Houseplants Watering

Keeping Houseplants Well-Watered While You’re Away

Watering houseplants when you’re absent for more than a week is always a problem. Even if you entrust the work to a neighbor or a friend, it’s very likely that some plants will suffer. But it’s easy to organize plants so they don’t need watering for 8 to 12 weeks or more. Here’s how:

Start by watering them well one or two days before your departure. You want their root ball to be thoroughly and evenly moist, but not soaking wet.

The day before or the morning of your departure, insert them into a transparent plastic bag (a bag from the dry cleaners, for example), either alone (for large plants), or in groups (for smaller ones). Seal the bag with a twist tie and remove the bagged plants from full sun (the sun beating on a sealed container can cook the plants inside). Now, go in peace!

In the open air, plants lose about 95% of the water you give them to evaporation. That’s why you have to water them so often. But since the water in a closed bag can’t evaporate, your plants will benefit from moist soil for months! Yes, most plants treated this way will still be in fine shape in 6 to 8 months later! So, take a long trip if you want!

And no, your plants “won’t run out of air” in a closed bag. Plants are experts in recirculating air, producing excess oxygen during the day and excess carbon dioxide at night. Thus, they meet their own needs.

When you return, “free” your plants from their bag and put them back in their place … but don’t be surprised to discover that they are now more beautiful than when you left, because the high atmospheric humidity present in a sealed bag almost always stimulates healthy new growth.

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.

2 comments on “Keeping Houseplants Well-Watered While You’re Away

  1. My houseplants could last for two or three weeks without watering. I watered them infrequently but generously. Only the small ones, like African violets, wanted more frequent watering.

  2. My houseplants could last for two or three weeks without watering. I watered them infrequently but generously. Only the small ones, like African violets, wanted more frequent watering.

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