Lucky you! You are going on vacation! The tensions of work-related deadlines and the daily grind may fade away into sweet, vacation-fueled oblivion while you are gone, but your responsibilities to hearth and home cannot, no matter how long you are planning on being away. This is particularly true if you have enhanced your home environment with greenery.
While some plants are more high maintenance than others, most will require some level of tender loving care in your absence. Nothing takes the place of a trustworthy neighbor with a green thumb, but here are some easy, plant-saving tips that will keep your foliage fresh, lush and healthy, or at least not wilted and brown, until your key finds its way into your front door again.
Moisture is key
Simply put, plants need water to survive and remain healthy. While you need not be concerned with cacti or succulents during even a relatively long absence away from home, most other plants will need to have their moisture retained or replenished if you will be gone for more than a few days.
If you will be gone for only a week or less, it should be enough to give your plants a saturating drink prior to your departure. For longer amounts of time, there are a number of options you can consider that will keep your plants moist and thriving. These include installations of an automatically timed, drip watering system.
Drip watering systems range in price from around $20 to $100 but often last for years and can make taking care of your plants easier even when you’re back at home. Make sure you get one designed for indoor use to avoid leaking or flooding. Another option is to add mulch or wood chips to your plants to help them hold onto moisture for a longer period of time.
Some people prefer to use a wicking stick hydrating system, particularly if they keep a large number of plants in one area. This cost-effective method simply requires a large container filled with water and a watering wick, which can be purchased at most plant nurseries. You can also utilize a wicking material, such as rope, yarn or cotton, instead of a stick. But if so, test them out first in order to determine how quickly they will transport moisture from the container into the plants.
A wick end is placed into the water in the very bottom of the container and the other end is inserted about 3-4 inches deep into the plant’s soil. Multiple plants will require multiple wicks. An added benefit of this system comes from each plant’s proximity to the others, as grouped greenery tends to maintain higher levels of moisture-releasing humidity into the air than single plants do.
Smaller plants can also be transported into the bathtub, watered and covered loosely with clear plastic.
Other important tips
Cool is best. Plants wilt more quickly in heat and direct sunlight than in a cooler environment. Move your plants into an area of your home that can be kept at around 60 degrees while you’re away. Remember that cool is not the same thing as cold, so keep plants off of window sills that will be left cracked open during your absence, particularly if you will be travelling during the winter months.
Keep your plants out of direct sunlight. Of course, foliage needs sunlight to thrive and grow, but direct sunlight will dry plants out quickly, causing them to brown. Plants will experience less distress in an environment lit by indirect sunlight while you are out of town.
Know your plants. Tropical, subtropical or blooming plants may require additional maintenance during your absence. If you are concerned about the fate of your calatheas, heliconias or other special plants while you are away, look up each individual species in a plant encyclopedia in order to decide upon an appropriate survival plan. That way, you’ll be greeted by beautiful, healthy plants upon your return back to real life.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.