Houseplant Care When Traveling

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Going away for any extended period of time when you have plants can be incredibly scary.  You don’t know if your plants are going to make it.  What if they need water or there is a heatwave? There are so many issues to consider and you always want to be there to take care of your plants. Sometimes though you just want to be able to go on vacation. Sometimes, you have to go away for a work trip. There are lots of reasons to leave your plants and they should be just fine without you. Today we have some tips and tricks for you on how to keep your plants happy while you are away.

Watering

Watering

 It can be a little scary because we think about coming back to all these wilted sad plants and what if they just don’t make it!? We spend so much time growing them. I know it is going to be a little scary but plants can go one to two weeks without any extra water added depending on the substrate and conditions that you have.

There are ways for you to get water to your plants even if you’re not here though. You can use the self-watering pot system. You insert a wick down in the bottom with the water reservoir and that water will get wicked up into the pot. This is especially great for plants that cannot handle drying out at all. Plants like African violets, peace lilies, and quite a few Calathea would really benefit from a self-watering pot.

 Another thing that can help is just topping your plants with sphagnum. A little bit of sphagnum pre-moistened on top there will help trap that moisture in and help the soil or the substrate underneath stay a little bit wet a little bit longer.

Also if your plants are in terracotta that will wick away moisture faster. So if you find that your plants are drying out after 2 or 3 days maybe switch them into a plastic pot or put them inside a cover pot. It can then retain that moisture.

 You don’t necessarily have to repot your plants but just find a way to keep that moisture contained in there a little bit longer for you and that can help.

You can also hire somebody. There are plant babysitters on various websites or local plant groups. You can hire one of them to come and take a look at your plants. You can also have family members come by and water your plants. If you are concerned about somebody else watering your plants for you and taking care of your plants then you can write down your needs and concerns beforehand. Some things like what each plant is going to need or a particular room, on what day you want them to come by and water those plants, or however you normally do it. Just write it down so somebody else can do it for you in your absence.

Generally, plants don’t need a lot of water all the time and a lot of them can handle quite a bit of drought. You really only have to water them every 1 to 2 weeks anyway. So if you’re going away for a couple of days there’s definitely no need to stress about water.

Lighting

Lighting

 Another thing that’s very concerning with plants is what if the power goes out and the grow lights do not come on? What if there is a heat wave and they are too close to the window? They are going to get burned. These are all absolutely valid concerns. They are very important things to worry about with the plants.

What you can do is set your plants away from the window. You can set them in the center of the room, kind of pulled back a little bit.  If your plants are normally perfectly fine right where they are at and they are already away from the window a little bit then you won’t have to move them at all. If you only have to grow lights try to move your plants into a room where they can get some natural light.

 Plants relying on natural light as much as possible is what is really going to help you out there. There are a lot of different setups and situations. They are grow lights in extenuating circumstances and natural light may not always be the answer though it is the most reliable. There are timers that you can set up for your grown lights. Just be warned that if your grown lights come with timers already they will go on the timers that they already have not the timer that you have them plugged into.

For example, there are a lot of bar lights out there that have little built-in-timers with them on the cord. So if you plug them into a wall timer, when those lights go off they will not come back on based on that wall timer. They will stay off. Make sure if you get something like that you test it out a couple of days beforehand and that way you know what you are dealing with when you’re leaving for an extended period of time.

Plants can survive in the dark for a week to 2 weeks depending but they will have leaf loss. They will have less growth then they will struggle a little bit. If you can make sure that they are getting some natural light then that can really help them out.

Generally speaking for shipping, for example, plants go in a box and they can be in there for up to a month with no light or water and still make it. So it really is a concern to some extent but the plants will be OK.

I think we tend to baby our plants quite a bit. They are inside with us. We like to love our plants a lot and we like to have them rely on us quite a bit but they can be self-reliant to some extent. They can usually be OK for a few weeks when we go away. If you were going to be away more than a few weeks I would definitely recommend hiring somebody to come and check on your plants just to make sure that everything is good.

Temperature

Temperature

 Another absolutely valid concern especially if you live in an incredibly hot climate or if you are worried about heat waves. Plant rooms can heat up quite a bit. Also if you are going away for vacation in the Wintertime things can get cold really quick and then your plants won’t make it. So temperatures are a huge concern. What if the power goes out how can I take care of my plants if I’m not there?

 These things happen but plants are very resilient. As long as plants have a water source they will be perfectly fine in high temperatures. As long as they are not also cooking in the sun at the same time they can bounce back and they can recover from a little bit of heat. They may have some wilt and they may have a little bit of damage but they can definitely recover. Even if you come back and they are all wrinkled and curled up. You can just give them a little bit of water and a little bit of humidity and they will generally come back for you.

 If you are concerned about cool temperatures for your plants you can use heat blankets or thermal blankets around them. You can also put them on a table with heat mats. Basically, the same ways that you would try to heat a person are the same ways that you would try to heat your plants. They will be OK. Just try to pull them away from the windows so that if you do not have double insulated windows they are not going to get frostbite against those windows. Most homes generally have double insulated windows now but if you live in an older home and things haven’t been upgraded they can still get the damage from the windows there.

 Most of the plants that we have as house plants are picked because they are invasive or very hearty where they originally came from or they have been bred in labs to handle indoor conditions really really well. They are essentially built to be very durable and not given attention all the time. They can handle a little bit of neglect or some more extreme temperatures and recover.

Pests

Pests

They have a tendency to kill plants while their caregivers are away. However, you can preemptively treat for that. There are lots of systems out there. You can also get beneficial bugs that will eat the pests while you are away as well. Do not use systemic and beneficial bugs at the same time. Systemics will kill the beneficial bugs. Use one or the other whichever is your preferred pest treatment method.

Pests do not have to be the end-all for plants. A lot of times, just checking your plants before going, checking the underside of the leaves, and washing your plants off can make your plants survive a pest. Even if your plant does have a pest on it like spider mites for example it should be fine for 1 to 2 weeks while you are away.

If you are really worried about that you can also add that to a list of things for your particular plant sitter to come and take care of for you.  You can say something like “Hey this Alocasia has spider mites. Could you please just wipe down the leaves for me while I’m away.” and that will be enough. It doesn’t have to be a super big thing.

 If you are going to be using systems, keep in mind that systemic does take a couple of weeks to get soaked up into the plant and start killing the pests. If you are going to be using a systemic this is definitely something to do well in advance of your leaving. Not something just a dump on your plant the night before you’re running out the door. I think we have all done that at a time or two. However, it is definitely something to prepare for a couple of weeks in advance for the best results. Maybe if you have limited time or resources just give the ones that are prone to pests a systemic or just order some beneficial bugs so that you can give them to your plants before you head out.

 Plants don’t need people as much as people need plants honestly. A majority of them are going to be just fine without intervention. You can use these tips,  then rest and relax easily while you are away on your trip and come back to happy plants.

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