How to Not Kill Your Plants If You’re Traveling All Month

updated Nov 20, 2019
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The end of the year is a notoriously busy time for traveling, and there are so many logistics involved with these impending plans—like what to pack, where to sleep, and how to get there—that it’s easy to overlook what needs to be cared for while you’re gone. And one of those duties probably includes looking after plants

Erin Marino, brand marketing director at The Sill, knows that keeping greenery green isn’t always at the top of a to-do list prior to a vacation. But thankfully, upholding this responsibility shouldn’t be too tough. “The silver lining of vacationing during the winter months versus the summer months is that most common houseplants are semi-dormant during this time,” she says. That means that unlike over the summer—which is the growing season—your plants might not need as much TLC from you during the winter months.

“At the end of the day, plants should be a joy, not a burden,” Marino says. “If you have any plants that are extremely sentimental, reach out to a friend or coworker to care for them. For the rest, embrace any passings by looking at it as a chance to test a new variety.” In order to protect your plants from possible doom, Erin shares her four tips for safeguarding your collection.

Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Apartment Therapy

Generously water them before you go

“For shorter departures of about a week or two during the semi-dormant months, you can get away with giving your plants a good soak before you go,” Marino says. “Make sure to let the pots drain so the potting mix is saturated but your plants aren’t drowning in water. I like to transport plants to the tub and give them a good shower together. It also provides a great place for them to drain besides all over your floors.”

Vacations that are longer than two weeks require a little more planning. The easiest option Marino recommends is asking a friend or coworker to water your plants (even bringing them to their home or office), and getting them a souvenir as a gift. But if that’s not possible, she says that adding mulch, rocks, or wood chips to potting mix is one way to preserve moisture. “You can also cover your plant in a clear plastic bag with a few air-circulating slits after watering to make a makeshift greenhouse and keep humidity levels high,” she says. “Or you can group your plants together in a small space like a bathroom, provided there’s a window, to help maintain humidity.”

Beware of too much sunlight

“Some of the more common leafy tropical plants can start to wilt after too many unattended days in direct sunlight, and if you’re not home to catch it, the results after a week or two can be rough,” says Marino. “If you usually keep your plants on a window sill, you might want to move them a foot or two into the center of your room while you’re away.” This solution isn’t necessary if you’re caring for succulents, since they thrive in drought-like conditions. But Marino says that the point of this step is to ensure that plants still get sunlight without having their soil dry out.

Credit: Sandra Rojo

Forget about fertilizer

“You want your plants to grow as slowly as possible while you’re gone,” Marino says. “They deserve a little rest and relaxation, too.” Because fall and winter are usually dormant months for plants, Marino says you can lay off the fertilizer until spring.

Credit: Emma Fiala

Stabilize your home’s temperature

“Fluctuating temperatures from heating systems and cracked open windows can do serious damage to houseplants that prefer stable conditions,” Marino says. “It can be a tough task to find that happy medium between a home that’s not too cold yet not too dry in the winter months.” Erin says to move plants away from heaters or drafts, and set the thermostat to a steady 70 degrees for best results.