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How to Keep Indoor Plants Alive While Away

Jan 17th, 2020

There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for our plants. We care for them, we dress them in stylish planters, we hang them from our ceilings and walls and we tend to them as though they were our very own offspring. It’s hard work, but we reap the rewards when our homes are filled with life and greenery. The trick to keeping and maintaining your indoor greenhouse. though, is knowing how to keep your plants alive, especially when you are away. 

Don’t stress about your indoor plants if you have an extended trip on the horizon. Plants are heartier than we make them out to be and can survive without human interference for a while. As long as you prepare well enough in advance and know what your plants need to survive, leaving your greenery at home alone will be a breeze. 

So in the event that you end up leaving your apartment for a while, here are some tricks and tips on how to keep your plants alive while on vacation. 

Know your plants

As we’ve mentioned in our indoor plant guides before, indoor plants vary greatly when it comes to the amount of moisture, warmth and sunlight they need to survive. Sometimes, all a plant needs to perk up and thrive is a little less water or a little more light, so all is not lost if you see your green friends looking a little withered. 

If you have cactuses and succulents, then you’re in luck! These hearty guys will probably never notice your absence as they are fairly low-maintenance already. If they have enough sunlight and the right temperature, then the best thing to do is to just leave them and let them carry on doing whatever it is they do best. 

If you have tropical plants, then you’ll need to know much more about their care in order to set them up for survival. Tropical plants like herbs, ferns, ivy, monstera and ZZ plants need more humidity and water than succulents do, so creating the perfect environment for them while you’re away is critical. 

Here’s what to research so your plant will stay alive:

  1. How much sunlight does your plant need? Usually plants are separated into categories like full sun, part sun, full shade or part shade, and that information can generally be found on the little tag that comes with your plant. If not, just Google your plant’s name, and there will be thousands of resources available for you to find out what your green buddy needs. 
  2. How much water does your plant need? This part gets tricky, especially since the size of the plant determines how often you will need to water it. Some plants need their soil to dry completely before watering again, and some plants need their soil to be consistently moist. How do you find out? Hint: just Google it!
  3. What type of air does your plant like to live in? Tropical plants like to live in warm, humid air, where cactus and drier-climate plants prefer dry air. If your tropical plants need more moisture, consider getting a small humidifier or placing them all near each other to create a mini jungle environment. Set your indoor temperature to no less than 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit when you leave, as that temperature accommodates most plants.

Three pots of tulips next to a window

Rearrange your plants

Now that you’re an expert on your plants and their needs, you can arrange them into various groups and place them in spots that will keep them alive while you’re away. 

If your cactus and succulents are doing well, then don’t move them. You don’t want to introduce new temperatures, light and moisture right before leaving. Ideally, have your succulents and cactus near a window to receive morning sunshine and afternoon shade. 

Separate your tropical plants first by size, then by water requirements. Smaller plants will need more care than larger, more established ones, so keeping the little ones together will make caring for them easier. In the same way, the plants that need more water should be put together, and plants that require less watering should be fine on their own. 

Create the perfect environment

After you’ve rearranged and grouped your plants, you’ll have to prepare them for you imminent departure. 

  • Switch the fan on, if you have one. A gentle breeze (very gentle) will keep the air fresher and your plants happier.
  • Create little moisture farms by placing a pot of water or two next to a sunny window. The sun will evaporate the moisture, which, in turn, humidifies the air and hydrates your plants.
  • If you don’t have much sun or are worried about any leaves drying out, make a mini greenhouse using a plastic quilt bag and some skewers! The plastic bag around the plant will trap any moisture leaving the leaves and turn it back into liquid water. The water then runs back onto the plant, and so continues the water cycle. This keeps the air inside the bag nice and humid for your little plant friend.
  • Keep your A/C at a consistent 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit temperature. Plants can get moldy or can die if they are too cold, but being too hot isn’t the best thing either.
  • Create self-watering systems using plastic bags, straws and trays of water. Check out this article on how to make a self-watering system, and read other DIY self-watering tips.
  • Depending on how long you’ll be away for, ask a neighbor or friend to check on your plants occasionally to make sure they’re okay. Plants will be fine on their own for a while, but there’s nothing wrong with having a friend pop by to check on them anyway.

No matter how green your thumb is, your plants shouldn’t have to take a hit when you leave for a vacation or work trip. Use these tips and tricks to not only learn how to keep them alive, but also to learn more about how to make them truly thrive in your apartment.

Good luck!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/Pexels

Second photo courtesy Pixabay/AKuptsova

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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