If you own houseplants, going on vacation or a trip out of town means you won’t be around to water them for a while. So what should you do to keep your plants well-watered why you’re away so they don’t end up drying up by the time you get back?
How do you water indoor plants while on vacation? You can ask someone to water your plants while you’re on vacation. However, you can also make your DIY automatic watering system to keep your plants hydrated.
This works well for short trips. Another option is to use self-watering pots.
Depending on how many plants you have and how long you’ll be away, the solution can vary. So, in this article I’ll go through the different ways you can water your plants while on vacation.
Make a Plan on How to Water Your Plants Before You Go on Vacation
Making a plan on how to water your plants before you go on vacation is a great way to keep them from getting underwatered or dehydrated while you’re away.
If your trip is less than a week-long, you can water your houseplant right before you leaves.
Most houseplant need to be watered once a week pr more. One of the few exceptions is during summer when the temperature gets hot.
But in most cases, if you’re gone less than a week, watering them right before you leave will keep them hydrated until you come back.
For slightly longer vacation time, you can add mulch and make sure to keep them away from lots of sunlight and warmer locations.
A layer of mulch will help the plant retain moisture. And keep them away from warm areas in your home and the sun will prevent them from drying out too quickly.
Get a Plant Sitter
Another option to doing everything yourself is to ask someone to water your plant while you’re away.
You can have a friend, neighbor or relative check in on your plants and water them about one a week or so.
Of course, it goes a long way if that person has a green thumb or plants of their own. This will let them water the plants correctly.
On the downside, someone with no plant care experience may end up easily overwatering your houseplants.
If the latter is the case, you can leave them a step-by-step instruction list or a quick tutorial on how to water your plant.
Better yet, if you keep a record or your plant, this can help inform them of what to do. Also, make sure to leave very specific instructions on how to water your plants.
Since your plants may have different watering routines, you can group plants with similar watering requirements together to make things easier for your plant sitter as well.
The more detailed your instructions, the more likely your plants will get watered correctly.
Know How Much Water Your Plants Need
Another important thing to figure out is how much water each plant needs.
This will allow you to leave instructions to your plant sitter or choose the best self-watering method per plant.
The different DIY automatic watering systems below will require you to leave a supply of water that will gradually be delivered to each plant. Therefore, it is important that you have a basic idea on how much moisture each plant requires.
Additionally, because how much water plant require will vary on the weather, time of year and how big they are, you can’t just make a general plan and leave it at that.
Instead, it is best to make it specific to each plant. You can likewise group plants together based on their watering needs to make it easier.
DIY Automatic Houseplant Watering Systems
Creating your DIY automatic houseplant watering system is easy. And there are many different ways to do it.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind.
One is that knowing more or less how much water supply your plant will need while you’re away is essential.
If you leave too little water in the reservoir, the plant way evenly lack water before you come back.
On the other hand, supplying too much water can drown the plant such that you end up overwatering your plant.
Because plants don’t like too much water all at ones, having some kind of “timing mechanism” is important. This will prevent the too much moisture from being released into the soil.
That’s the biggest problem with slow-drip water supplies which will just keep dripping water into the soil at a consistent pace. In doing so, it could end up saturating the soil if the drip rate is too fast and the excess liquid is not able to drain quickly enough.
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DIY Watering System #1 – Simple Bottle Drip System
This is a simple watering system that makes us of old wine bottles or other long neck typed bottles. It is simple to set up and ideal for plants that need regular watering.
Therefore, if you have plants the require daily watering or lots of attention, this is a good method to use.
If you’re using a wine bottle, try one with a cap instead of a cork.
That’s because you’ll be puncturing the cap with a few holes.
Here’s how to make it:
For large plants, get a wine bottle or a large used soda bottle. Then, drill or hammer 3-5 small holes on the cap or lid. The size of the holes will determine how quickly the water is released.
So, avoid making large holes.
Instead, you want the water to drip slowly.
Once you’ve made the holes, fill the bottle with water all the way up. Then close the lid tightly.
The last thing to do is to dig a small hole in the soil, invert the bottle and stick the lid into the hole. Make sure the bottle is stuck in there, so it does not tip over.
It is likewise a good idea to test the system first. This will allow you to adjust the size of the holes if needed.
If you notice soil tends to clog the holes in the cap, you can insert a small screen on the lid or mouth of the bottom to keep this from happening.
For smaller plants, you can use a regular sized water bottle instead.
The downside to this method is that because the rate that water is released is constant, the supply will run out within 5-7 days depending on how big the bottle is.
DIY Watering System #2 – Plant Bath
This is another simple method that works well if you need the water supply to last longer than the method above.
Here you’ll need a bathtub or some kind of basin. You can also use a flat sink.
The size will vary depending on how many plants you want to fit there and how big the plants are.
How to do it:
Fill a bathtub with a few inches of water. Then lay a towel or something to add a layer between the pot and tub so the surface of the tub does not get scratched or scraped.
Then place the pots on the towel.
For this method to work, the pots will need drainage holes at the bottom. This will allow the soil to absorb the water.
You can put small or large plants in there. Of course, it takes a little more effort to carry larger plants and put them in the tub.
Also, you’ll need to estimate how much water they’ll need.
Another important thing to consider is the light source. Therefore, if you’re going to use a bathtub, your bathroom has to have window where light can come through.
DIY Watering System #3 – Simple Wick System
This method is ideal for longer periods of time.
Depending on how big your water container or reservoir is, the supply can last between 1 to 4 weeks. Of course, you can just get a bigger or smaller container as needed.
The other thing is that this system is ideal for plants that need watering about 3 times a week. It won’t be able to water your plants as much as the first 2 methods above.
Finally, you can water many plants at the same time with this wicking system.
How to do it:
Fill your reservoir with water and insert a cotton rope into the water. Make sure you secure it so it won’t eventually slip of the container. If this happens, it will effectively stop the system from delivering water to your plants.
Next, insert the other end of the cotton rope into the soil. You want to get it in there since this is where the moisture will be released into the soil.
If you feel that the plant needs a bit more water, you can add 1 or 2 more ropes going to different parts of the soil.
Finally, water the plant. This is just to get things started to the plant is well-hydrated.
What happens here is that the rope will slowly water the plant as moisture travels through it. Therefore, you can add more than one plant and attach ropes to each one of them.
DIY Watering System #4 – Plant Saucer
This is probably the simplest of all the DIY automatic watering solutions. And it works best for plants that don’t need a lot of watering like cacti and succulents.
Another thing to note is that it only works for the very short term (2 to 3 days).
How to make it:
All you need are a saucer and a pot with drainage holes at the bottom.
Choose a saucer that is about the size of your pot or slightly larger.
Place the pot on the saucer.
Add water into the saucer. The taller the outer container is, the more water you’ll be able to add. However, this method is not ideal for too much water.
By placing the saucer with water under the pot, the soil will slowly absorb the moisture through the drainage holes.
DIY Watering System #5 – Mini DIY Greenhouse
If you’re looking for a long-term solution that will last for months, this may be a good option.
Creating a mini greenhouse for your plant will allow it to stay hydrated for up to 6-8 months.
Basically, the system works by recycling water so the plant’s soil stays moist during this time. Because it encloses your plant in a makeshift greenhouse, plants that need air circulation or cannot tolerate warmer conditions are not ideal for this method.
Here’s how to make it:
Start by placing 4 stakes around your plant. You can put them into the soil or set up a makeshift structure around the plant.
The structure will be used to keep the plastic cover around your plant. This will make a temporary “greenhouse”. Ideally, set up the stakes so that the plastic does not touch or just barely touches a few leaves.
Once you have the stakes in place, water the soil as you normally would. Then place the plant under bright, indirect light.
Avoid direct sunlight as this will make the conditions in the bag even hotter.
Finally, cover the plant with a plastic bag.
As the plant transpires, the moisture will get trapped by the plastic bag. This provides humidity for the plant. Additionally, the moisture will eventually drip back down into the soil.
Thus, the water “circulates” between the soil to the plant and then to the plastic bag and drips back to the soil. Then the cycle starts over again.
This allows the plant’s water needs to be fulfilled for a long time.
DIY Watering System #6 – Sunken Plastic Water Bottle
This is another short-term automatic watering solution. It typically lasts between 3 to 6 days depending on how big the water bottle you use and how much water the plant needs.
It is also a good idea to water the plant beforehand so that it will use up the water in the soil first before drawing on the water in the bottle.
This method is very similar to the first one above (bottle drip method). But this time you puncture holes in the bottle and put it into the soil upright.
How to Do It:
Start by taking a used water bottle. Then drill holes or hammer in a few holes on the sides and bottom.
All you need are about 6 holes around the body of the bottle and about 3 at the bottom.
Next, dig a hole in the soil and insert the bottle in all the way up to near the top.
Water the soil so that it the plant will have enough hydration before it starts taking the liquid from the bottle. This will allow the water supply in the bottle to last longer.
Finally, fill the bottle with water.
If you don’t want to make your own DIY automatic watering system, you can opt to go for self-watering pots. You’ve probably seen a few of these in stores as well as in nurseries.
Self-watering pots are designed to help busy individuals “set and forget” their plant’s watering requirements.
These pots have built-in reservoirs at the bottom of which will deliver moisture to the soil at a gradual rate. And as a plant owner, all you need to do it monitor the water gauge on the pot.
This means you don’t need to keep feeling the soil to know when to water. You also don’t have to worry about watering the plant or letting it drain afterwards.
Instead, once the gauge shows the water level in the self-watering pot’s reservoir is getting depleted, just fill up the reservoir again. That’s it!
The pot takes care for the rest including water delivery to the soil.
Of course, the downside to self-watering pots is there is no customization. The rate of delivery is consistent (which has its pros and cons).
For one, this means it is not ideal for all plants depending on the plant’s water requirements.
Another thing is that you need to repot your plant and put into the self-watering pot.
Finally, and probably the biggest con is cost. If you have a lot of plants, this means you’ll need one pot for each plant which is not cost-effective.
That said, you can choose which plant or plants are best suited for this to limit how many self-watering pots you need.
Self-Watering Systems Are Not for All Houseplants
Note that while the solutions above are easy and are effective, they are not always well-suited for plants.
Some plants, like succulents and orchids, only need watering after their roots dry out. Therefore, the self-watering systems will likely deliver too much water and not wait long enough for the roots to dry.
The good news is that these plants can go without water for longer periods of time because of this. Thus, you may be back from your trip before they need more water.
However, if you’ll be away for longer periods of time, you’ll need someone to come around and water these plants.