If you’re like me, you spent most of 2020 and some of 2021 at home lovingly tending to the many, many plants you collected. Most thrived under your care—though you had a few casualties, too. Your plants—which may have been merely a hobby at one point—have become a high priority that consume a significant chunk of your time each week. Now that the world is starting to open back up and travel is again a real possibility, one question on your mind is likely: What happens to your plants when you go on vacation?
As I was planning a two-week-plus trip for later this year, I struggled with this very question. I considered enlisting friends who could handle caring for my 70+ plants. But with so many different watering and light needs, I spiraled out of control. There has to be a way to manage this, I thought. I'm not the only person in this predicament.
Enter a professional plant sitter. We talked to Katie Heward, co-founder of Plant Sit, a plant-maintenance company in London. She shared tips for preparing your plants to thrive while you leave for a much-needed vacation, because no one wants to be worrying about their plants while they should be relaxing.
Bunch Them Together
“If you put all of your plants together (where possible) then they create their own little climate (we are not scientists) where they retain more moisture," Heward said. "[This is] great for plants that thrive in humidity.”
I bunch a lot of my plants together even when I’m not away because it helps with humidity. Microclimates can help your plants thrive. Plus, if you do decide to have a friend take care of your plants, grouping together plants with similar watering schedules is a great way to help them keep track, especially when you have a large number of plants.
Don’t Leave Them in Direct Sunlight
This may seem counterintuitive since some plants actually really like bright direct sunlight, but it also means the sun will dry your plant’s soil out faster. “To limit the amount they dry out, move them off window-sills and out of south-facing rooms. This doesn't apply to your general cacti, but handy for many in your collection,” said Heward.
Moving plants a few feet away from the window makes a huge difference in the amount of light they are getting throughout the day. And since you won’t be home to move plants if there is a particularly hot day, it’s best to move the plants so they don’t get burned, too.
Get Globes for Extra Water
If you’ve enlisted a friend to care for your plants, but they aren’t able to come every single day to tend to the more demanding ones like calathea and ferns, you could also try a watering globe. “Although these won't replace a good watering, there are many watering globes that slowly release water when the soil dries out,” Heward said. I’ve used these before, and they’re really helpful for plants that require soil to stay moist. They’re also really inexpensive so really it’s a no brainer.
Create a Cheat Sheet
Creating a cheat sheet for a friend who has agreed to plant sit for you is an ideal way of ensuring that everything goes according to plan. Before you even start this cheat sheet though, make sure you’re asking someone who knows a thing or two about plants to care for them. You don’t want someone who has no clue what goes into caring for your plants to watch them (I have nightmares that all of my plants will have soaking wet soil and root rot when I return from my trip).
Helpful notes to include on your cheat sheet:
- The soil check: Remind them to use their finger to make sure the soil isn’t wet before watering.
- Unusual things of note: If there is anything weird about one of your plants (e.g. it needs to be kept away from other plants; there is no tray to catch excess water so it needs to be watered in the sink or bathtub; etc.)
- Watering schedule: Which plants need to be watered when. Consider color-coding your Post-It notes so that all plants with, say, blue notes, need to be watered on Monday, and so on.
Give Plants a Generous Watering Before You Go
If you aren’t traveling for a long time or you can’t invest in a plant sitter, before you leave for your trip it’s best to give your plants a big watering—I like to put mine in the sink or tub and water them until I see water coming out of their drainage holes. I then leave them in the tub for about an hour to let them fully drain so I’m not dripping water all over my flat when I put them back.
Your plants will be thoroughly watered and should be okay for the next few days or even a week. Remember: You can’t really save a plant that has been overwatered, but you can save a plant that has been slightly underwatered.
Make sure to give your plants another big watering once you’ve returned home so your plant babies can get the drink they need.