Watering plants during vacation

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So you’re taking off on a big trip? Good for you. Studies have shown that vacations are good for your health, but now you have to figure out what to do about watering your beloved plants. The good news is that it’s perfectly fine to leave plants on their own while you’re away. It just takes a little planning and forethought.

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Well-watered houseplants will last for days, even a week, on their own. If you’re heading out for a short time, give them a final drink just before you leave and move them out of sunny windows or hot rooms. Outdoor potted plants will dry out faster, so give them a soaking before moving them into a cool garage or laundry room to slow down their water use.

For longer vacations (more than a few days), however, you’ll want to do more. Here’s what we recommend:

Find an educated neighbor.

OlgaMiltsovaGetty Images

If you have a plant-savvy friend who can come over a couple times a week while you are away, in exchange for your doing the same in return, that’s ideal. Even a careful non-plant-savvy person will work in a pinch if you do a little pre-travel planning. For a few weeks before you leave, keep track of how much water each plant tends to need and how often, and then leave specific instructions: “Give this plant ½ cup of water every weekend.”

Help your friend out by grouping plants with similar watering needs together on a waterproof floor and out of direct sun. Remember, your house may get warmer while you are away in the summer, so adjust care instructions to account for faster water use.

Make a mini greenhouse.

If you have a manageable number of plants, you can buy a water-recycling terrarium or DIY one with a large clear plastic bag and keep them happy for months. Put the open bag on a waterproof floor in a room that will stay at a moderate temperature (cool in summer, warm in winter) and out of direct sun.

SOCKER Greenhouse ikea.com $19.99

To avoid tearing the bag, carefully spread a moist towel along the bottom, and arrange as many well-watered potted plants on the towel as will fit. Pull up the sides of the bag over the plant(s), blowing in air to puff out the bag, and twist it shut on top. Seal it with a twist tie or a rubber band. For an extra-airtight closure, fold the twisted portion in half, and wrap it with another rubber band.

The plants inside will release water from their leaves and the excess will drip back down onto the potting soil, where it will be available to the roots again. I used the same plastic bag for three years to get the plants in my college dorm through school holidays, and they were still growing when I graduated.

You can do the same for plants in outdoor containers. Just remember: Whether your plants are indoors or outdoors, keep them out of direct sunlight or your terrarium bag will turn into a solar cooker.

Set up a wick.

justinkendraGetty Images

If you have large and unmovable plants, prefer to avoid plastic bags, or just have too many to move, you can set up an easy wicking system that works indoors or out. You need some sort of absorbent wicking material — thick yarn, scraps of old natural-fiber rope, or strips of a cotton T-shirt — and containers (like bottles, bowls, or pails) to hold water. Note: Arrange a test pot to make sure your wick works well.

Set a container of water next to the plant; a single container can serve multiple pots if it’s large enough. Place one end of the wick into the water, making sure it reaches the bottom of the container so your plant won’t be left high and dry as it drinks, and poke the other end about three inches deep into the plant’s moist soil. As the soil dries out, water will travel up the wick to replenish the moisture.

Try a wine bottle.

Plant Nanny Wine Bottle Stake Set amazon.com $27.99

If you have just a few outdoor containers, you may want to opt for Plant Nanny Wine Bottle Stakes. Simply screw a wine bottle filled with water to the stake, then insert the stake into your potted plant. The water will release slowly and steadily while you’re away. Depending on the plant and its water needs, you may want to use two per plant.

Invest in a slow drip system.

If you have lots of outdoor containers, you may want to consider a drip watering system with an automatic timer. This will not only take care of plants while you are away, but also save you time even when you are home.

These systems are very simple to put together and require no special tools (other than a punch that will come along with the kit), and you can arrange them to fit your garden’s layout or containers’ needs. A basic drip irrigation system will set you back about $100, but it will last for years. You can even redesign it as your plants change.

Gardener’s Supply Snip-n-Drip Soaker Hose System Gardener’s Supply amazon.com $37.95 Orbit Programmable Hose Timer Orbit amazon.com $22.94 Additional Snip-n-Drip Couplers Gardener’s Supply amazon.com $8.95 50 6-Inch Garden Landscape Stakes The 5 Star Collection amazon.com $13.93

How to water your plants while you’re away

Josh Miller/CNET

You’ve worked hard to grow beautiful houseplants and a healthy vegetable garden with a consistent watering schedule. If you head out on vacation, you don’t want your plants to suffer.

Here are four methods to keep your plants watered while you’re away. They also work great for the forgetful gardener.

Now playing: Watch this: 4 ways to get your plants to water themselves 2:13

Just a note: Only use these for plants that need daily watering, like herbs, vegetables and some houseplants. Your succulents would rather you just let them be while you’re out of town.

Read more: Our ultimate guide to growing a healthy garden.

Chris Parker / CNET

Old-school water wicking

For this, you need a large water container (like vase or bucket) and some cotton rope. Cotton clothesline, available at most hardware stores works great.

Cut a piece of cotton rope that’s long enough to fit between the bottom of your water container and into the soil of your plant.

Take one end of the rope and push it several inches below the surface of the soil, close to the plant. Take care not to disturb the plant’s roots.

Rest the other end of the rope in the bottom of your water container and fill it with water. Make sure that the rope touches the bottom of your container.

The cotton rope will slowly wick water from the container into the pot, maintaining a constant level of moisture in the soil.

Chris Parker / CNET

DIY drip system

You’ve probably seen those glass watering globes you stick into a pot to water your plant. There’s no need to buy them though, because you can easily make your own version.

Start with a clean and empty plastic bottle. For a small to medium container, a water bottle will work just fine. Drill several drainage holes into the bottle close to the top.

Before you head out on vacation, water your plant as normal. Fill the plastic bottle with water, and then quickly turn it over and plunge it into the first few inches of soil in the pot. Make sure the bottle is not too close to your plant and that the bottle is deep enough that the soil covers the holes.

The water will slowly leak out of of the bottle as the soil dries out.

For larger pots, you can use an empty wine bottle. Just fill it up, place your thumb over the opening before turning it over and plunging it into the soil.

Chris Parker / CNET

Give your plants a bath

For pots with good drainage, you can give them a bath while you’re away. Well, sort of.

Fill up your sink or bathtub with a few inches of water and lay a towel inside to protect against scratches. Rest your potted plants in the sink and leave them while you’re gone. The soil will draw water up to the roots, keeping the plant hydrated for up to one week.

Take stock of the lighting conditions near your sink or tub – if your plants need a lot of sunlight, don’t keep them in a dark bathroom.

Chris Parker / CNET

Plastic bag greenhouse

This method seems unconventional, but it works wells for longer vacations.

Get a clear plastic bag big enough to cover your plant and its pot. Add stakes to the pot to prevent the bag from clinging to the plants. Some say that the bag should absolutely not touch the leaves, but a little bit of contact is OK.

Water your plants as normal, being sure not to overly saturate them.

Place the plant into the bag, pulling the bag up and around your plant. Blow a bit of air into the bag before you seal it to help the bag balloon around your plant. It’s just more insurance that the bag won’t press up against the leaves.

Leave your plant in an area with indirect light (direct sunlight will heat up the bag and likely kill your plant). This mini greenhouse will capture water as it evaporates and drip it back into the plant.

Learn everything you need to grow a beautiful, healthy garden with CNET’s gardening guide.

Can technology grow a better garden? We test the latest gardening tech at the Smart Home.

It’s time to get in vacation mode and leave your responsibilities behind! But before you go, make sure that your plant babies are accounted for — you’ve taken such good care of them and would hate to see them withering away when you return. There are solutions to this that are quick, frugal and long-lasting. We’re here to prove that your plants don’t need a babysitter because we have six self-watering methods to take care of all your plants, even the sensitive ones! Each vacation plant watering system will put you at ease while hitting the beach.

Use the menu below to skip to a specific method you’d like to learn more about:

  • Wine Bottle Solution
  • Houseplant Bath
  • Water Wicking
  • Plant Saucer Setup
  • Plastic Bag Greenhouse
  • Water Bottle Solution

Method One: Glass Bottle Solution

Don’t throw away your bottle of sauvignon blanc once it’s empty — bottles are great for taking care of plants that need watering every day while you’re away. Or use this method on a daily basis to create less watering work for you. If the bottle has an interesting design, it can also be a creative and fun decoration to add to your planter or pot. Make sure you use a bottle with a cap and not a cork. This solution may be reused as well by simply refilling the bottle after your plant drinks all the water.

Project time: Less than 10 minutes

Materials + tools needed:

  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • A bottle with an aluminum cap
  • Pliers

Step 1: Puncture holes in cap.

Use pliers to remove the plastic film inside the cap. Then, take a nail and hammer it through the aluminum cap, creating five mini holes. To make sure you don’t warp the cap, start by nailing the hole from the inside of the cap.

Step 2: Fill the bottle with water.

Take the bottle off the cap and fill to the brim with water. Put the cap back on the lid.

Step 3: Place the bottle into soil.

Dig a hole in the soil of the plant you’ll be watering. Put the bottle (cap side first) into the hole you dug. Refill after a long weekend!

Method Two: Houseplant Bath

You take baths, you may have bathed a pet before, but did you know you can bathe your plants? Yes, you definitely can have your plants soak up some bath water while you’re gone for the week. Keep in mind that this method works best for plants that require a lot of water, like tropical plants and plants that don’t require much sun since the bathroom is usually the room with the least amount of light.

Project Time: Five minutes

Materials + tools needed:

  • Towel
  • Sink or bathtub
  • Well-draining potted plants

Step 1: Fill up your bathtub or sink.

Fill up your bathtub or sink (depending on how many plants you need to take care of while gone) with a couple inches of water.

Step 2: Lay out a towel to cover the tub or sink.

Lay a towel out over the water so the pots of the plants do not scrape up the tub or sink.

Step 3: Place your plants on the towel in the bath.

Place plants in the tub or sink, making sure the plants are in pots with good drainage so the water can soak through the roots. This method should take care of the plant for up to a week.

Method Three: Water Wicking Drip System

In this method, you are linking up your plant to a water system using a simple cotton string. Wick watering works great for longer lengths of time — the more water you supply in the external bucket or vase, the longer your plants will be taken care of. The system is also great for those with more than one plant as you can water multiple plants at a time.

Project time: Five minutes

Materials + tools needed:

  • Cotton rope
  • A vase or bucket

Step 1: Cut the cotton ropes.

Make sure to get cotton rope because this is the most absorbent material that will easily transfer into the soil of the plants. You want the rope to have slack on the end inside the vase of water and also be able to reach several inches under the soil. Cut a rope for each plant that needs watering.

Step 2: Place ends of rope in the soil and water.

Push one end of the rope several inches under each of the plants’ soil, then cover each rope with soil to make sure it stays. You can also use a pencil to stuff each rope into the soil. Have the other end of the rope placed in the vase or bucket filled with water, and make sure there is extra slack on this end.

Step 3: Water plant and fill the vase.

Fill up the vase with water and then water the plants to start the process. This method is great for those who have multiple plants and want one setup.

Method Four: Plant Saucer Setup

This method is one of the simplest, but you probably shouldn’t use this solution for plants that need special attention. Saucers not only help retain water for your plants but also make it so the soil does not leak out from the bottom of your pot, keeping everything nice and tidy while you’re away.

Project time: One minute

Materials + tools needed:

  • Saucer
  • Drainage pot

Step 1: Select a saucer.

When looking for a saucer for your pot, you want to make sure it is close to the same size as the pot, or even slightly larger, so that the saucer has room to hold water and still touch the full bottom of the pot.

Step 2: Place your plant in the pot.

Using a drainage pot is important so that the plant can reach the water that is going to be in the saucer.

Step 3: Soak the saucer or place water in the saucer.

Run the saucer under water or place water in the saucer to have extra water for the plant to drink from while you are gone.

Method Five: Tiny Plastic Bag Greenhouse

You don’t by any means need to construct walls or a roof for this method, it’s quite simple and a great long-lasting solution while you’re away from your plants. Be careful to follow the instructions on this strategy to avoid ruining your plants’ foliage. Don’t use this method in direct sunlight or with succulents as they might overheat or shrivel.

Project time: 15 minutes

Materials + tools needed:

  • Four wood stakes
  • Clear plastic bag (large enough to fit over the plant)

Step 1: Insert the wood stakes.

Take the four wood stakes and put them in each corner of the pot. This will be the base of the greenhouse plastic bag tent, so the plastic does not wrap around the leaves.

Step 2: Water and place in indirect sunlight.

Water your plant as you usually would — do not over water. Leave your plant in indirect sunlight because direct sunlight will heat up the plastic bag too much and will most likely kill your plant.

Step 3: Wrap your plant in the plastic bag.

Find a plastic bag large enough to cover your whole plant and then some. Wrap your plant inside the plastic bag, making sure that the stakes are placed well enough that the leaves are not touching the bag. If the leaves touch the bag slightly, that is fine. The tiny greenhouse will capture water as it evaporates and water droplets will fall back into the plant.

Method Six: Plastic Water Bottle Planter

Not only humans drink from water bottles, but plants do as well, and it’s a great way to reuse plastic water bottles. Although this system does not last very long, the method is one of the easiest to set up and reuse. Simply fill the bottle as needed!

Project time: Five minutes

Materials + tools needed:

  • Plastic water bottles (size varies due to plant size)
  • Nails
  • Hammer

Step 1: Puncture holes on the bottle.

Take the water bottle and pierce about six holes on the sides of the water bottle, and about three holes on the bottom of the water bottle.

Step 2: Place the plastic bottle into the soil.

Water the soil of your plant before so that your plant does not consume all the water from the bottle first, letting the self-watering method last longer. Place the plastic bottle into a hole in the soil with the cap and about an inch or two of the water bottle peeking out.

Step 3: Fill up the water bottle.

Fill the bottle with water and cap the bottle so the water does not evaporate and instead drains into the plant. This strategy is great for plant owners that go on a long weekend getaway or who don’t water their plants every day. You may use this method again by simply refilling the water bottle.

Low Maintenance Plants

If creating an automatic watering system is not your cup of tea, here is a list of plants that will stay bright and cheery when left for a few weeks. Even though these plants do not need to be watered for periods at a time, it’s safer to put them out of direct light to make them last longer. Some plants actually thrive in low light. These plants are proven to be friendly to those who do not have green thumbs.

  • Air Plants
  • Anthuriums
  • Bamboo
  • Bromeliads
  • Kalanchoes
  • Money Tree
  • Orchids
  • Peace Lily
  • Pothos Plants
  • Cacti
  • Succulents

After deciding which DIY self-watering planter fits best, you can finally relax and not worry about how to water your plants while on vacation. Don’t worry too much if one plant looks droopy when you come back, there are methods to revive houseplants so that you don’t lose any of your plant friends for good!

The methods above are tested and proven to work, but if all else fails and you don’t think a self-watering system is the best choice for you, hire a plant sitter! If you decide to have someone plant sit, these plant care printables are a great way to leave detailed watering and care instructions. When you come back from vacation, don’t forget to thank your plant sitter, they kept all your plant babies well and healthy!

How to Care for House Plants

Plants are living beings and prefer regular care, but frequent or lengthy absences need not stop you from filling your home with greenery. Some house plants, such as cacti and succulents, can literally go for months without water and should be perfect for even frequent travelers. By using watering systems such as wicks, capillary matting, and hydroculture, you can keep most plants happy for two weeks or even more. The plants that need the least care are those grown in sealed terrariums. They can often go for years without water!


Flood house plants with water and place them on
a water-filled tray before leaving on a long trip.

Leaving House Plants at Home

If you suddenly find yourself facing a prolonged absence and your house plants aren’t able to survive on their own, there is no need to panic. There are a few last-minute tricks you can try to keep even difficult house plants living during long periods without regular care.

Start by setting them in a shady spot and removing any flowers and buds to reduce the amount of water they need. Although plants normally don’t like waterlogged soil, they can put up with it occasionally, so set them in a deep tray and literally flood them with water. After this treatment, most plants can go for at least three weeks on their own.
Fragile plants can be covered in plastic when you are away from home for a long time. Since no water is lost to evaporation, plants can go for over a month without care.

Finally, you can simply leave your plants in the care of a horticulturally experienced neighbor. Have your neighbor come in once or twice a week and water as needed.

Want to learn about house plants by type? Try these:

  • House Plants
  • Full Sun House Plants
  • Bright Light House Plants
  • Filtered Light House Plants
  • Light Shade House Plants
  • Hanging Basket House Plants
  • Floor Plant House Plants
  • Table Plant House Plants
  • Terrarium Plant House Plants
  • Very Easy House Plants
  • Easy House Plants
  • Demanding House Plants
  • Temporary House Plants
  • Flowering House Plants
  • Climbing or Trailing House Plants
  • House Plants with Colorful Foliage
  • Fragrant House Plants
  • Gardening

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Larry Hodgson is a full time garden writer working out of Quebec City in the heart of French Canada where he grows well over 3,000 species and varieties. His book credits include Making the Most of Shade, The Garden Lovers Guide to Canada, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, Houseplants for Dummies, and Ortho’s Complete Guide to Houseplants, as well as other titles in English and French. He’s the winner of the Perennial Plant Association’s 2006 Garden Media Award.

Leaving plants for 2 weeks

Leaving Plants for 2 weeks

Leaving Plants for 2 weeks

Being far from home for a week approximately prevails throughout the vacations. Regrettably, houseplants left without care might dry, triggering damage and even death. Make sure that your plants remain sufficiently hydrated by following these pointers.

  • * Re-pot plants into bigger, non-porous containers before leaving on holiday. The higher amount of soil holds more wetness, enabling less regular watering.
  • * Include Soil Moist to potting soil or dirt. This artificial polymer increases the water holding capability of the soil by 50% or more.
  • * Provide plants an excellent, deep soaking before disappearing. Place pots in standing water and let the water take in up until the top of the soil are wet.
  • * Purchase watering stakes, which immediately launch water from a tank as the soil dries. Some need the addition of a plastic or glass bottle while others include an ornamental tank connected.
  • * Make your own drip system from a plastic bottle by poking numerous little holes in the bottom and positioning it beside the plant. Do this numerous weeks prior to leaving on holiday to make sure that the water is being launched at a suitable rate. Change the number or size of the holes, as required
  • * An easy wicking system can be made from a length of yarn and a container of water. Place the container at a greater level than the soil. Fill the yarn and after that place one end so that it rests on the bottom of the container of water and bury the other end in the potting soil.

The most important aspect you need to pin down before you hit the road is the weather.

Have a look at the predicted forecast, so you can much better prepare how to account for conditions while you’re away.

Simply bear in mind that more plants die from overwatering than underwatering. It’s best to let your plants get a little too dry versus dealing with soaked roots.

My favorite way to track weather condition while I’m on the roadway is a weather tracking system.

The system measures the temperature, rainfall, wind, and so on and sends that information to an app I can check from anywhere on my mobile phone.

That probably sounds pricey and complex, but it’s not. I got mine, for around $130. It’s available online, and it’s been well worth every cent. It wasn’t hard to set up either. I count on mine even on those days when I’m home.

The Best Care Choice-Leaving Plants for 2 weeks

If you are lucky to have a friend, relative or a neighbor who has some gardening chops and wants to cover for you while you are away, there’s nothing much better.

Maybe you have a garden-loving group of pals who trade plant-babysitting task during a getaway season. If you do not have that support group in place, it might be worth talking with similar folks in your social circle to set one up.

It’s definitely best if the person willing to be your “boots on the ground” is someone who does have basic gardening skills.

When you need to rely on a non-gardener, try to make the job as basic as possible. Group like plants when possible; and put pipes, sprayers and other items where they can be easily accessed. Leave a few good instruction notes– short, easy and to the point.

Smooth the way as much as possible to set your temporary caretaker up for success

If you want to pay somebody to help, that might create some additional interest too.

Another option could be to check online. Resources like Craigslist, Facebook groups, etc. all provide opportunities to get in touch with somebody interested in “backyard sitting.” If you go this path, just make sure not to post that you are going on holiday. You definitely don’t want to market that you will leave home for a couple of weeks.

Instead, use these online websites to find people who are posting their interest in caretaking. Connect to those people directly– ideally after you have actually had a chance to check some referrals. Don’t share your schedule up until you have a factor too.

In some cases, you can’t make plans for anybody to take care of important jobs like watering. Fortunately, we have access to some great technology these days to keep our watering on autopilot. Systems can be basic or complex, affordable or an investment, and whatever in between.

Hopefully, you have currently established drip watering throughout your garden beds and containers.

Drip keeps moisture nearby to plant roots and at a sluggish rate those roots can easily take up.

When that system is in place, all you need to automate your watering is an economical, battery-operated timer. Pre-set the timer to run on a particular schedule, so irrigation continues like clockwork while you’re enjoying time away.

You might want to spend lavishly on a wifi-enabled timer. You can change it from another location, so you can turn it off or on as required– all without ever leaving the comfort of your chair. I enjoy an excellent device, and this useful system will set you back around $75

A timer can deal with simply a garden tube and sprinkler too. Gather as many plants as possible into one area– preferably a shady area. Target your sprinkler– with timer connected– at the group, and your plants will be watered on a schedule.

If you need to water a large location, I advise establishing that sprinkler on a tripod. The elevated spray will cast farther for broader coverage.

Make certain to anchor each leg of the tripod with sandbags or anything else which will prevent the sprinkler from wobbling out of balance or being knocked over. Trust me– you don’t wish to come home to damage brought on by a reversed sprinkler.

Overhead irrigation with a sprinkler is never ever perfect, but it is better than nothing.

Simply bear in mind that timing is everything when you use this option.

Just run sprinklers in the early morning hours– throughout the dew cycle– to decrease evaporation and allow foliage as much time as possible to dry before night sets in.

Wet foliage is at higher danger of disease.

So, how to understand how frequently or long to water for? Preferably, your system will supply about an inch of water during the course of the week. Keep in mind insufficient is better than too much.

Test your water delivery by putting an empty can with the plants being watered. As water collects in the can, you’ll be able to determine for how long it required to hit the one-inch mark. A true test can just be done over the course of a week, so plan accordingly.

Plant Watering Tips

Watering plants are the equivalent of drinking adequate water to remain correctly hydrated. In fact, it is commonly known that 90 percent of every plant is composed of water. This fact alone shows how crucial it is to water plants frequently and correctly.

Given that wetness is vital to the development of all plants, why not make sure that you are watering your plants properly? Watering plants the proper way will help you save water and time!

Plant Watering Tips That Can Save You Time

1. Do not over-water. Providing an inch of water a week for most plants is a good guideline to follow for many plants. Naturally, there are exceptions to every rule and of course the type of plant or the stage of its development will make a difference in how much water to provide. Excessive water will drown plants due to the fact that soil pores will fill with water leaving little or no oxygen for plant roots. In addition, excessive watering will remove essential nutrients. One secret is to offer light moisture and keep the soil from entirely drying.

2. Start early or late. The very best time to water plants is either in the evening or early in the early morning when the sun is less hot. Remember, watering plants in intense heat will cause more water evaporation which leaves less water for plants.

3. Supply the correct amount of water. Comparable to a balanced diet plan, plants need a well-balanced amount of water. This indicates to supply water routinely and regularly without flooding the soil.

4. Water disease-susceptible plants with care. Some plants are disease-susceptible by nature, therefore, take additional care and prevent watering these kinds of plants in the evening. Why? If excessive water stays on these kinds of plants for too long, a fungus is likely to develop given the dark wet environment.

5. Use a rain gauge. One of the very best ways to figure out just how much water your plants or garden receive is to set a rain gauge. Buy one at a garden center or use a can that holds a reasonable quantity of water. Inspect it after each rainfall or use numerous in conjunction with sprinklers to determine if and when the sprinkler has offered sufficient water.

Although it may seem obvious, current weather condition and natural soil type will also affect how much and how frequently you ought to undertake watering plants. For example, clay soils hold more water than sandy soils.

Here is a short list of some plants that ought to just be watered in the morning:

Roses
Tomatoes
Beans
Most Fruits
Peonies
Geraniums
Dahlia
In general, knowing when and how much to water is a balancing act or rather art and a science.

Do not lose your time establishing strict watering schedules based on charts and calculations. Also, don’t get caught up in adhering to strict standards. Simply, monitor your garden or plants daily to determine your watering requires throughout the growing season.

Watering plants ought to not be viewed as a task but as the foundation to growing beautiful and healthy plants.

Drip Irrigation Systems

It nearly goes without saying that the majority of roof gardens are hot, bright, really dry places. I can’t think of why anybody with a roof garden, container garden, or any other type of small garden completely sun would not wish to install a drip watering system, particularly because plants will need to be watered day-to-day and in some cases even two times a day in the middle of summer.

If, for example, you came home late just once and forgot to water the plants that day, you might find easily yourself with a collection of really dead plants the next day.

Setting up a drip watering system will help secure the investment (economically and mentally) you have in your plants by putting in the time and guesswork out of watering by hand. Leak watering is the process of providing exact quantities of water and nutrients straight to the plant’s root zone, drop by drop.

This system supplies us with exact watering control and efficient use of limited water resources. Other water sprinkler systems do not use water as efficiently.

Leak irrigating first started in Israel, where dry desert conditions and a restricted water system developed the need for an environmentally-friendly watering system to grow crops. Later, the process infects the U.S., where it showed crucial in the dry, desert southwest or in landscape locations where standard sprinklers have not shown efficient, such as roof gardens, container gardens, and other small urban garden areas.

Farmers have been using drip systems because of the 1960s when they first discovered they might in fact increase yields while lowering water use.

WHY DRIP MAKES GOOD SENSE

– Saves time on watering by hand every day

– Decreases stress on plants, leading to healthier plants in general

– Doesn’t waste water due to the fact that water goes directly to the roots and can be set on a timer to the specific quantity needed

– Can cut water waste by as much as 50%.

– The slow, routine, and consistent application of water produces robust, consistent plant growth.

A lot of systems are set to run on a timer that turns the system on and off. To assess the appropriate watering frequency, you will want to observe how long it considers the leading inch of soil to dry out and set the timer to come on at intervals that will allow this minor drying to occur in between each watering cycle.

For most sunny gardens, you would most likely set the timer to come on once a day in the summertime and every other day in spring and fall other than throughout rainy durations when it can be shut off.

SYSTEM UPKEEP.

Initial Modifications – The very first time you run the system, experiment with periods in between 15-30 minutes per cycle to see for how long it considers water to come out the drainage holes on all containers. The objective is to totally saturate the roots of every plant in the system. A great general rule would be to time for how long it takes for water to come out the drainage holes of the biggest plant in the coverage area and set your timer for that length of time.

Seasonal Variations – Change watering frequency to account for seasonal temperature level fluctuations. Turn system off when it rains or get a rain sensor that will shut the system off automatically for you.

Winterizing – Get rid of the stopper or crimp from completion of the line and eliminate the tubing with plain water first. Then, the drain system of all water and disengage from a faucet. Bring timer in.

Spring Start-Up – Re-attach timer, replace batteries, stop up completion of the line to allow pressure to integrate with your line and start again as you did at initial set-up.

Vacation Care For House Plants

Just as your sorting out plans for taking a vacation you realise “who is going to make sure my beloved african violet and madagascar dragon tree gets enough water?”.

If your fortunate enough to have a family member or friend come to visit your home to make sure everything is ok, they can follow your care advice for plants you own. However, if your leaving your plants home alone for 2 weeks or more there’s a few things you can do to keep them happy.

All plants will be fine for 7 – 10 days, and can cope with having a good watering before you leave. It’s only after about 10 days you need to make sure most of them have more water. Flowering type plants are more of a concern than many of the foliage types, because they drink much more water and most require very moist soil, unlike foliage types.

Someone Visiting To Help Care For Your Plants

Your most likely going to need to leave a few instructions for the person planning to visit your home while your on holiday. This will prevent them from giving your plants too much or little of something. It’s useful to leave these instructions because some people think all plants need a good soaking, which is not the case.

Leave a list of plants which need watering, how often and how much. I would avoid feeding while on holiday which plants wont mind (its best they have less than too much fertilizer). You can put a sticky note numbering each one on the pot and leave advice for each one on a note with numbers that correspond with the sticky notes.

Useful Watering Methods To Use

If you don’t have anyone to help you care for your plants while your on vacation then another option is creating a bed of moist peat in trays and place the plants in a shaded spot on the trays. Even plants that require bright light or direct sunlight will be fine for a couple of weeks in a shaded spot. Giving the plants less bright light will reduce the amount of water they need, however, make sure you check the care instructions for each species first, just in case the light reduction could be harmful.

You can also create a wick from a strip of capillary matting (or other material) coming from a water container into a hole created in the potting soil. The wick will provide a small amount of water constantly from the container to the soil. It’s not going to provide the amount they really need, but it can provide enough while your away.

A capillary mat can be used by trailing a section into a sink with the plants sitting on the other part of the mat on the draining area. If you plan to place the plants on a capillary mat – make sure the water can be soaked up by the potting soil. This mat transfers water from the sink or bowl to underneath the pots. This wont work on pots with pebbles or broken clay at the bottom, because the soil cannot soak up the water. It’s also not the best method for plants in clay pots, because the pot is porous and soaks up water and it evaporates quicker than plastic.

Other devices can be bought such as water spikes and aqua globes or you can learn how to make a water feed. These water feeds can be made from a plastic bottle or bag with a small hole that allows a small amount of water to leak out, similar to an IV drip. The water feed is placed in or on top of the soil so the water can then drip out slowly.

Plants That Don’t Require Much Watering

If your away from home very often then you may want to consider housing plants that can go without water for quite some time. Cacti and succulents are the obvious choice that can survive without water for months. Other plants like dracaenas, aspidistras, and palms can go without water for 3 – 4 weeks at a time.

Winter Vacations

You will not have the same problem with most plants during the winter regarding water. They are not actively growing and the reduced amount of daylight reduces the amount of water needed. The main concern is temperature. If you can keep the room temperature above 60°F (15°C) even tender plants will be fine.

Other Guide’s That May Interest You!

  • Plants temperature guide ”
  • Guide for watering house plants ”
  • Plants lighting guide ”
  • Guide for humidity levels ”
  • Fertilzing instructions ”
  • Cleaning advice ”
  • Propagation methods and instructions”
  • The benefits of growing house plant’s indoors ”

Do you come back from weekend trips to find your plants & garden dying for water? Don’t feel like relying on mother nature or your unreliable neighbor to water your plants while you’re gone?

Keep reading to learn how to water plants while on vacation so your succulents stay succulent and your vegetables are prize-worthy.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. All opinions are our own we pride ourselves on keeping our articles fair and balanced. For more info see our disclosure statement.

Self Watering Systems For Outdoor Plants

When the weather isn’t cooperating and you’re not home to water your garden, you’ll need to take watering into your own hands with these outdoor methods.

Drip Hose Irrigation System

When you’ve got rows of garden or plants spread throughout your yard, you need an efficient way to keep them hydrated over time. A drip irrigation system attached to a single outdoor faucet will allow you to water garden rows or multiple flowerbeds at once.

The perforated hose allows water to seep out as needed while you’re gone. As long as the water’s on, your plants will stay hydrated regardless of if your trip is a weekend or a whole week.

Learn more about this project on This Old House

Automatic Sprinkler on Timer

When you’ve got a whole yard to keep hydrated while away, smaller-scale options won’t do. With an above-ground water sprinkler setup, you can water your whole yard at once without having to dig up your whole yard.

After attaching the timer to your faucet, you can connect the rest of the hose to the sprinkler head(s) you’ve setup across your yard. On the schedule you set, the sprinklers will have access to the water from the faucet and spray everything within their range.

Learn more about this method on cnet.

Automatic Moisture-Sensing Tank with Pump

If you’ve got a close-quarters garden bed you want to maintain but don’t want to leave your water on constantly, you can get a system that will only water your plants when they need it. That way they aren’t overwatered if it rains!

With a reservoir to hold our water, a pump to water the plants, and a moisture sensor to signal the pump to operate, you can have a self-sufficient and totally efficient automatic watering system that only needs to be refilled every so often.

Learn more about this project on Instructables.

Self-Watering Conversion Kit

Don’t feel like moving your herbs or plant somewhere new so it’s easier to water? Bring automatic watering to it with a self-watering conversion kit.

This kit fits most standard-sized round pots, allowing them to sit above the water reserve that they’ll use to stay hydrated.

Depending on the size of the pot, you may not need to water them for weeks once you’re setup (after a week of allowing them to get their rooting down first).

Learn more about this kit on Amazon.

Individual Bucket Irrigation

Multiple flowerbeds across the yard often mean multiple watering systems, so having a cheap but effective individualized option ensures each bed gets the proper attention – attention a yard-wide system may not offer.

With a simple bucket, tub, or other enclosed container on an elevated platform, you can use the power of gravity to water your dry flowerbeds when they need it. Simply ill the container as high as it goes and let your plants drink until they’re full.

Learn more about this method here.

Automatic Indoor Plant Watering Systems

Whether it’s a spider plant in the corner or the basic plant on the windowsill, indoor plants can’t rely on Mother Nature for water while you’re away, so consider these automatic watering ideas to keep them healthy.

On-Demand Bottle Water Tank

When soil dries, it gets loose and fine. When soaked, it is more dense – dense enough to stop water flow until water is needed again.

With just a bottle or other water-holding device, you can use the power of gravity to keep your plants watered for a few days at a time.

Here are a few common household items you can use as a water tank.

Using a Water Bottle

A cheap, easy, and eco-friendly way to water your plants is to recycle a water bottle.

Simply cut a hole in the top for easy refilling and then plunge it into the ground until you can’t see the nozzle. When the dirt needs water, it will flow from the bottle automatically.

Learn more about this method at Chicago Now

Using a Wine Bottle

Image Source

A bit fancier, you can use a wine bottle witha plant nanny the same way you would use a water bottle – simply fill it with water and insert it into the soil.

It cannot be refilled from the top, so you’ll have to take it out to refill. However, it will hold more water at a time than the water bottle (depending on size).

Learn more about this method on Amazon

Using a Watering Globe

Don’t feel like DIYing it? Consider Garden Globes – glass water containers with a long neck to slowly release water that is held is the top globe.

Simply fill it and place it in the dirt so the water can trickle out as needed.

Watering globes are available on Amazon here.

Plastic Bag & String Drip System

Some plants are sensitive to the amount of water they receive, so they need a slower-releasing watering system that doesn’t drown them. With the plastic bag drip system, slow and steady wins the race.

Rather than soaking the soil constantly based on dryness, this low-tech but effective method will drip water like a leaky faucet onto the plants. You can control how much water comes out with the size of the hole, ensuring that your plants don’t drown while you’re gone.

You can see the in depth tutorial on this method at Instructables.

Automatic Water Pump with Timer

If you’re looking for a longer-term solution that leverages technology to make automatic watering easier & more convenient, a timed & pump-powered watering system may be for you. It’s so good you may even want to use it when you’re home just for the convenience!

With this method, you’ll be able to use any waterproof container of any size, allowing you to fill it every few days or once a week if your container holds enough water. All you’ll need to do is place the pump so it has access to the water source, disperse the tubing to your various indoor plants, and set the timer to water them on a schedule. Whether you’re home or not, they’ll be watered as long as you refill the improvised tank!

This method is best when the plants are close together such as on a windowsill because otherwise you’ll have a lot of piping to hide.

Read the full guide here.

Self-Watering Cube

Not everyone has a mini garden inside their home, so larger options may be overkill. However, with a self-watering cube, you can treat up to a few small plants to a life of modern luxury – and see the process thanks to the transparent materials.

A self-water cube uses a reservoir underneath the plant to provide water on-demand. After filling the reservoir, it should last days or even weeks depending on the water needs of the plant. You’ll also be able to see when more water is needed by the water level in the container.

Self watering cubes are available at Boskke

Drip Watering System

Looking for something modern, technologically advanced, and effective? A drip watering machine can help.

An automatic drip system allows you to water a collection of nearby plants using tubes attached from the reservoir to watering spikes.

The water is gravity-fed, so you’ll need to elevate the machine but once you do, it can deliver variable amounts of water at your chosen intervals. Just fill it once and it should be good to go while you’re on your long weekend or vacation!

Find a Drip Watering System on Amazon

Keep Your Plants Healthy While On Vacation

Whether you’re planning to be away for a few days or simply forget to water sometimes, your plants shouldn’t suffer.

No matter your budget, garden size, or handiness level, one of our recommendations above will help you to keep your plants & garden happy & healthy at all times.

Pricing last updated on 2020-02-02 at 01:44 / affiliate links – Details

Don’t forget about your outdoor plants when you head out for vacation this summer They’ll need to be watered while you’re gone, or you could come home to a not-so-healthy garden.

If you can’t rely on a neighbor to give your plants a drink, and you don’t want to just hope for rain, try the following practical ideas for keeping your garden watered while you’re away on vacation.

Thoroughly Water and Mulch Outdoor Plants

If you’re only going to be gone for a few days, your plants may be just fine if you give them a good soak right before you leave.

Mulch is crucial for this to work, as mulched plants lose much less moisture than those that are left unprotected. Make sure your garden bed has two to three inches of coverage. Don’t be tempted to add more, though, as too much mulch can block oxygen to the plant roots.

After you water, use a shovel or long screwdriver to poke through the soil under the mulch. Is the soil wet a few inches below the surface? If so, your outdoor plants should survive your short vacation.

Use a Rain Barrel and Soaker Hoses to Water Outdoor Plants

For longer trips, watering and mulching may not be enough to keep your plants healthy. A rain barrel can provide a continual supply of water.

Attach a soaker hose to a rain barrel and snake the tubing through your garden. The stored water will slowly run out through the hose and saturate the ground. You still need to water well before you leave, but this method can keep your outdoor plants adequately doused while you enjoy a lengthier vacation.

If it hasn’t rained enough to fill your water barrel, you can fill it up from the tap – that kind of cheat is just fine at a time like this.

Keep Outdoor Plants Watered with Plastic Bottles

If you don’t have a rain barrel, you can create your own self-watering system with recycled plastic bottles.

Remove the caps from a few empty soda bottles and use a nail to poke a tiny hole in each. Or, simply replace the caps with funnel-shaped spikes, available at your local garden center.

Water your plants well, then fill the plastic bottles. Screw on the caps or irrigation spikes, and push the bottles upside-down into the soil next to your plants.

You may need several bottles to water your entire garden, but this system is an easy way to make sure your plants get enough to drink. The slowly dripping water will keep the soil moist until the containers empty.

If your vacation is going to last more than a couple of weeks, you can try using 2-liter bottles. Just be careful to make sure they are stable and won’t tip over.

For more advice on keeping your garden healthy, drop by Millcreek Gardens, Salt Lake City’s favorite garden center since 1955. Our friendly, experienced staff understands the growing conditions of northern Utah, and we can answer all of your questions about growing healthy outdoor plants.

Sure, you can hope your neighbor or friend remembers to care for your houseplants during your next vacay. Or, you could forgo the favor and opt for one of our five self-watering ideas.

Tip: Before you pack your bags, do a test run. Otherwise, you risk vacation buzz kill when you get home.

Solution #1: Drip Water Irrigation System

This cheap solution only requires one plastic bottle for each houseplant. For potted trees, you may want to double-bottle to make sure water is dispensed evenly.
Tips: Make sure each planter is saturated with water before inserting the plastic bottle. Otherwise, the bottle will quickly empty.
If water flow is being blocked by compacted dirt, glue a tiny piece of screen to the bottle opening to prevent clogs.
Why we like: Easy, quick fix
Trip length: 3 days
Set-up time: 5 minutes per plant
If you don’t like the look of upended water bottles, here’s an elegant alternative: aqua globes.

  • Globes are available in two sizes, so make sure the style you purchase is appropriate for your plant.
  • The planter needs to be saturated with water before you insert the globe.
  • To avoid the impacted dirt at the tip, embed the globe at an angle.

Why we like: It’s a pretty and easy solution that can be used 24/7.
Trip length: up to 3-5 days
Set-up time: 3 minutes per plant

Solution #2: String Watering System

A wick-edly good idea that uses cotton or nylon string. But I learned that if you only have thin cord, braid it so it holds water better. I also learned that if you use a string that’s not 100% water absorbent, it’ll fail.

Just remember to use a container filled with water appropriate for your plant’s size.
Why we like: Easy, quick fix
Trip length: 3 days
Set-up time: 5 minutes per plant

Solution #3: A DIY Electronic-Sensored Watering System

Perfect for advanced DIYers who like working with electronics, this low-tech system uses sensors to detect when the soil is dry. You just have to remember to water the machine once in a while.
Why we like: It’s a neat and nerdy solution for the lazy plant lover.
Trip length: up to 7+ days
Set-up time: Once built, 2 minutes

Solution #4: Grobal Hydroponic Planter

A no-dirt-fix for small house and herb plants, this stylin’ system comes with everything you need to get started and is available in eight trendy colors.
Why we like: A designer solution for casual indoor gardeners with small plants.
Trip length: 3-7 days
Set up time: 5-10 minutes per plant
Tip: If you’re transplanting to the Grobal from a dirt planter, hold the exposed roots gently under running, room-temperature tap water. Once the dirt is washed away, cut off any dead roots and transplant into the hydroponic pot.

Solution #5: Oasis Self-Watering System

Oodles of houseplants? This automatic drip-watering system claims to keep up to 20 of your leafy and flowery friends happy.
Why we like: Operates independently of faucets and electrical outlets.
Trip length: Up to 40 days
Set-up time: Right out of box; plan on spending a few hours to set up the machine.

Related:

  • Garden Watering Systems You Can Make Yourself
  • Are You Making These 7 Rookie Mistakes in Your Vegetable Garden?

Watering houseplants can be a difficult thing to master. I used to try to water my houseplants on a schedule, but this never seemed to work out too well. Thankfully, I’ve learned some great tips that have transformed the health of my houseplants. Read this article to learn exactly how often you should water your houseplants.

How often should you water houseplants? Most houseplants need watered every 1-3 weeks. You should monitor your houseplants and water when they need it, rather than on a schedule. Frequency of watering will depend on the size and type of plant, size and type of pot, temperature, humidity and rate of growth.

Read on and I’ll give you the knowledge you need to always get it right when watering your houseplants. There are some really easy ways to tell when your houseplants need watered, and once you have this knowledge, it’s hard to go wrong

How To Know When To Water Houseplants

  • Type of plant – Some plants love wet conditions and others like it dry. Some can tolerate drying out well before a good soaking, where others need steadily moist environment. Check your plant’s water requirements as this will help greatly when assessing whether to water or not.
  • Test soil dryness – Use your index finger and poke it into the potting mix around your plant. You will be able to feel whether the top few inches of soil is damp. For many plants, the depth at which the soil is dry to is a good indicator of when to water the plant.
  • Monitor the weight of the plant pot – I love using the weight of the plant pot to test how much water remains in the soil. Dry soil is much lighter than wet soil, so there will be a significant weight difference between a potted plant that has been watered and one that is dry. I’m not talking about getting the scales out. With a bit of practice you will know when to water your houseplants just by lifting them.
  • Feel the soil through the drainage holes – Use your finger tips to feel the bottom of the potting soil through the drainage holes in the bottom of the plant pot. You will be able to assess the dryness of the soil to help determine whether watering is required.
  • Watch for signs of wilting – Wilting or drooping leaves can often indicate that your plants are suffering from lack of water. Be careful to use this in combination with assessing the soil, as there are other things that can cause wilting, including overwatering or disease. It’s really important to treat the right cause of wilting in your plants, rather than making the problem worse.
  • Use a moisture meter – If you have a tricky plant, or if you just want to be a bit more exact about the process, you could use a moisture meter to assess whether your plants need water. These are inexpensive and reliable, and can make a big difference if you are having problems.

8 Factors That Impact How Often You Should Water Houseplants

In addition to the type of plants you are growing there are a whole range of factors that dramatically impact the frequency that you will have to water your plants. Variation of these factors is why you should never water on a schedule.

Size Of Plant

Larger plants need more water than smaller ones. With more vegetation, larger plants absorb more through their roots, use more for respiration and lose more through transpiration.

Having said that, younger plants, which are growing vigorously can sometimes have higher water requirements than larger plants that are not actively growing.

Temperature

Higher indoor temperatures will increase evaporation and the metabolic rate of your plants, meaning they will dry out faster. There may be considerable variation in the temperature of your house from summer to winter and from one room to the next.

Rooms that get a lot of sun during the day can be considerably warmer, greatly affecting the watering requirements of your plants.

Humidity

The humidity of the growing conditions will have a big impact on the rate of evaporation of water from the soil and the rate of transpiration from the leaves.

Our homes tend to have lower humidity levels in the winter when windows are shut and the heating is on. Bear this in mind when thinking whether your plant needs watered or not.

Type Of Pot

Porous materials such as terracotta lose water much faster than plastic pots, which prevent any water getting through the sides of the pot. Try to choose pot type based on the type of plants you are growing. Plants that prefer arid conditions and well-draining potting mix will do better in clay pots.

Size Of Pot

I once made the mistake of potting a succulent and cactus arrangement in a large pot with far too much potting mix. Even though the potting mix was well draining, the quantity of soil in the large planter took forever to dry out and my cacti were not impressed.

Pick a pot size suited to the plant. Choose smaller pots for plants that like potting media to dry out rapidly. Choose larger pots for plants that like evenly moist conditions.

Type Of Potting Mix

Potting soil with higher amounts of organic material or small, tightly packed particles will hold onto water more readily. Adding sand, perlite or vermiculite will improve drainage.

You can often get premade potting soil tailored to your plant, but it’s easier and cheaper to make your own and you can tailor it exactly to the needs of your plants.

Ventilation

Moving air will increase evaporation and therefore increase the water requirements of your plants. Moderate ventilation is a great thing for plants, as it can reduce the risk of disease, but it will increase water requirements.

Time Of Year

The time of year will play a significant role in how often you should water your houseplants. Many houseplants grow much more slowly or are dormant in winter, which will dramatically reduce their water requirements.

In addition, less sun, ventilation and cooler temperatures in winter can make a massive difference to water requirements. Your watering habits will need to adjust if you want to keep your plants thriving.

How Long Can Indoor Plants Go Without Water?

Most people have a tendency to water their houseplants too frequently, myself included. Most houseplants can survive quite happily for up to two weeks in most indoor conditions without being watered. They may not survive this neglect on a regular basis, but if you are away for two weeks, most of your plants will do OK.

There are some houseplants that are very fussy about their water requirements, such as Pinstripe calatheas and nerve plants, so if you think you might might struggle to water your houseplants regularly, it is best to pick more drought tolerant plants.

Some plants can even go much longer than two weeks without water. Certain types of succulents, including many cacti can easily manage more than a month and often much longer without water while still remaining healthy.

Having said this, if your goal is to keep your plants in perfect health, I usually recommend some supplemental watering with an indoor plant watering system if you are going to be away for longer than one week.

Self-watering pots, capillary mats, watering spikes or watering globes are all good options to keep your plants hydrated while you are away. Read more about watering houseplants while you are on vacation in this article.

How Often Should You Water Houseplants? – Some Examples

Succulents are a large group of plants from multiple species, with adaptations to store water and prevent water loss. As a general rule, let the potting media dry out fully before watering succulents, especially cacti.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Peace Lily’s prefer their soil to dry out fairly well before watering. Ensure that the potting soil is almost dry before watering thoroughly. Peace Lily’s will wilt once the potting soil is fully dry. Try to water just before this happens.

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Overwatering is the most common reason why people struggle to care for Phalaenopsis Orchids. Wait till the potting media is dry and the roots are silvery white, then water thoroughly.

The leaves will become wrinkly and droop when they are dehydrated. Try to avoid this from happening as it can significantly impact the health of your orchid.

Nerve Plants (Fittonia)

Nerve Plants require continually moist potting soil. Water regularly once the top of the soil has dried out. They are also prone to root rot due to overwatering. Try to ensure the soil is just lightly moist, not saturated, before watering again.

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)

Water Rubber Plants once the top inch of soil is dry. Typically, I water my rubber plants about once per week during the growing season and once every 10-14 days during the winter. As mentioned above, assess your own plant rather than sticking to a schedule.

Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana)

Kentia Palms are moderately drought tolerant and tend to suffer more with overwatering than underwatering. Water them thoroughly once the top three inches of soil is dry.

Wandering Jew Plant (Tradescantia zebrina)

Water Wandering Jew Plants once the top inch of potting soil is dry. This is another plant which does better when you err on the side of caution with watering, as it is prone to root rot when overwatered.

Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)

Prayer Plants can be more tricky to keep in top condition due to their particular water requirements. They need a well draining potting medium and the soil should be kept constantly moist, but not soggy. The top of the soil should feel lightly damp at all times. Watering regularly until a little water drains out the bottom of the pot is perfect.

Guzmania

Unlike many other plants, Guzmanias are watered by pouring water into the central rosette, rather than adding water to the soil. Guzmanias are epiphytic and primarily use their roots to anchor them in place rather than for absorbing water and nutrients. Fill the central rosette several times per week to ensure it has sufficient water to thrive.

Pinstripe Plant (Calathea ornata)

Calathea ornata requires constant moisture, so regular watering is required. Try to maintain lightly moist soil by watering a moderate amount as soon as the surface of the soil starts to dry out.

Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

Water Weeping Figs on a regular basis to keep the soil lightly moist. Weeping figs are quite sensitive to impurities in the water, so using filtered water or rainwater is a good way of preventing problems. Weeping figs are prone to leaf drop for multiple reasons, so the plant will soon let you know if you’re not watering it right.

Indoor Orange Trees

Indoor orange trees have high water requirements, and as long as they are planted in well-draining soil in a pot with plenty of drainage, then it is hard to go wrong. Water thoroughly on a regular basis, maintaining moist soil, and tailor frequency to the needs of your individual plant.

Eternal Flame Plant (Calathea crocata)

Water thoroughly once the top inch of soil is dry. Calathea crocata can be very sensitive about the type of water used, so using rainwater or distilled water is a good idea.

Flamingo Flower (Anthurium)

Water infrequently but thoroughly once the top few inches of the soil is dry. Anthuriums tolerate infrequent watering very well, but they really suffer if overwatered.

Flaming Katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)

A really popular winter flowering succulent that that can brighten up your home with winter and springtime blooms that last for months. Being a succulent, avoid overwatering. Water Flaming Katys thoroughly once the top half of the soil is dry.

Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium podophyllum)

Arrowhead plants are fairly drought tolerant and should be watered thoroughly only once the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry. Dormancy in the winter will very significantly reduce its water requirements.

Peperomia

There are hundreds of species of Peperomia with dramatically different appearances, making them really popular with houseplant lovers. Most have succulent characteristics, so it is best to wait until the top two inches of soil is dry, before watering thoroughly. They are fairly drought tolerant, so can cope with a little neglect.

If you want to read more about caring for any of the plants mentioned above, simply click on the links as I have covered each in an in depth care guide.

If you’d like to learn more about caring for houseplants and growing indoors, see here for my most recent articles. If you need a little help looking after your plants, I’ve also put together some resources. My recommended resources section has loads of information, books and suggested tools that can help you grow amazing indoor plants.

Grow plants without water

Alice Moynihan

How can humans survive if the world gets drier? Here’s one scientist’s answer … so-called “resurrection” crops.

Ever since humanity began to farm our own food, we’ve faced an unpredictable frenemy: rain. It comes and goes without much warning, and a field of lush leafy greens one year can crackle, dry up and blow away the next. Food security and fortunes depend on rain, and nowhere more so than in Africa, where 96% of farmland depends on rain instead of the irrigation common in more-developed places. It has consequences: South Africa’s ongoing drought — the worst in three decades — will cost it at least a quarter of its corn crop this year.

Biologist Jill Farrant (TED Talk: How we can make crops survive without water) of the University of Cape Town in South Africa says that nature has plenty of answers for people who want to grow crops in places with unpredictable rainfall. She is hard at work finding a way to take traits from rare wild plants that adapt to extreme desiccation and use them in food crops. As the Earth’s climate changes and rainfall becomes even less predictable in some places, those answers will grow even more valuable. “The type of farming I’m aiming for is literally so that people can survive as it’s going to get more and more dry,” Farrant says.

Extreme conditions produce extremely tough plants. In the rusty red deserts of South Africa, steep-sided rocky mounds called inselbergs rear up from the plains like the bones of the earth. The hills are remnants of an earlier geological era, scraped bare of most soil and exposed to the elements. Yet on these and similar formations in deserts around the world, a few ferocious plants have adapted to endure under ever-changing conditions.

Farrant calls them resurrection plants. During months without water under a harsh sun, they shrivel and contract until they look like a pile of dead gray foliage. But rainfall can revive them in a matter of hours. Her time-lapse videos of the revivals look like someone playing a tape of the plant’s demise in reverse.

The big difference between “drought-tolerant” flora and these tough plants: metabolism. Many different kinds of plants have developed tactics to weather dry spells. Some plants store reserves of water to see them through a drought; others send roots deep down to subsurface water supplies. But once these plants use up their stored reserve or tap out the underground supply, they cease growing and start to die. They may be able to handle a drought of some length, and many people use the term “drought tolerant” to describe such plants, but they never actually stop needing to consume water, so Farrant prefers to call them drought resistant.

Resurrection plants, defined as those capable of recovering from holding less than 0.1 grams of water per gram of dry mass, are different. They lack water-storing structures, and their niche on rock faces prevents them from tapping groundwater, so they have instead developed the ability to change their metabolism. When they detect an extended dry period, they divert their metabolisms, producing sugars and certain stress-associated proteins and other materials in their tissues. As the plant dries, these resources take on first the properties of a honey, then rubber, and finally enter a glass-like state that is “the most stable state that the plant can maintain,” Farrant says. That slows the plant’s metabolism and protects its desiccated tissues. The plants also change shape, shriveling to minimize the surface area through which their remaining water might evaporate. They can recover from months and years without water, depending on the species.

What else can do this dry-out-and-revive trick? Seeds — almost all of them. At the start of her career, Farrant studied “recalcitrant seeds,” such as avocados, coffee and lychee. While tasty, such seeds are delicate — they cannot germinate if they dry out (as you may know if you’ve ever tried to grow a tree from an avocado pit). In the seed world, that makes them rare, because most seeds from flowering plant are quite robust. Most seeds can wait out the dry, unwelcoming seasons until conditions are right and they begin growing. Yet once they start growing, such plants seem not to retain the ability to hit the pause button on metabolism in their stems or leaves. After completing her Ph.D. on seeds, Farrant began investigating whether it might be possible to isolate the properties that make most seeds so resilient and transfer them to other plant tissues. What Farrant and others have found over the past two decades is that there are many genes involved in resurrection plants’ response to desiccation. Many of them are the same that regulate how seeds become desiccation tolerant while still attached their parent plant. Now they are trying to figure out what molecular signaling processes activate those seed-building genes in resurrection plants — and how to replicate them in crops. “Most genes are regulated by a master set of genes,” Farrant says. “We’re looking at gene promoters and what would be their master switch.”

Now, to add those resilient genes to useful crops. Once Farrant and her colleagues feel they have a better sense of which switches to throw, they will have to find the best way to do so in useful crops. “I’m trying three methods of breeding,” Farrant says: conventional, genetic modification and gene editing. She says she is aware that plenty of people do not want to eat genetically modified crops, but she is pushing ahead with every available tool until one works. Farmers and consumers alike can choose whether or not to use whichever version prevails: “I’m giving people an option.” Farrant and others in the resurrection business got together last year to discuss the best species of resurrection plant to use as a lab model. Just like medical researchers use rats to test ideas for human medical treatments, botanists use plants that are relatively easy to grow in a lab or greenhouse setting to test their ideas for related species. Boea hygrometrica, also known as the Queensland rock violet, is one of the best studied resurrection plants so far, with a draft genome published last year by a Chinese team. Also last year, Farrant and colleagues published a detailed molecular study of another candidate, Xerophyta viscosa, a tough-as-nails South African plant with lily-like flowers, and she says that a genome is on the way. One or both of these models will help desiccation researchers test their ideas — so far mostly done in the lab — on test plots.

Understanding the basic science first is key. There are good reasons why crop plants do not use desiccation defenses already. For instance, there’s a high energy cost in switching from a regular metabolism to an almost-no-water metabolism. It will also be necessary to understand what sort of yield farmers might expect and to establish the plant’s safety. “The yield is never going to be high,” Farrant says, so these plants will be targeted not at Iowa farmers trying to squeeze more cash out of already-lush fields, but subsistence farmers who need help to survive a drought like the present one in South Africa. “My vision is for the subsistence farmer,” Farrant says. “I’m targeting crops that are of African value.”

About the author

Lucas Laursen is a journalist covering how people use science, markets and serendipity to test new ideas. He has written for Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, and produced radio for Deutsche Welle (in English) and NPR’s Here and Now.

  • Africa
  • agriculture
  • climate change
  • drought
  • Jill Farrant
  • South Africa
  • TED Global
  • water

When the warmer weather strikes, our gardens and outdoor spaces become a perfect oasis for rest and relaxation. But as nice as the hot weather might be, extreme conditions and record-breaking temperatures can wreak havoc on your plants.

There’s of course no question, that when it’s hot, plants will need watering, but knowing when’s the best time to do this can be tricky. Evening watering gives plenty of time for the water to penetrate the soil and for the plant to take it up, but there is a concern that leaves staying damp overnight will provide access to disease.

On the other hand, morning watering means leaves will dry out faster – but there is less opportunity for the water to penetrate the soil and for plants to take it up before the day gets hot. So what’s the answer?

All living things need water to allow chemical reactions in their cells that provide energy for growth. Plants also need water to carry nutrients from the soil to the growing cells. This water is drawn up to replace water lost through stomata – the breathing holes in leaves. These stomata are needed for gas exchange – carbon dioxide in, oxygen out – during photosynthesis. In high light levels, on sunny days, a lot of carbon dioxide is fixed to make sugars by photosynthesis. Loss of water is also important to cool plants on hot days.

If plants run short of water they shut down their stomata and photosynthesis stops and is replaced by photorespiration – a process that releases carbon dioxide. Desert plants get around this by breathing at night and storing carbon dioxide for release to photosynthesis during the day while the stomata are shut. But in our gardens, few plants are adapted to do that.

As the water shortage gets more severe plants will wilt – the beginning of cell collapse. Initially this is temporary wilting and the plant can recover rapidly when water is available. But further drying will cause permanent wilting, which results in the death of parts of the plant – or even all of it. Some plants survive drought by dying down below ground – this is the case with garden bulbs such as bluebells, daffodils, tulips and snowdrops. Others may shed their leaves or survive only as seeds.

Avoid full sun

What is generally agreed is that plants should not be watered while in full sun. The notion that wet leaves on sunny days cause scorch in plants was disproved nearly ten years ago. But there is no doubt that watering in full sun is not water efficient – as much of it will evaporate before entering the soil.

In the current hot breezy weather it is probably best to water in the early evening. This gives the plants enough time to dry out, but there is still the chance for overnight water uptake by the roots. And if you want to water in the morning then start very early – before the sun is shining.

Some cactus species can go for two years without water. Pexels

When you water, the key thing is to ensure all layers of the soil in the root zone are wet. Regular light watering causes shallow rooting of plants and makes them less drought tolerant. So water plants thoroughly but occasionally – and don’t let the soil completely dry out because it becomes harder to wet at that stage.

You can water the soil rather than the plant, but take care not to cause the soil surface to form a hard pan. A bit of mulch (wood chips or compost) can protect the soil and keep moisture in – but beware of slugs.

Beware of over watering

Plants can have too much of a good thing – and while the surface might be dry, the soil 15-20cm down, might not be. Most plants will have a greater root depth so could well be pulling up water that you can’t see.

The best rule of thumb is if the plant is not wilting it probably has access to water. Some herbaceous plants will wilt in full sun to save moisture but will then rehydrate as the temperature cools later in the day (temporary wilting). My garden lupins are doing this on a daily cycle at present, but they are deep rooted and they do pick up in the evening.

Position plants in the shade if possible as they will need less water.

You must keep containerised plants well watered. Water on to the soil and water in the evening. As with any other watering, water thoroughly and then not again until there is sign of need. Greenhouse tomatoes will probably need watering daily at present. And if you are growing carrots make sure the soil stays moist or you may end up with split roots.

Your lawn will probably be looking quite dry, but don’t worry too much about this – as grasses die back when dry but can regrow quite quickly when the rains return. One things to remember though, is to avoid excessive walking on a brown lawn or you will end up with bald patches – this is because the combination of drought and heavy wear are just too much for your lawn to handle.

So the message is clear, enjoy your garden in the heat, but remember that your plants are similar to us humans – they too enjoy a bit of shade and a nice drink.

If you’re not using soaker hoses in your garden, now’s the time to start. It’s a highly efficient way to water, so while you may spend a little on a soaker hose and fittings at the onset, you will recoup those costs in time and money saved on watering your garden. Studies show that well-designed drip irrigation systems use at least 30% — and in some cases 50% — less water than other methods of watering such as sprinkling.

Rain Bird Drip Irrigation Gardener’s Drip Kit Rain Bird amazon.com $30.29

A drip irrigation system can be as simple as a soaker hose or two snaked through your garden, or as complex as a network of tubes and other hardware. Either way, the principal is the same: A soaker hose or a perforated tube delivers water directly to the root zone of a plant where it seeps slowly into the soil one drop at a time, dripping at just the rate that soil can absorb and hold moisture.

Soaker hoses’ slow, steady drip ensures that almost no water is lost to surface runoff or evaporation — all of the water goes to your plants. It also means very few nutrients leach down beyond the reach of plant roots. Furthermore, since soaker hoses deliver water directly to the plants you want to grow, less is wasted on weeds. The soil surface between the plants also remains drier, which discourages weed seeds from sprouting.

For busy gardeners, the main benefit of using a drip irrigation system is the savings of both time and effort. Drip irrigation systems eliminate the need to drag around hoses and sprinklers. You place your soaker hoses once, and leave them be. For drip irrigation systems that use a timer, gardeners need only spend a few seconds to turn the system on; the timer automatically turns it off.

Drip irrigation systems are good for plants, too. Plants watered with soaker hoses grow more quickly and are more productive, because they have all the water they need and their growth isn’t slowed by water stress. (This is especially true when drip irrigation is used in conjunction with mulch.) Also, plants watered by drip irrigation don’t end up with wet foliage from sprinkler spray, which can help prevent some foliage diseases.

Where to Install Soaker Hoses

Patrick Montero

The easiest way to experiment with drip irrigation is to buy a couple of soaker hoses, which ooze water over their entire length. You can snake soaker hoses through garden beds of rose and perennials, among shrubs, or in the vegetable garden, where the hoses can run parallel to rows of crops.

Pin them in place with wire garden pins and cover with mulch, not soil. This reduces moisture loss from evaporation — just remember to check where the hose lies before you dig. When it’s time to water, connect them to the nearest faucet with a garden hose. Take out the hoses at the end of the growing season.

Tip: To get the kinks out of a soaker hose that has been stored tightly coiled, unroll the hose and let the sun warm it for an hour or more.

How to Reduce Water Pressure

Patrick Montero

The plastic pressure reducer or pressure regulator inside the hose coupling protects the hose from splitting under high water pressure. If your soaker hose doesn’t have a pressure regulator, you can purchase one separately, or simply keep the faucet turned low. Water should slowly seep, not squirt, from the pores.

How to Space Soaker Hoses

Patrick Montero

As you wind a soaker hose through a flowerbed, make an extra loop around plants with the greatest moisture needs, such as hydrangeas or cannas, but keep the hose a few inches from plant stems. Otherwise, space the lengths of hose about 24 inches apart over clay or loamy soils, or about 12 inches apart if the soil is sandy.

When several soaker hoses are connected end to end, most of the water will seep from the hose closest to the faucet; less water will reach the far end. Avoid uneven distribution of water by setting up separate watering zones with no more than 100 feet of soaker hose each. Use quick-connect couplings or Y valves to switch the water from zone to zone.

Tip: Leave the hose running until water has penetrated 6 to 12 inches into the ground (less for shallow-rooted annuals, more for shrubs and perennials). Once you know how long it takes, automate the process by adding a timer at the faucet.

When to Use Other Irrigation Systems

FeodorKorolevsky/Getty

Soaker hoses are great for row crops such as carrots and beans, but for watering trees and shrubs or an expansive container garden, you’ll probably want to set up a more sophisticated drip irrigation system. Topography is also a consideration: If your garden is hilly, you’ll probably need to use emitters that compensate for pressure changes in the line.

Keep in mind that plants can become “addicted” to drip irrigation, because roots will concentrate in the area where the water is available. It’s important to spread water uniformly throughout the irrigated area for uniform root growth. For example, if you’re irrigating trees and shrubs, place emitters on two or more sides of each plant. For the same reason, it’s best to provide long, slow waterings. If you turn it on for frequent, short sessions, water won’t spread far in the soil, and consequently the roots will form a tight, ball-like mass around the emitters.

The Best Drip Irrigation Kits for Beginners

A low-risk way to try drip irrigation is with a starter kit. Most companies that sell drip irrigation systems also offer kits for both small and large gardens with the essential components. Keep in mind that some kits don’t include pressure regulators, timers, backflow preventers, and line filters.

Gardener’s Supply Snip-n-Drip Soaker Hose System SHOP NOW

This highly customizable kit includes a 25-foot PVC garden hose, a 50-foot recycled rubber soaker hose, faucet adapter, a quick-connect coupler, and plastic connectors, and an end cap. Just use scissors to cut the soaker hose to fit garden beds, and then cut the garden hose to fit between beds where you don’t need water. Snap the fittings in place and you’re ready to water. This kit can easily be added onto, so you can expand your system over time. Optional add-ons (sold separately) include angle connectors for connecting drip systems to raised beds, 3-way-connectors for creating watering zones.

Square Foot Garden Irrigation Kit SHOP NOW

A drip irrigation kit tailor-made for square-foot gardening in raised beds.

Rain Bird Drip Irrigation Gardener’s Drip Kit SHOP NOW

A more expansive kit for more expansive gardens.