How to water plants while you're away on holiday

Heading off on holiday and wondering how to water your plants while you’re away? Here’s our guide to keeping indoor and outdoor plants alive, however long you’re gone.

How to water plants while away

Whether you’re away for a fancy weekend or on vacay for a fortnight, you’ll want to keep your precious plant babies well-watered. First off, there are a couple of factors to consider.

Shift with the season

Plants usually need more love in spring and summer, especially if you’re tending to seedlings or an allotment. If you’re away for a week in summer, your plants may need some love while you’re gone but if you’re planning an autumn or winter getaway, you might be fine to give them a soak before leaving them to their own devices.

Indoor vs outdoor plants

Depending on the plants you have, you’ll need to tailor your approach to holiday care.

Houseplants are generally easier to leave while you’re away as they’re not exposed to the same levels of sunshine or breeze as outdoor plants.

Outdoor plants in containers always need more watering than bedding and other plants in the ground.

Man holding a hose pipe watering the garden

Before you go on holiday

Whatever your plans, before you go on hols, do a bit of prep to keep your plants happy and hydrated.

Give them a big drink

Before you go, give everything a loooong drink. Get the hose on beds and borders and make sure the water has soaked 5cm or so below the surface before you switch it off.

Plants in containers should be well-doused, too. In the summer, it’s fine to leave water in the saucers, but if you’re away in winter, it’s better to remove these and raise containers up on pot feet so water can drain more easily and doesn’t freeze.

Indoors, pile your houseplants in the sink, bath or bottom of the shower and fill it with about 10cm of water. Leave them to absorb it for 15 minutes or so, then let them drain and pop them back in their places.

Move things around

Shift any outdoor pots in sunny positions into shadier, less exposed spots while you’re gone to stop the compost from drying out too quickly.

Indoor plants on sunny windowsills should be moved further into the house for the same reason.

Watering can about to water hydrangea

How to keep plants alive when you’re away for a long weekend

So long as you give them a drink before you go, your plants should cope without you for 3-4 days.

Easy to care for plants will be fine (for obvious reasons, we call them ‘The Neglectables’). If you’re worried about fussy houseplants, fill a tray of pebbles with a little water and place the pot on top to keep the humidity high.

Through spring and summer, indoor and outdoor plants can be sat in a saucer of water to keep them hydrated over a long weekend.

How to water plants while you’re away for a week

Again, as long as you water them well before heading off, most plants will be just fine if left to their own devices for a week. If you’re concerned, there are a couple of easy DIY methods you could try to make your own self-watering planters.

The bottle trick

1. Find a plastic bottle and make a few tiny holes all the way around the bottom half and base.

2, Make a hole around the roots of a plant and slip the bottle inside so that the top and shoulders are still showing.

3. Fill up the bottle with water and let it leak out gradually.

Once topped up, this method will keep working when you get back, so you won’t have to water every day ever again. Woop.

The water wick trick

Create a simple watering system for indoor plants using cotton string as an ingenious ‘wick’ that will keep pot plants watered for 1 to 3 weeks.

1. Start by finding a jar or glass that will just fit your plant pot in the top. There should be plenty of space in the bottom (this is your water reservoir).

2. Cut a length of cotton and feed it through one of the holes in the bottom of the pot (a pencil is your go-to tool here), feeding the cord into the compost. Make sure the cord is long enough to hang out of the bottom of the pot.

3. Fill up your glass/jar with water, dangle the cord into the water and sit the pot in the glass.

Voila. Leave your home science experiment to do its thing while you go adventuring.

How to water plants while you’re away for 2 weeks or more

If you’re not sold on the water wicking method (above) and are planning to be away for a fortnight or longer, fear not. There are a couple more ways to keep your plants well-watered while you’re on holiday.

Set up a simple irrigation system

Automatic watering kits are available which can self-water one, two…or even 25 plants. Using game-changing, low-waste drippers that can be installed in borders, veg patches, pots and hanging baskets, they often come on using a timer. Alternatively, you can buy watering accessories like lengths of pipe and joiners and create your own bespoke set-up.

Tap-mounted sensor controllers can also be hooked up to normal and soaker hoses and programmed to automatically water every day at sunrise and sunset. We say leave the timer on when you’re back and keep pretending you're on holiday.

Four plants in pots with a wick out of the bottom in a water reservoir

Call on a neighbour

Of course, if it’s all too much, you could always call on a trusty friend, family member or neighbour to help you out.

If you have a lot of plants or you’re worried about your neighbour’s lack of green fingers, employ one or more of the methods above and just ask them to pop in to top up the watering systems and check everything looks happy.

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