Oh go on then, I will allow you to go away once in a while. If you must. 😉
Houseplants are like pets. They are living things and they are totally reliant on us to not only keep them alive, but also help them thrive. If you go away for a period of time, they still need looking after.
The only thing you really need to consider is how to water plants while away. Unless you’re away for several months, but we’ll tackle that!
The relative ease, or difficulty, of watering houseplants while on holiday depends on how long you are away for.
How To Water Plants While Away For A Week Or Less
If you are away for a short business trip, going to see family or enjoying a long weekend then your plants are really not going to suffer at all without watering during this period.
Anything up to a week without water is fine for any houseplant. The only exception is if it is particularly hot weather. But we’re talking over 30 °C (85 °F).
Some of you are going to tell me that’s your weather all year round, you lucky dogs! In that case, you might want to consider some of the options in the next section.
But all this doesn’t mean you can just up and leave without thinking about your houseplants. What if you haven’t watered them for a week before you leave?
The day before you go away, give all of your plants a good soak using the method in my article on how to water houseplants. Then they are all starting from day 1 in the big brother house. I have no idea where that came from. I am sorry.
In addition, if you have plants that love humidity such as Ferns, Norfolk Island Pine and Baby’s Tears then you can place them on a tray of pebbles and fill the tray with water. This will create a humid environment for them as the water evaporates. But I wouldn’t bother with this unless you’re away from your houseplants for over 3 days.
How To Water Plants While Away For Between 1 And 3 Weeks
This is where you need to start being more careful. You should do all the things we talked about in the last section, but those things alone will not be enough to keep some of your houseplants alive while you’re away.
One additional small thing you can do is to group all your moisture-loving houseplants together to raise the humidity slightly.
All your dry houseplants (plants like Succulents, Cacti, Aloe Vera, Snake Plant) that do not need a lot of water will still be fine without any intervention.
You might even get away with leaving the dry-moist houseplants (such as Monstera Deliciosa, Pilea Peperomioides, Pothos, Prayer Plants) that only need water every 1-2 weeks. They won’t like it, but they won’t suffer much.
The moist houseplants, the ones that need their soil to be kept moist and love a bit of extra humidity, will need some extra consideration though.
I have included a table of the common houseplants below with a note on whether they are dry, dry-moist or moist houseplants to help you out (I know you were wondering!).
With the moist houseplants, you have a few options. You can get away with a self-watering method and I’ll run through the two best options for that.
But you could also ask someone to kindly come and give them just one watering halfway through your holiday. It might save a bit of hassle. As long as you trust them 😉.
There are many self-watering tools and planters out there, but I only ever use two methods to self water my plants. These are the only ones I trust to use on my own houseplants.
I find that any method that involves sticking a bottle or globe of water into the soil of a houseplant leaves the soil too soggy. They also don’t last very long.
These are the only methods I trust to use on my own houseplants:
The String Waterfall Watering Method
This is a great, cheap, DIY method that will slowly water your houseplants, shortening the time between waterings while you are away.
All you need is a large saucepan of water and some natural cotton string/twine.
- Gather all of your moist houseplants together on a floor where they will get a decent amount of light, but no direct sunlight.
- Fill a large saucepan with water (check out our guide on what is the best water for houseplants if you haven’t already thought about this!).
- Place the saucepan on a chair or table next to your houseplants.
- Run a length of the string from the saucepan (it helps the tie the string around a spoon or something that will sink in the water) to the soil of each houseplant. Push it a couple of inches, gently into the soil.
The water will run, very slowly, down the string toward the soil and keep it moist but not soggy for several days, if not a week or two.
The amount of time this lasts will depend on how much water you have in the saucepan, the temperature of the room, etc. You could experiment with this method before going away for the first time to see how long it lasts for you.
The Self-Watering Planter
This is more of a permanent solution because you will be potting your houseplant specifically in a self-watering planter and you can’t repot a houseplant too often. So it’s going to be in it for a while!
On the plus side, this will make watering whatever houseplant you put in a self-watering planter a lot easier.
I would only recommend putting a moist houseplant in a self-watering planter as the soil will be kept moist all the time, rather than being allowed to dry out occasionally. For dry-moist houseplants, use the string watering method or get someone to pop in once every 2 weeks to water them.
The self-watering planter I recommend is the Lechuza Classico. It is a simple design, not too expensive and most people will not even know it is a self-watering planter.
Of course, if you have several houseplants then the costs can add up quickly!
How To Water Plants While Away For More Than 3 Weeks
Ok, so now you’re making things a lot more complicated. Even your dry houseplants are going to need some watering after 3-4 weeks.
There are solutions, but in reality you need to go back to that mindset that houseplants are like pets.
The solutions to leaving your houseplants for this length of time are very similar to what you would do with a pet.
If all you have is a houseplant family consisting of succulents and cacti then you can get away with up to a month away from these without watering.
But if you have any houseplants that are in the dry-moist or moist category then even self-watering options are off the table after 3 weeks.
You are going to need external help.
As I mentioned before, if you have a kind neighbour or friends/family that can pop over to water your plants once every 2 weeks then you’re all set. If you set up your self-watering systems then all they need to do is come over and top these up. While they are there, get them to turn your houseplants around so that they do not become lop-sided as they grow towards the light.
If it makes life easier for them, and they are happy to do it, then you could ask them to keep your houseplants in their home while you are away. Houseplant sitters, if you like.
Make it a swap deal. You can do the same for them when they are away!
If you are away for several months then things get a bit more serious. It’s no longer about keeping them alive, it’s more about giving them the conditions to thrive otherwise there might be long-lasting effects.
This might include repotting, using fertiliser,
But there are still solutions:
- You can teach your chosen houseplant sitter everything they need to know about looking after your houseplants properly. Unless you choose someone who is an expert already (hint, hint!). Send them to our beginners guide to basic houseplant parenting for a crash course!
- You can hire a houseplant sitter to come in and look after your houseplant babies while you are away.
- You can use a houseplant hotel. It’s a bit like kennels for dogs. There might not be options like this near you, but it’s such a unique option that I had to mention it! I’m still not sure if this place is a joke or not. I might try it out one day!
- As a last resort, you can sell your houseplants or give them away and start again from scratch. Bear in mind that if you don’t have any other option and you leave them in your home for months by themselves, they will probably not last anyway!
If you’re a regular traveller and are away from your houseplants a lot, then it might be best to choose the right hosueplants for you.
Succulents and cacti are perfect for being left for long periods of time and there is so much variety within each of these categories. Why not start an indestructible cactus collection!?
So, you have options.
It all depends on how long you are away.
The key thing to keep in mind is that your houseplants are living things and need to be cared for. If you just think of them as being like pets and consider what you will need to do to keep them happy and healthy then you should be fine.
Watering is the one thing that you have to consider for any length of time that you are away. Other aspects of plant care can wait.
Now that you know how to water plants while you are away, for any length of time, you don’t need to worry about buying more of them!
I’m not a plant-pusher, honestly! 😁