What To Do With Your Houseplants While Traveling
When we’re not actually visiting a jungle (which is – you know – most of the time), we still like to try to live in one. I’m talking houseplants, here. Lots of lush, tropical, green houseplants, that help us feel a little more cheerful in the dead of the snowy Canadian winter.
The problem, though, becomes what to do with the things when we’re gone for a couple of weeks.
We do have a friend look in on the house while we’re away, but it feels like quite a burden to ask her to manage a watering schedule, especially after she’s fed all the pets and scooped the kitty litter. If you have a house sitter who is willing to do your watering, congratulations! If not, there is still hope.
We’ve developed a system that makes the water-loving tropicals somewhat self-watering, and keeps everything alive for the time we’re gone (disclaimer: this probably only works if you have winter or serious air conditioning).
First, what we do is place all of the tropicals’ pots into buckets. We mostly use ice cream buckets (Yay! An excuse to eat ice cream!), though you may need larger buckets or even big planters for bigger plants. Any deep plastic container will do, as long as it is larger than the pot the plant is in. We then double-water the tropicals – basically letting them stand in water for the first half of our trip. They aren’t thrilled with it, and they may sulk for a while after we get home, but we haven’t lost one yet.
The succulents and other drought-tolerant plants, we do not put in buckets – the additional moisture would do more damage than good. We do give them a good watering, though, until the soil is more saturated than usual.
Refrigeration (Sort Of)
Step two in our process is to move all of the plants into a cool room – we close the furnace register in our spare room, and close the door. We learned the hard way that we need to protect the plants from the cats, but we also (kind of by accident) discovered that putting all of the plants somewhere cool really reduces their water needs, allowing even the tender tropicals to survive more than two weeks with no water beyond what we give them in their buckets.
When we get home, one of the first things we do is check on the plants, and water anything that is overly dry. However, we don’t move them back into their hot, sunny south windows right away. Instead, we partially open the furnace vent, and allow that room to heat up for a day or two. Then, when we do move them back, we water them more frequently for the first couple of weeks. While this stem may not be strictly necessary, it seems like a kinder way to transition them.
We dearly love our houseplants, but, like our pets, they need a bit of extra planning when we travel. For us, a successful trip includes coming home to live plants, and this technique has helped a great deal.