Plant parents know that it is not easy to keep plant children going. They require an exact amount of water and light and you need to adjust when temperatures change. Plant parenting tasks become even more difficult when you have a dramatic, high-maintenance houseplant. (We’re looking at you, violin fig). Another difficult task: to keep your plants alive during the holidays.
Since houseplants are used to living in a controlled environment, Lindsay Pangborn, a gardening expert on Bloomscape, says the key to keeping them alive while you are away is to make sure the plants experience the same conditions as they do when you are at home. Below, the plant professional shares his top tips for doing just that.
Keep the temperature the same
Before you leave, Pangborn recommends that you set your thermostat to the same temperature you normally set it when you are at home, if possible. “Any drastic change in temperature can severely stress your plant,” she says.
Leave your blinds open
In addition to making the temperature just right for your plant children, you also need to make sure that they get the ideal amount of light while you are away. To do this, leave the blinds open so that the plants can absorb all the natural light. Pangborn also recommends adjusting the position of the plant so that they do not receive also very light. “For plants that need a full amount of sunlight, move them away from windows by a few feet so they can still receive bright light without using their water supply so quickly,” she says.
If it is not an option to leave the blinds open, Pangborn suggests investing in grow light and timers that adjust the light automatically.
Give the plants a good bleed before you leave
Pencil for some time to give your plants a really good soak to best prepare your time away. “Water deep by letting the water penetrate into the soil until it flows out from the bottom of the pot,” Pangborn says. “Let your plants drain for about 20 minutes before putting them back on their saucers.” Professional Tip: When doing this, move the plants to the tub or shower to avoid rooting, and make sure you pour excess water out of the saucers to avoid causing root rot.
Create a humid environment
If you have plants in your collection that thrive on moisture and you typically have a humidifier running, there are some techniques to mimic that environment. “Create a moist microclimate while you’re away by grouping your plants together in a small room or room that receives natural daylight,” says Pangborn.
To create extra moisture in the air, you can also make a pebble tray. “Place a layer of pebbles in a tray and add water to the top of the pebbles. Then put your plants on top,” says Pangborn. “When the water evaporates from the tray, it increases the humidity and the pebbles prevent the pot from sitting directly in the water.”
Place outdoor plants in the shade
Outdoor plants also need a little love while on vacation. As with indoor plants, Pangborn advises giving them a thorough bleed before leaving them and moving them to a shady, sheltered area where they are out of direct sunlight. “Full sun and windy conditions will cause the plant boxes to dry out much faster,” she says. “A week or two in the shade will not harm the long-term health of these plants.”
Trim outdoor flowering plants
For outdoor planters with flowering plants, it is also important to trim any flowers before heading out of town. “This will lower the use of water, reduce the chance of fungal growth, and while you are away, the plants will work to produce new flowers – meaning you will have a new batch of fresh flowers to enjoy when you return, says Pangborn.
Invest in irrigation tools
For small indoor plants that require frequent watering, Pangborn recommends investing in irrigation tools such as capillary mats and watering bulbs that you can grab at most garden stores. Capillary mats are made of shock-absorbing, water-retaining material. When planting pots are put on top, the water is transferred from the mat to the ground.
Irrigation bulbs, Pangborn explains, are typically made of glass and have a large spherical chamber filled with water attached to a long, thin neck. “As the plant’s soil medium dries out, more water is allowed to flow from the chamber into the soil and keep it constantly moist,” she says. The larger the plant, the larger watering bulb you will need.
Whether you use a capillary mat, an irrigation bulb or some other type of irrigation tool, Pangborn recommends that you test them a few weeks before your trip to make sure your plants respond well to them. Using these tools and all the above tips, your plant children will be nurtured for about two weeks. If you plan to be away longer than that, Pangborn says, it’s best to ask a friend or family member to stop by and check in on your plants.
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