In this post, we will cover a few ways that you can prepare and protect your plants while you are on vacation so that you are less likely to return to dead or stressed plants.
1. Shoe-String Method/Wicking Method
The shoe-string method is good for plants that need watering 2-3 times per week. You can generally leave the plant where it always sits in your house, which is good for the certain houseplants that are finicky about being moved.
You can generally leave your plants between a week and month on this method, dependant on how often your plant needs to be watered and the amount of water you put in the provided reservoir.
What you’ll need:
- A sink, bucket, vase, large bowl, or another reservoir of water
- 100% cotton shoestrings, yarn, or rope (you can even use strips from an old cotton t-shirt)
Cut the cotton string so that you’ll be able to put one end deep into the soil of your potted plant and several inches of the other end into the container of water. Make sure that the string is secure by covering the plant ends with soil. You can also use a pencil to push the shoe-string down into the soil.
Water the plant to start the process and make sure to fill the reservoir before you leave. You can use the same bucket or vase to water multiple plants in the way.
Note: it is a good idea to test this method before you leave so that you know that you have to correct materials and that it is working.
2. Wine-Bottle Method/Watering Globe
The wine-bottle method is another way you can use typical household objects to water your plants while you are away. This is the ideal solution for plants that need to be watered on a daily basis and require special attention. You don’t have to worry about the water pouring out at once, as the soil will stop it as soon as it is wet enough.
This method will last you a few days (no more than a week). You may be able to extend its effects by using more than one bottle per plant.
What you’ll need:
- Wine bottles (or other glass bottles)
- Wine bottle stakes
- (Optional) a Hammer and a nail (if your glass bottle has a screw-on cap)
If you aren’t using a wine-bottle stake, you will want to use a glass bottle that has a screw-on cap (both aluminum or plastic should be fine). If there is a plastic film from inside the lid, you will want to remove it with pliers or a flat-head screwdriver. Use your hammer and a nail to puncture 4-5 holes in the cap. If you are using an aluminum cap, puncture from the bottom to minimize warping the cap.
You can also use a wine bottle stake (aka “Plant Nanny”). These are made out of terracotta and will water the soil gradually while you away. Plant nannies make it easy for you to add or remove the wine bottle without disturbing the plant over time. If you vacation frequently or want an easier way to water your plants, go with this option.
Before you leave on vacation, fill the wine bottles and place them face down into your plant’s soil (or in the plant nanny).
If you want to use this method when you are home but don’t like the aesthetics of a wine bottle in your plant, you can use a watering globe for the same purpose. These decorative globes come in many colors to match your style.
3. Plastic Greenhouse Method
For plants that love a humid environment, try a DYI plastic greenhouse method or use a mini-greenhouse or terrarium. These will help recycle the water around your plants as well as give them the humidity they crave.
When using this method, be sure to keep the plants out of the direct sun to prevent them from scorching and causing irreparable damage.
What you will need:
- Plastic bags that are large enough to fit around each plant
- Waterproof surface
- Rubber bands, twist ties, hair ties, or duct tape
Place towels down on a waterproof surface (just in case) in an area with indirect lighting and moderate temperature. Fill each bag with air and place it around the entirety of the plant. Tape it or seal it to make sure that it is closed. While you will need to allow a little airflow, make the bag as tight as you can to ensure that it doesn’t deflate or fall over.
As evaporation occurs, the water will hit the inside of the bag, then will drip back down onto the plant, watering in naturally.
4. Drip Watering System/Self-Watering Conversion Method
Use an automatic machine on a timer to water your plant periodically while you are on vacation. This will ensure that your finicky plants get the water they need when they expect it. While there isn’t a DIY option available, you will be able to rest assured that your plant will (most likely) survive your trip away from it.
What you’ll need:
- A drip watering system
- A sink (or bathtub) full of water
This method is similar to the wicking system, but is more automated and will work only when you program it to work. As stated above, this is the method you should use for extremely picky plants that may otherwise die without specialized care.