While You're Away - Vacation Care For Houseplants

Wooden Table Full Of Different Potted Plants
plants in pots
(Image credit: Margarita Khamidulina)

You're going on vacation. You've planned for everything-- everything except your precious houseplants. What should you do to ensure their longevity while you're away?

Vacation Care for Houseplants

First of all, the health of your houseplants will depend on the length of time in which you are away.

Care of houseplants for short periods

If you only plan on being gone for a short period of time, say less than a week, there are a few things you should do before leaving. The day before you leave for your trip, gather up all of your houseplants, removing any dead leaves or flowers, and give them a good, thorough soaking, draining all excess water from their saucers. Group the plants in the bathtub on pebble trays or a layer of plastic covered with wet newspaper. The plants can then be covered with plastic to keep humidity high. Use some form of staking to keep the plastic off the houseplants' foliage. Although it's a good idea to ensure adequate light, keep the houseplants free from direct sunlight. The plants should be okay for up to two weeks within this makeshift terrarium. Alternatively, you could create miniature greenhouses for your houseplants by setting individual plants in large, clear plastic bags instead. Of course, this would be ideal for those with only a few plants. In order to allow for ventilation, cut a few slits in each bag and close the top with a twist tie. For those planning a trip during winter, always be sure to lower the thermostat a few degrees before leaving. Ideally, you should set the temperature so that it remains somewhere between 60 to 65 degrees F. (15-18 C.). Houseplants generally thrive better in cooler conditions this time of year.

Care of houseplants over long periods

For longer trips of over a week or more, have someone else look after both your houseplants and any outdoor plantings. Be sure to leave instructions for their care. You should never assume that others know what your houseplants need. You want to be certain that all watering, fertilizing, and other requirements are carefully fulfilled as to avoid any shock to the houseplants while you're away. This can easily occur when plants are given too much water or not enough. If you have outdoor container plants, move them away from direct sunlight and place them in an area of dim shade before you leave. By cutting back their light supply, you minimize their growth and decrease the amount of water that they will require during your absence. These, too, should be watered deeply before leaving. Remove the bottom trays, if necessary, to prevent the plants from sitting in water the entire time you're away, as this can cause their roots and other parts to rot. As with the other plants, remove any unsightly foliage or flower growth. No one wants to be sick with worry over the care of his or her precious houseplants while trying to enjoy a much-needed vacation. Practicing a few simple guidelines beforehand can make all the difference, to both you and your plants, so go ahead and have fun!

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.