Keep Plants Watered While Away

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Ideally, a friend or neighbour can step in to water and feed your plants if necessary. It is perhaps a good idea to first offer them a run-through, or leave instructions by each pot. However, what if nobody is available to help? Various measures can be taken to care for the plants left behind when you go away. Here is a guide on how to keep your plants alive whilst on holiday.

Landscaping Ideas

Pre-Departure Checks

Always check plants thoroughly for pest and diseases in the week leading up to the holiday, and deal with them then, otherwise they will enjoy the holiday as well. Water and feed the plants thoroughly before you leave.

Keep Plants Alive

Move Their Pots

Moving plants away from windows means that they will be out of direct sunlight (which dries them out) in the summer, and safe from cold draughts in the winter. In the summer, move the plants to the coolest room, and in winter to the warmest (assuming the heating will be turned off). Fridges and freezers give off heat, and in the absence of central heating, it can be a good idea if you go away in winter to put plants on top of these appliances.

Keep Plants Alive

Watering Systems

While dormant in winter, many houseplants will tolerate a few days without water, providing they are given a thorough watering before you depart for a holiday. However, in the summer, many plants will need constant access to water.

Plants take up water through their roots, and in doing so draw it through the soil. Capillary matting is a means of extending the reach of the roots into a well of water collected in, for example, a bath, sink, large bowl or deep roasting tin. As the soil in the pot becomes dry, the water is drawn up from the well through the matting and into the pot.

One option is to place the pot directly onto the matting and have it dangle over the side into the well. For instance, place a washing-up bowl full of water in the sink with the plants on the matting on the draining board above. This works best with plastic pots; for terracotta pots, push the matting up into the drainage hole to ensure a better connection.

Keep Plants Alive

Alternatively, push a strip of the matting into the compost at the top of the pot. This will act as a wick, drawing up moisture from an individual well, and would be a good option for larger or more delicate plants that you cannot move easily.

Raising Humidity

Grouping plants together will help reduce water loss from the plants. All plants give off water through transpiration; evaporation of water through the stomata (pores) in the leaves. The drier the air, the faster the water loss. Grouping plants together means the surrounding air becomes more humid than if you place them individually; hence, the evaporation gradient is flatter, and the water loss slows down. For short absences, tie a clear plastic bag around the whole plant and pot, using canes which you insert into the container to keep the bag from touching the leaves.

The Venus Fly Trap

Here is one plant you definitely want to keep alive, but luckily, it can find it’s own food! The Venus Fly Trap is a fascinating specimen, that is genuinely predatory, and actually captures and eats insects! Not one for the fainthearted, but kids will love to watch the jaws snapping when prey triggers them. The plant prefers a sunny spot and is relatively easy to look after. How it works is impressive, as it releases a scent similar to fruit and flowers, and has an intense red colour to fool the insects into thinking it’s a real flower.

Venus Fly Trap

The traps of this fascinating plant are at the ends of the leaves, with special hair-like sensors which cause the trap to trigger when the prey touches it two or three times in quick succession. This prevents accidental triggering by rain or debris falling in. The traps are also smart enough not to close on really tiny insects which would waste valuable energy for very little return. Once the jaws have closed, there is no escape.

The struggling insect stimulates the trap to close further, immobilising it. The leaf produces digestive acids which kill, then dissolve the body and absorb the valuable nutrients.

Once closed, traps take five to 12 days to reopen after the prey has been digested and will only work a couple of times before they become unusable. Do not be tempted to close them yourself as this will weaken the plant.

Click here to order your very own Venus Fly Trap!

Spring and Summer Care

  • The plant should be watered from below during the growing season. The easiest way is to permanently stand the pot in a saucer which is filled with rainwater to 2.5cm (1in) deep.
  • Don’t be tempted to feed plants yourself, they’ll catch all that they need themselves. If you must, just leave them outside for a few days in the summer to ‘catch up’.
  • The Venus Fly Trap may flower, but it is best to cut these off as this will weaken the plant and result in fewer, smaller traps.
  • Never apply fertiliser to the plants.

Autumn and Winter Care

  • From September onwards, you will notice some of the leaves begin to die off, and this is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about as the plant enters its winter dormancy.
  • Watering at this time can be reduced so that plants are kept just damp. All you need to do is let the water tray empty before filling it up again, to about 1cm deep.
  • Any dead foliage can be cut off.
  • Plants need a cold winter rest. If you are growing your plant indoors, move it to a cooler position such as an unheated greenhouse, porch or unused and unheated room.
  • The secret of success is always rainwater, never tap water, and allow winter rest.

I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to keep your plants alive whilst on holiday.

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10 thoughts on “Keep Plants Watered While Away”

  1. because i travel rather too much is the reason i have never made the decision to begin my planting and gardening but ten, i wish i had come across such information much earlier. but then, it is still okay to try out now. getting to do all of these will ensure that all our plants would maintain good shape and would not wither before we get back home. this is great for me to know of. thank you 

    • Hi – thank you for visiting my site and leaving a comment. I am pleased you have learned something, and I hope you now feel confident about buying some house plants. All the best, Diane

  2. One thing I always struggle with is leaving my plants at home while I travel. I have never thought about many of these tips like leaving a sink of water with a mat to separate the plants and water but gives it just enough throughout the day. I have been wanting to get a venus fly trap too but assumed they were difficult to care for. I know my daughter will definitely love one. I was wondering if you have any tips for leaving a garden while traveling? I don’t have a water system and it can get really hot in the summer here in NC. I want to travel but I am afraid my plants won’t survive.

    • Hi – thank you for visiting my site, and leaving a nice comment. I am pleased you learnt something new. I do hope you buy a Venus Fly Trap – children are always fascinated by them! I am more of an indoor gardener, so I don’t really have any tips for outdoors. All the best, Diane

  3. I have a person who comes in regularly to take care of my plants. I even usually pay for that and honestly it was all very blissful until she told me that she was moving away, now I would have to look for a way. Luckily, you have explained here that there are ways that I can deal with the problem without having to ay anyone. I will really group those plants together as you have explained here. That’s a very good tip. Thanks l.

    • Hi – thank you for taking a look at my site and leaving a comment. I am pleased I have provided you with a money-saving tip. All the best, Diane

  4. I remember last year when we all travelled on a vacation and my mum decided to leave her plants at home. Some of those plants died and it came as an unpleasant experience for her. We would be going on another vacation pretty soon and this is why I am here searching for ways to help her. Gladly, there are solutions. I am going to share this post with her. Thanks.

    • Hi – thank you for taking a look at my site. I am pleased you enjoyed this post and hopefully learnt something new, to avoid disaster with your plants the next time you go away! All the best, Diane

  5. How I wish I found this article before we departed for our annual holiday last month. We left our house plants for 5 days without any watering but luckily most of them were still okay when we returned. 

    Your detailed information about pre-departure checks for pests and diseases in the week before the travel date is fantastic as well as the idea of moving the plant pots to healthier spots of the house depending on the season and home temperatures. 

    I also love your info on watering systems and the wonderful Venus Fly Trap which I need to order shortly. 

    I love this post. Thank you.

    • Hi – thank you for visiting and leaving interesting comments. You were lucky that your plants survived, and I hope my advice helps for next time you go away. I do hope you purchase a Venus Fly Trap – they are fascinating to watch! All the best, Diane


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