Keeping Houseplants Alive When You’re Away

Darleen Jarocki

Keeping Houseplants Alive When You’re Away

2 mins
March 1, 2021

It's wonderful to be able to travel during this time even though we are so limited, because of COVID-19. With Easter coming up soon, we want to be with family but who wants to come home to find dead house plants? Here is a way to keep your house plants happy without hiring someone to come in and take care of them. 

In case you haven't noticed, even houseplants slow down in this cooler weather period to give them a natural rest, water less than their natural rest. That means water less and less often. Let the soil go dry between waterings and don't fertilize. The soil mix should be slightly moist but not soggy. Everything from spider plants to bay trees to pothos will survive a long weekend without attention. Do move everything but cacti away from the windows prior to a long weekend. The exception his plants that bloom in winter such as the amaryllis, poinsettia, and Christmas cactus. 

For longer trips, these options will help your plants retain moisture up to one month. 

Bathtub and Sink Option

There is the bathtub or sink method. Place recently-watered plants, watered normally but not extra, in the sink or bathtub. Then stretch clear plastic wrap over the top of the tub and duct tape it in place. If the tops of the plants are heating the plastic peel back to the plastic and insert a few of the steaks in the soil of the plants, so the plastic does not rest on the plant. Do not fill the tub with water or plug the drain. Standing water will lead to plant rot. 

Bag Method

Then there is the bag method. Water the plants well and let them drain. Then cover each plant with a clear plastic bat. Try to keep the plastic from touching the foliage. Insert small sticks, I use chopsticks. If a plant is too large to bag up entirely, just pull the bag up from below to enclose the pot, then tie it gently from the base of the plant at the soil line. Finally, move the plants out of direct sunlight. 

Watering System

For thirsty plants, rig a temporary watering system for those thirsty plants such as ferns, spiderworts, wandering Jew, and Purple Heart. Set up a jar or bowl of water adjacent to the plants. For each plant, dunk one in of a thin strip of absorbent fabric, such as old T shirt pieces, in the water. Then place the other end an inch or more into the soil base, and a couple of inches into the bowl of water. Your prized plants water normally. 

Line a Cardboard box with a plastic trash bag. Packet half fool with damp sphagnum Moss or wet sand. Nest the pots of the plants in it and tuck the Moss or sand around them. They will be set for the duration of your trip. Do not do this for succulents as they can go up two a month without water. This system will work well with African violence. 

Arriving Home

After arriving home, liberate your plants from their temporary quarters and check them over. Remove any dead or dying growth, give them water if the soil is dry an inch or so down and return them to their natural location. 

That is all for now. I will leave you until we meet again. To know that life is endless and puts more purpose in our days and fills our hearts with joyous songs of hope, love, and praise. Stay well. Sincerely yours.  

This article was orginally reported by
Darleen Jarocki

Darleen Jarocki is an expert gardener and cook. She is an excellent folklorist and local historian.