It's that time of year again. For many of us, as the holiday season nears its end, so does our enthusiasm for letting it snow and walking in a winter wonderland. After just a few weeks into the cold season, we're already longing to hang up the snow shovel and grab our garden trowel. If you're one of those Bismarck snowbirds who like to fly south this time of year, we don't blame you-but your houseplants might if they end up being neglected! Whether you're heading out for a winter ski trip or a warm, tropical getaway, here's how you can vacation-proof your houseplants.
We know that the days and weeks leading up to a holiday are already busy, but it's important to give your plants a little TLC before you go. If you can find time between all the working and packing to vacation-proof your potted plants, they'll definitely be better off for it.
Thoroughly water them right before you leave. If you're catching an early flight, watering them the day before is fine, too. Most plants only need to be watered every week or two, sometimes even less frequently during this time of year. If you give them a nice soak before leaving, they may not even notice you were gone in the first place! Just remember not to let them sit in pooled water, or you might have to deal with root rot and fungal damage when you get home.
Leave them in good shape by removing any dead leaves and plant material from the pot. You can also give them a fresh dose of fertilizer for additional nutrients. A fresh, healthy plant won't be affected by your absence as much as one that's already struggling.
Turn down the heat, leaving your home at regular indoor temperature, or even slightly cooler. Avoid leaving your plants near direct heat sources, like furnaces or heat pumps, and turn these appliances down a notch. Warm, dry air won't make your plants any cozier-it'll just dry potting soil out much quicker.
Keep them away from cool drafts. As much as you want to avoid cooking your potted plants, cold air can make them just as uncomfortable. Keep them away from drafty or frozen windows and doors that might stress them out.
Take them out of the sun. Even if your plant loves the brightness, direct sunlight can dry out soils and dehydrate your plants. While you're away, monitoring soil moisture is pretty much impossible, so it's best to take a break from the window sill and move them to somewhere with lots of indirect light instead.
Make a houseplant party! Huddle your houseplants together while you're gone. They're much better at conserving humidity when they're close to each other, creating their own little ecosystem. Plus, they can keep each other company while you're gone!
Most plants will be fine without water for a week or so, but if you've got an especially finicky plant, or you're leaving for an extended period, you may want to think about how to water potted plants while on vacation. Luckily, there are a few solutions for you:
Drip-irrigation systems are automatic plant-watering systems that deliver moisture slowly, over time. If you're looking for the best of the best, there are some pretty high-tech, moisture-sensing options for drip-irrigation. Or, you can choose simpler systems like water spikes or water globes that are still effective and a little more budget-friendly. Assess the needs of your potted plants and select the model and design that works best for you.
DIY irrigation systems are also easy to make from household items, such as plastic soda bottles with tiny holes poked through them, which encourages a slow drip. As long as your plant is well-watered first, it should just absorb water from the bottle as needed. Another option, called water wicking, involves putting one end of a string into a pot or bucket of water and pushing the other end of the string down through the soil of your containers. The water will slowly work its way through the string, keeping the soil consistently moist. You can even water more than one plant from the same pot!
Self-watering pots include a refillable water reservoir that sits underneath the plant. The water evaporates from the reservoir, keeping the soil above consistently moist. You can even purchase conversion kits to turn your favorite planters into self-watering ones!
Water trays are useful for increasing moisture in the air, creating the perfect humid environment for your tropical houseplants. All you have to do is fill a tray with rocks or stones, pour some water over it, and place your potted plants on top! The rocks will prevent plant roots from sitting in water, which may encourage root rot, while the water evaporates to create the humidity.
There are many ways you can prepare your potted plants to care for themselves while you're on holiday, but frequent, extended periods away can take a toll. If you've got the travel bug or you travel a lot for work, and you know your houseplants will have to fend for themselves often, it's a good idea to choose ones that are already pretty low-maintenance. Some plants actually thrive on neglect and will appreciate the vacay just as much as you! Here are some of our recommendations: