how to look after plants during holidays

How to keep your plants happy while you're away

If you're like me, the first thing you do when getting back from holiday (while poor hubby is left to unpack the car) is check on all my plants!

The best surprise is when they've developed a new leaf or flower, which is so exciting (especially if you've been checking every day and nothing's happened and then you go away and bam!)

But I also know that heart-sinking feeling when some have just keeled over due to the sudden absence of my affections. At least I know they love me! But it's not an ideal situation.  

 Image: Pinterest

House-sitters aren't always the best option!

If you're going to be away for only a week to 10 days, it's probably wiser not to get someone else to water your plants (unless they know what they're doing). An overeager neighbour that's not in tune with your plants' routines or requirements can kill them quicker than if they were left alone. Most plants only need watering every 7 - 10 days anyway, and suddenly watering them too much can be disastrous.

If you're going to leave them for up to two weeks, here's what to do.

1. Move plants from bright light positions into a cooler, shadier spot in a smaller room and group them together. This doesn't mean locking them up in a dark cupboard, but just shifting them away from hot windows is gong to reduce their water requirements. Smaller rooms will also help to keep humidity levels higher, reducing evaporation.

For humidity loving plants you can even keep them in the empty bathtub or shower (this helps to create a mini greenhouse effect). Just make sure to keep a window slightly open to get some air in.

image: Pinterest

2. For plants very sensitive to humidity you can place some pebbles in the bath, or even in a bucket, with a bit of water in the bottom (but not covering the tops of the pebbles). Place your plant on top of the pebbles. It will enjoy a nice humid microclimate from the wet stones.

If you want to get really fancy you can create your own wick system, using cotton or nylon rope. Place one end through the drainage hole of your grow pot, making sure it's embedded in the soil. You can even pull it through and out a second drainage hole. Leave the free ends of the rope dangling in the water. The plant's roots will suck up the water as it needs. Of course, if you have your own automatic plant irrigator then use that too. 

3. Give them all a deep water before you go away, making sure all the water runoff drains away so they're not sitting in it, which will lead to root rot. 

4. Mulch the soil with bark chips or wet newspaper to keep in moisture. Remember plants in smaller pots dry out quicker than those in bigger pots, so give the small ones more attention.

5. When it comes to outdoor garden plants it's not that simple unless you have an automated irrigation system. If not you'll need someone to water your garden during the hot summer days. Outdoor pot plants like Dipladenia or Hibiscus can be brought indoors where they'll get less direct sunlight and therefore won't need as much water.

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You can also fill an old wine bottle with water, turn it upside down and place the neck of the bottle into the soil. Water will be released slowly through the neck into the soil over a couple of days. If you want it to last longer, place the cork in the bottle and using a nail or cork screw, make a smaller hole in the cork.

Author: Carolyn Ashmore, Atrium Plants founder