How to water and keep your houseplants alive when you travel


If you’re a plant parent, you might know that dreaded feeling of returning home only to find your beautiful pothos have become crisp around the edges and your once bright green monstera is now as limp as a noodle.

And while you might be wondering how that could have happened, Lora Pangborn, a gardening expert Online garden store and plant education center Bloomscape said that even during a short trip or absence, “plants can fall off quickly in certain circumstances.” Pangborn also said that doesn’t mean you have to write off the vacation forever. It just means that it’s important to maintain a controlled environment for your plants when you’re not there.

“One of the simplest things you can do to prepare for an extended absence is quite simple: make sure your plants experience the same conditions they’re used to when you’re home,” she said .

Erin Marino is a plant expert at The Sill, a plant shop that offers workshops and has storefronts in five major cities. She said that before creating a care plan for your plants, you should consider the year, the type of plants you have and the time you plan to be gone.

“In winter, houseplants can go into a state of dormancy or dormancy. And because plants only absorb water based on the amount of light they get, they need to water less often than they do in the summer,” Marion said.

Pangborn suggested grouping moisture-loving plants in a small space that would allow them to generate their own moisture while ensuring that the plants that enjoy the sun the most have unobstructed access to natural light.

“Plant health issues related to watering can occur quickly, so consistency is key here, too,” she added. “Plan your watering schedule to give your plants a good soak the day before you leave. Make sure there is no excess water in the saucers that could cause rot problems.”

Both Pangborn and Marino said that as difficult as plant care can be, especially when you leave your plants unattended, there are also tools and products that can help maintain a consistent environment and prevent you from burying your favorite fern. Read on for handy watering aids, timed lighting systems and more, and tips on how to use them.

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A pouch of organic lava rocks that retain moisture

According to Marino, adding a thin layer of materials like lava rock, wood chips, or mulch to your plant’s soil before watering can help keep the soil moist for longer. Lava rock, in particular, is highly porous, allowing it to absorb water and slowly release excess moisture over time.

Get it from The Sill for $15.

A way to keep the humidity high for your plants

“Moisture is key to keeping your plants healthy,” Pangborn said. This is because many houseplants come from humid jungle environments, leaving them unaccustomed to the drier indoor conditions of your home.

For shorter stays or everyday use, this Pure Enrichment BPA-free humidifier can be an effective and safe way to regulate and balance the moisture levels in the air around your plants. It offers 25 hours of continuous use and has an automatic shut-off function once the water in the tank is empty.

Get it on Amazon for $39.99.

A trio of hardy plants that easily adapt to absences

If you travel frequently but also like coming home to the mini-jungle, you should opt for easier-care plants that are less likely to die off in your absence. Pangborn suggested the semi-juicy offerings from Bloomscape’s “tough stuff” collection. “This is a group of three 4” plants that can handle a range of conditions from low to full sun, low humidity and minimal watering. They can adapt specifically to almost any light condition and require very little water and therefore thrive good on your own,” she said.

Get it from Bloomscape for $69.

A clever way to increase moisture and humidity levels for your plant

Both Pangborn and Marino proposed developing a gravel tray, a simple and affordable way to maintain a comfortable humidity level for your plants, especially for extended periods when you might not be able to keep refilling a humidifier.

“To make a pebble bowl, simply place a layer of pebbles in a bowl and add enough water so the pebbles aren’t completely covered. Then put plants on it. As the water evaporates from the tray, it increases the humidity in the air around the plant, and the pebbles keep the plant above the water so the roots aren’t constantly wet,” Pangborn said.

Get BotanicalBird’s Pebble Tray on Etsy from $10.
Get the Natural Stone Pebbles from Amazon for $14.99.

A way to control the temperature in your home, no matter where you are

Pangborn explained that for plants of a more delicate nature, temperature is a key variable to consider. “If possible, keep your thermostat set at the same temperature while you’re away (although it’s okay to be a few degrees off). Any extreme change in temperature can seriously stress your plant,” she said.

Google Nest is a programmable home thermostat that you can control even when you’re not at home to avoid dramatic temperature swings that could affect your plants. Automatically schedule heating and air conditioning and monitor energy consumption – all from the app. It is compatible with 95% of heating and cooling systems.

Get it on Amazon for $210.35.

A grow light with a built-in timer

“If you use grow lights, invest in timers so the lights come on automatically every day. Light is how your plants produce food, so without light, they will show signs of stress very quickly, like yellowing leaves, leaf drop and stretching growth,” Pangborn said.

These high-efficiency, full-spectrum LED lights use a circular memory timing feature that allows you to program the lights to turn off and on every three, nine, or 12 hours, depending on the needs of your plants. Just remember that the more light your plant gets, the thirstier it gets.

Get it on Amazon for $25.99.

A wick that helps your plant water itself

Marino’s favorite method of keeping plants watered during long periods of absence is with a capillary wick, which acts as an irrigation system for your plant. It can also prevent overhydration.

“Submerge one end of the capillary wick in a basin of water (choose the size of the water container based on how long you will be away) and the other end of the wick in your plant’s potting soil. Your plant will draw the water it needs through the wick while you’re away,” Marino said.

Get it on Amazon for $11.99.

A variety of succulents that can go weeks without water

They are no strangers to arid climates with limited water sources, “Succulents — from the Latin word ‘succulentus’ for sap or sap — are defined by their ability to retain moisture and come from many botanical families,” said Marino.

This selection of pre-potted and adaptable succulents like the aloe hedgehog and spunky fascinated hawthornia enjoy sunny environments, are exceptionally difficult to kill, and can go up to three weeks without a single drop of water.

Left: Get Bloomscape’s Hedgehog Aloe for $39.
That’s right: Get The Sill’s juicy assortment for $55.

One way to build a makeshift greenhouse

Another way to extend your plants moisture levels longer is to create a makeshift greenhouse using simple and easy-to-find items. Marino told us how: “Water your plant, then cover it with a clear plastic bag to just below the rim of the planter to create a makeshift greenhouse. Cut a few slits in the plastic to allow for adequate airflow and use chopsticks to hold the bag up and away from the foliage. You want to make sure no leaves are touching the bag.”

Get Bamboo Plant Stakes from Amazon for $7.99.
Get plant foil bags from Amazon for $12.99.

A set of mushroom-shaped watering pears

Pangborn said certain remedies, like watering bulbs, are helpful in keeping your plants watered without running the risk of root rot. If you choose this option, Kistler said, “Always test these weeks in advance if you decide to use them so you know how your plants will react.”

These hand blown watering bulbs are made from high density and extremely durable glass. They are nearly 7 inches tall and will work with most plant sizes.

Get it on Amazon for $25.99.


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