Holiday Plant Care

If you are going away for a weekend or winter holiday, preparing your house plants is easy. Here’s how to look after your house plants when you’re away. You’ll find your plants as healthy as when you left them, and perhaps some new leaves and flowers as well! In the long summer holidays, when most plants are actively growing, more care is needed. The key is to get the watering right.

Short term and winter holidays

Water plants thoroughly before you set out, unless it is their rest season. For long winter holidays, gather all house plants together, according to the growing conditions they need: cacti and desert succulents, shade-loving ferns and ivies, and so on.

Place those liking high humidity on a tray filled with pebbles and topped up with water, or pack the pots in a larger container filled to the rim with damp peat. Set thermostat to 5-10°C (40-50°F).

Long, hot holidays

In Spring and summer, water, group and provide humidity for plants as detailed below. Place in a cool room and out of direct sunlight to reduce transpiration – the loss of water through the leaves.

Plastic, self-watering containers are an easy, inexpensive and attractive way to supply water for 2 weeks or more. Less attractive, but just as effective, is plastic tubing attached to clay cones, that slowly releases water from a central reservoir into the potting mixture and keeps the plant well watered.

Capillary matting

This lightweight plastic absorbent fabric is ideal for summer-holiday plant care. For a few plants, plug your kitchen sink, then cut a piece of matting to fit on the draining board, and another to fit in the sink. Cut a wick, about 20mm (3/4in) wide. Soak the mats and wick. Put one piece of matting on the draining board and the other in the sink. Place a large bowl of water on the draining board, then run the wick from the bowl to a mat on the draining board. Water will then drip from the draining board mat on to the one in the sink.

capillary-matting

  • Water your plants, then place them on the matting. Capillary action draws water up through the matting and holes in the pot into the potting mixture. This system does not work with clay or crocked pots.
  • For many plants, put damp mats in the bottom of the bath. Put the plug in the bath and leave the tap dripping.
  • Place a large, water-filled bowl on L the draining board. Run each wick from the bowl to touch the mat.
  • Water the plants, then place on the mats. Make sure the pots are stable and in firm contact with the mat.

Troubleshooter

If you come back to a house plant with wilted leaves and dry potting mixture, place the pot in a sink or bucketful of water. Hold it down until the air bubbles stop rising.

Preventing pests and diseases

  • Before you go away, check the state of your plants. If you see any sign of pests, spray with insecticide.
  • Cut off any infested or diseased leaves, and any flowers and buds. Removing the buds of many types of plants encourages more to form, ready for when you return.

A helpful friend

If you have a good friend or neighbour who has some house plants, you can ask them to care for yours. If you only have a few plants, you might persuade your friend to ‘board’ them as house guests. Don’t do this in winter, when even a few minutes exposure to cold outdoor temperatures can harm plants.

Otherwise, collect your plants into one room, if possible, to make the job easier, and leave out a watering can and spray mister. Write down special instructions, especially if it is the first time your friend is helping, or for plants needing extra care. Give your friend a key, and be prepared to return the favour.

Mini Greenhouse

For single, small plants, make a mini-greenhouse. Water thoroughly, then enclose the plant in a large, clear polythene bag. Insert 2 or 3 canes into the mixture first, to support the bag and prevent it touching the leaves, which can cause rot.

top of the range mini-greenhouse

  • Blow into the bag, to puff it out, then close tightly with a rubber band or freezer tie.
  • Keep it out of direct sunlight, or your mini-greenhouse may become a steaming sauna! Place one end of a damp wick made from nylon tights in a bowl of water, and the other tucked into the drainage hole of a flower pot, so it comes firmly in contact with the potting mixture.
  • Run a wick of nylon tights from a I water-filled bowl up through the holes in a plastic pot.
  • Use tweezers to push the wick through the drainage hole, or gently tip out the root ball, insert the wick, and repot. Make sure the potting mixture is damp to start with.
  • You can also stand the pot with the wick on an inverted flower pot in a bowl of water, or on a water-filled plastic food tub with a hole for the wick slit through the lid.
  • Fill a plastic food tub with water, then cover with a pierced lid. Run a wick through the lid, into the pot.

Checklist

DO

  • Check for any signs of pest and disease, and treat them before you go.
  • Remember plants in tubs, baskets and pots indoors, especially in summer. Move them into the shade, if possible.
  • Remove plants from windowsills to prevent frost damage.

DON’T

  • Leave plants in bright sunlight.
  • Leave plants on windowsills in winter, because low night temperature can frost them.
  • Water resting house plants, such as Cyclamen in summer, or Italian Bellflower in winter.

 

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.