I have loved growing houseplants since I was a kid. I had a few in my childhood bedroom, took a few to university with me, dragged some huge ones on a long distance move or two, and still have a house full of them.
But unlike pets which require consistent, daily care, I have been able to “train” my plants to need water only once a week. Or so. Which mostly works great for my crazy life, but also works great when I go on vacation.
Early this summer we took our family to Alaska for a week. It was perfect timing because we missed an unseasonably hot week of triple digit temperatures at home while we enjoyed the perfect 68-72 degree weather (no rain!) that Alaska offered us. But I’ll admit that I worried about how my plants would fare, especially since we usually set our indoor thermostat much higher while we’re away in the summer.
Have you ever wondered what to do with your houseplants while you are on vacation?
Enter Project Rainforest. This is the best way I have found to keep my plants alive when I am gone for long periods of time. It worked great for a two-week summer vacation several years ago.
Step 1: Water all your plants really well. You can water them a bit every day for a few days to soak the soil, immerse them for a few hours until the soil is saturated (make sure they are also well-drained!), or just douse them well on the day you leave. Don’t use plant fertilizer because you don’t want them branching out and being too vigorous while their water supply is limited. (Some plants, such as succulents, don’t respond well to any soaking method, ever, so know what types of plants you are dealing with first.)
Step 2: Collect all your plants together in one central location. For me, this location is the tile floor (waterproof) in the basement (cooler than upstairs), away from direct air conditioner drafts (which can dry things out) and away from bright sunlight (which can encourage more growth than you want to encourage). Group the tallest ones in the center and tuck the shorter ones all around and under the edges to make a tight grouping. Like this:
Step 3: Go on vacation and don’t worry.
When I got home, my plants looked exactly the same as I had left them! Yeah! They looked so good, in fact, that I left them there for a few more days while I unpacked and did laundry. And then I gave them some TLC when I put them back in their spots: water, fertilizer, hair cuts, dusting. They were so happy to see me.
Why does this method work? As plants do their thing (respiration), they give off water vapor (just like you do when you breathe; think breath mist on a mirror or window). Grouping the plants together creates a rainforest microclimate. Sort of. You get the idea. So the water vapor released by the plants as a whole becomes “trapped” by all the leaves that are there, and hangs around longer than it would otherwise, thus humidifying the whole group. Perfect. Enjoy your vacations!