Cactus and succulents Gardening Houseplants Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Watering

A Dripping Tap Waters Plants While You’re Away

This old beach towel is acting as capillary matting for the plants placed on it.

You’re going on vacation this winter and have no one to water your houseplants? That’s easy enough to fix!

Place a rag, a towel, a piece of old carpet or even just 4-7 sheets of newspaper on the bottom of a sink or a bathtub. These products will act as capillary matting. Do not plug the drain: you’ll want any surplus water to flow out. Now, moisten the matting and place your pots directly on it, that is, without any saucer. Next, turn on the tap just a bit, so that it drips very slowly. As plants start to dry out, moisture will move up into the pot by capillary action, keeping the pot evenly moist… and any excess water will simply go down the drain.

Ideally, the sink or would be in a brightly lit spot so that your plants will get good light while you’re gone. That way they’ll be in perfect shape when you get back. If that isn’t the case, you might want to leave a light on or add some sort of supplementary lighting, especially if you’ll be gone more than 2 or 3 weeks.

No Frozen Pipes

20160219B.jpgA secondary advantage of this tip that letting the tap drip while you are away will prevent your home’s pipes from freezing (unfortunately, a common problem when people from cold climates travel during the winter months and therefore no water circulates inside the house). In fact, plumbing experts already recommend that you let a tap drip while you are away during freezing weather. The only difference here is that the drips will now also benefit your plants.

Not for Succulents

Note that the above advice applies to plants that like their soil to be relatively moist at all times, like most foliage and flowering plants. Capillary matting, however, creates too moist a medium for most succulents and cacti. For these plants, you simply need to water well before you leave. Most can tolerate up to 2 or 3 months without watering if necessary.

Another Method? 

This technique doesn’t work for you? Here is another suggestion on how to water your houseplants while you are absent.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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