so well over the same timeframe. Keep your plant in mind as you read our tips, and consider how hardy of a plant it is. The hardier the plant, the less you’ll have to prepare and the longer you can be gone without issue.
Prune Your Plant
A good first step is to give your plant a quick pruning. In this case, you’re specifically looking for any dead or dying parts of the plant. Remove any of these sections, along with discolored leaves and other “sickly” looking areas.
This helps your plant conserve energy so that it can focus on new growth. It also removes areas of your plants that are more susceptible to pests. There’s nothing worse than getting home from a refreshing vacation only to find aphids have taken over your garden.
Water Your Plant
Before leaving, give your plant a thorough watering. By saturating the soil, you’re making sure that your plant has enough water to last through your trip. Most plants only need to be watered 1-2 times per week, so depending on your trip’s length this may be more than enough.
In most cases though, a plant won’t perish if you’re a few days late on watering. It’s not ideal, but most plants are hardy enough to last through short droughts. I wouldn’t make it a habit, but doing so for a one-off trip is probably okay.
Boost The Humidity
Going off the above, by boosting local humidity around your plant you can help it conserve water. A little extra humidity can often give you an extra day or two before you’d need to water again. If your trip is just a few days too long, then try to increase the humidity to help the plant conserve moisture.
There are a lot of ways to do this, and we have a full guide on that here. One of my personal favorites is to use pebble trays. These are cheap, easy to set up, and work great for adjusting humidity quickly.
Not all plants like the extra humidity though. Use caution here, and make sure it’s going to help and not hurt your plant.
Keep Light Levels Correct
While you’re gone, make sure that the light levels in your home are maintained. Leave your blinds open, or move your plants to a sunnier location to make sure they’re getting the correct light levels.
If you don’t, or can’t, do the above, then consider setting up some grow lights. Many of these have built-in timers that you can set so they’re not running continuously. If not, then light timers are fairly cheap and easy to set up.
Watch The Temperature
Many people will adjust the temperature of their home while they’re gone to save on energy costs. While this is often fine, make sure that it doesn’t move too far in either direction as this can be harmful to your plants.
Most plants will thrive in temperatures in the 60-90°F range, so try to keep your home here. Some plants are a bit more picky than others, so make sure you know the proper range before you go.
High temperatures can also increase the amount of water your plants need. If you’re looking to push your initial watering as far as possible, try lowering the temperature to help your plant conserve water.
Consider Self-Watering Containers
A bit more involved, but very useful, there are a range of self-watering plant containers on the market. These typically have some sort of reservoir that your plant is able to draw from to receive water as needed. This will usually provide much more water than a single watering could provide and without the risk of overwatering.
Using one of these systems can supply water to your plant for up to a few weeks without any intervention from you. This makes them great for extended trips, especially for water-hungry plants. The downside is, unless you’re already using them, you’ll have to repot your plant which can be a pain for larger plants.
While handy, self-watering containers generally only last between 2-4 weeks. Make sure to know how long yours is rated for beforehand.
Ask a Friend
Lastly, never overlook the help your friends or family can provide. Having someone pop in to check on your plants is a great way to ensure that they are getting proper care.
I generally like to have someone check up on my plants every 5-7 days. This gives my plants a chance to not only get watered but also receive any other care they might need. If an issue is present, then it can be corrected now before it becomes a larger problem.
Having a trusted friend watch over your plants is by far the best way to keep them healthy during an extended trip. If I’m going to be gone for more than a week, I always have someone pop in at least once to look after my garden.