Learn how to keep plants alive while on vacation. Learn about watering, irrigation, and more for worry-free plant care.

Heading out on vacation is always exciting, but as a plant lover, it can also bring a bit of worry. How will your beloved plants fare while you’re away?

With some planning and the right techniques, you can ensure your plants remain healthy and vibrant. Here’s how I manage to keep my plants alive during my absences.

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Preparing Your Plants For Vacation

Ensuring your plants survive while you’re away requires a bit of planning and preparation. From houseplants and flowers to vegetable gardens and container plants, here are some steps you can take to keep them thriving.

Since I primarily garden with native plants, my gardens usually manage well with minimal care, adapting to whatever the elements throw their way. This is one of the many reasons I love using native plants—they are naturally resilient and easier to maintain.

However, I also have houseplants, annuals, vegetables, and seedlings that need more attention. To ensure all the hard work you’ve invested in your garden isn’t lost over a weekend or longer, it’s essential to plan ahead.

Let’s dive into the best strategies for preparing your plants for vacation, ensuring they stay healthy and vibrant while you’re out of town.

A woman wearing a straw hat and sunglasses kneels in a garden filled with blooming white and red flowers. She is smiling and dressed in a white shirt. A green picket fence and a yellow house with brown doors are in the background.

Assessing Your Plant’s Needs

First things first, you need to understand what each of your plants needs. Different plants have different care requirements, and knowing these is essential for vacation plant care. Are they high-water plants, or do they thrive on neglect? Spend some time assessing their needs to tailor your approach.

Watering Plants Thoroughly Before Departure

Before you leave, make sure to water your plants deeply. This helps ensure they have enough moisture to sustain them for the initial period of your absence. For houseplants, I often give them a good soak in the sink to make sure the soil is fully saturated.

How to Keep Plants Alive While On Vacation: Ask a Friend

Whether you have a sprawling garden or just a few potted plants, asking a friend or neighbor to look after your plants while you’re on vacation can make a big difference. If you’ll be gone for an extended period, this personal touch ensures your plants receive the care they need. While no one will tend to your garden as meticulously as you do, a little coaching can go a long way in helping them do a great job.

Even if you have an irrigation system in place, it’s wise to have someone check in to ensure everything is functioning correctly. Systems can sometimes fail or require adjustments, and a friend’s occasional visit can catch these issues early.

Before delving into specific vacation plant care techniques, it’s essential to understand the basics of plant care and how to manage container gardens effectively. This foundational knowledge will help you better instruct your plant-sitting friend and ensure your garden remains healthy in your absence.

To drill down on more beginner gardening techniques and tips, please read these posts:

A garden scene with vibrant blue and white hydrangea bushes blooming alongside a green lattice fence. The background features tall trees and lush greenery under a clear, sunny sky. The bright colors of the flowers create a vivid and serene atmosphere.

Automatic Plant Watering Solutions

When it comes to keeping your plants hydrated while you’re away, automatic watering solutions can be a lifesaver. These methods ensure that your plants receive consistent moisture without the need for constant manual intervention. Let’s explore a couple of effective options for watering your plants.

Using Self-Watering Containers

Self-watering containers are a lifesaver. These containers have reservoirs that provide a steady supply of water to your plants. Setting them up is straightforward, and they can be a game-changer, especially for indoor plants and small container gardens.

I’ve been using the AquaPot from Proven Winners, and it has made a world of difference. With its efficient self-watering reservoir, I only need to fill it once every 2-3 weeks, ensuring my plants stay hydrated without constant attention.

Setting Up Drip Irrigation Systems

For larger garden areas, a drip irrigation system connected to a timer is perfect. It delivers water directly to the plant roots, minimizing waste and ensuring your plants get the hydration they need. I set mine up a week before leaving to make sure everything is working correctly.

I run drip irrigation to all of my hanging baskets, window boxes, and potted flowers so they are consistently watered throughout the growing season. And because I have this set up already? I don’t have to worry about them while I’m away. That said, I ask my neighbor to check on things just to ensure there are no leaks and the plants are getting watered as expected while I’m traveling.

Irrigation systems on timers are great time savers and can do a lot for you. But if it rains, it’s cool out, and/or plants don’t need to be watered, you could be doing more harm than good to your gardens. So look ahead at your weather and adjust the watering schedule accordingly.

Summer front porch planters filled with flowering annuals from proven winners. Old farmhouse front porch with front door wreath, planters, stone lions, harlequin tile walkway and fresh eggs sign

Alternative Watering Methods

If automatic watering systems aren’t an option, there are still effective ways to keep your plants hydrated while you’re away. These alternative methods utilize easily accessible materials and simple techniques to ensure your plants receive the moisture they need.

Using Water-Retaining Gels and Granules

Water-retaining gels or granules are great for keeping soil moist. Mix them into the soil as per the instructions, and they’ll release water gradually, which can significantly reduce the need for frequent watering. These are especially useful for potted plants.

DIY Watering Solutions with Household Items

If you’re into DIY, you can make simple watering systems using everyday items. For instance, inserting a water-filled bottle upside down in the soil can act as a drip system. It’s an easy and cost-effective solution for keeping your plants hydrated.

A garden with a stone pathway, bordered by lush green plants and vibrant pink flowers. The pathway leads up white-railed stairs, surrounded by greenery. There's a decorative planter with large green leaves beside the steps, adding to the colorful, serene atmosphere.

How to Keep Plants Alive While on Vacation: Preparing Different Types of Plants

Do some basic garden and plant maintenance. Harvest ripe vegetables, deadhead spent flowers, weed, and clean up garden debris. In general, give plants a good watering before you leave to ensure they get a good drink of water.

Keep in mind some plants may need less water than others so consider that when watering (or not watering). And depending on the size of your garden, take notes for your caretaker.

Caring for Houseplants

Houseplants can often be the trickiest to care for during a vacation. To ensure they remain healthy, I typically move mine to a cooler area with indirect light, which helps reduce water evaporation. This method can significantly lower the stress on plants by reducing their water needs.

Before I leave, I water them thoroughly, making sure the soil is well-hydrated. It’s essential to avoid overwatering, as this can lead to root rot. Using self-watering spikes can also be a great way to maintain moisture levels. These spikes slowly release water directly to the plant roots, ensuring a consistent supply. These devices are particularly effective for plants that require regular moisture.

Additionally, grouping houseplants together can create a micro-environment with higher humidity, beneficial for many indoor plants.

The sunroom is filled with houseplants like spider plants, sansevieria, chinese evergreen, pileo and boston fern. Shown are white swivel chairs, jute area rug, boho poof ottoman and fresh herbs sign as part of my cottagecore decorating style
Sunroom filled with houseplants in my 1850 farmhouse

How to Keep Plants Alive While on Vacation: Outdoor Plants and Flower Garden Beds

For my outdoor plants, I mulch heavily to retain moisture. Mulching not only keeps the soil cool but also helps reduce water evaporation. Additionally, placing shade cloths over sensitive plants can protect them from extreme sun exposure.

Tips for Caring for Flower Gardens While Away on Vacation

  • Look ahead to the weather. Is it going to rain? Will it be hot? Will it be cooler? These considerations will help give more explicit instructions to caretakers while you are away.
  • If it’s going to be hot and humid with no rain, water daily in the mornings.
  • If it’s going to be cooler with no rain, instructions will depend specifically on your climate and type of plants.

How to Water Gardens When You Don’t Have an Irrigation System

My gardens are quite extensive. But a large majority of the beds are native plants, trees, and shrubs so they pretty much take care of themselves and have not needed an irrigation system.

Lately, I’ve been tucking in more annuals and seedlings around the property. And they need more care. Since we do not have an irrigation system set up, manual care is necessary.

For the larger cut flower garden in front of the garden shed, I set up a sprinkler system that can be turned on and off. Not the best or most efficient way to water, but it will get the job done. And as long as they water earlier in the day, the gardens will do fine.

In other areas of my gardens, I ran soaker hoses around plants that will need extra help during the growing season when it does not rain.

A lush cottage garden blooms with vibrant pink roses and tall, purple foxgloves. An ornamental beehive sculpture and ceramic pot accent the greenery, while a tall green fence and dense trees form the backdrop. The scene is lively and brimming with colorful flowers.

How to Keep Plants Alive While on Vacation: Container Plants and Hanging Baskets

Container plants and hanging baskets dry out faster than those in the ground. Grouping them together in a shady area and using self-watering containers can make a big difference. I also use water-absorbing crystals in the soil to keep the moisture in.

Whether you have houseplants, annuals, or vegetables in containers, here are some tips to help keep them happy while you are on vacation.

  • Pull all of the sun-loving containers out of the sun so they do not dry out as quickly while you are away.
  • Group outdoor planters together into one area so it is easier for the caretaker to water.
  • Since “watering” is subjective, ask caretakers to water 10 seconds per pot.
  • Water planters the day you are leaving to ensure they get watered well.
  • If containers are indoors, check thermostats and set the temperature to range between 65-75 degrees F and not fall below 55 degrees. Extreme coldness or hotness can stress or kill plants so keep them comfortable while you are gone.
  • When indoors, keep plants away from air vents, sunny and drafty windows.
  • Or invest in a drip irrigation system like this one and run drip lines to containers. But keep in mind watering needs and group plants with similar needs on the same drip line.
  • Before watering containers, check for dryness.
view of our 1850 farmhouse with front porch and beautiful flower gardens from the pool garden with green fence - has roses, bearded iris, buckeye tree, viburnum, and baptisia

    How to Keep Plants Alive While on Vacation in Vegetable Gardens

    Before leaving for vacation, explain to caretakers how to water plants and harvest vegetables that are ready. (see tips below) It’s really important to site gardens in locations where it will not only be easy for you to care for but for caretakers as well.

    I made the mistake of not siting my vegetable garden in the best place several years ago. Before redoing my vegetable garden, it was not close to a water source. Which is a big no-no. At the time, I had few options to site a vegetable garden in the ground so we were limited and I started that garden far away from a water source.

    And since we did not have an irrigation system, watering that vegetable garden was not easy. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to move it to the center of the backyard so it was closer to the hose.

    And these self-watering raised garden beds were a huge help for three reasons. For starters, they are self-watering so they hold water in reservoirs below the root system and dispense water to the roots as needed. Thus, I only need to fill the reservoir once every one to two weeks, which is much easier than dragging a hose around more often.

    But second, because we used raised garden beds, we were able to site them in an area of the yard where we could not plant a garden in the ground (on a septic bed). And three, this location was MUCH closer to a water source making it easier to fill the reservoirs.

    So now, these beds are less work for my garden caretaker because I’ll fill the reservoirs before we leave and the beds will take care of themselves. I mean, how easy is that!

    self-watering raised garden bed

    Setting Up Timers and Irrigation Systems

    Vegetable gardens require consistent watering, especially during the growing season. Timers connected to soaker hoses or drip irrigation systems can automate this process, ensuring your veggies stay healthy.

    Protecting Plants from Pests and Weather

    While watering is crucial, don’t forget about pests and weather. Before leaving, I apply organic pest control solutions and ensure my plants are protected from harsh weather by using row covers or shade cloths.

    Caring For Plants in Vegetable Garden: Quick Tips

    • Focus on watering roots instead of the plant foliage to help prevent pests and disease.
    • Describe how long to water each plant or container because “watering” is subjective. I typically ask caretakers to water 10 seconds per area.
    • Ask caretakers to water plants as early as possible in the day so they can dry out before nighttime. Watering later in the day or evening hours promotes pests and disease problems because it gets dark and the temps cool down.
    • Ask caretakers to harvest any ripened fruits or vegetables so that they don’t rot or get eaten by pests while away.
    holding a beefsteak tomato in the vegetable garden

    How to Keep Plants Alive While on Vacation: Young Seedling Care

    Since I started seeds indoors and have recently planted them, seedlings require more care during hot dry spells while we are away, particularly while establishing themselves. Much like annuals, they need to be watered and cared for regularly. And some seedlings will need to be staked or pinched back as they grow.

    Take care of any staking or pinching back before you leave if those seedlings need it because they can grow quickly while you are gone.

    As for watering needs, seedlings may require more coddling while they establish themselves and grow. They will need a proper balance of staying hydrated without overwatering. Understanding their needs as your climate changes is very important, or you could lose them.

    So be cognizant of the weather and their needs as they establish and mature into stronger plants.

    snapdragon seedlings are hardened off an ready for planting in the garden

    How to Keep Plants Alive While on Vacation: What to Do Upon Return

    Coming back from vacation and seeing your plants can be a mix of relief and concern. To ensure they bounce back and thrive, there are a few important steps to take right away. These actions will help you assess their health and resume your regular care routine effectively.

    Checking Plant Health

    Upon returning, the first thing I do is check on my plants. Look for any signs of stress or dehydration and address them promptly. Sometimes, a thorough watering and a bit of TLC can revive plants that look a bit droopy. Doing the after-vacation walk-through is important because it will alert you to issues early on that arose while away.

    Resuming Regular Care Routine

    Gradually reintroduce your regular watering and care routine. Plants might need a bit of adjustment time to bounce back, so be patient and monitor their progress.

    Bright yellow flowers bloom in the foreground, with purple flowers and red-leaved plants in the middle ground. The scene is bordered by a green wooden fence and lush greenery, with tall trees in the background, creating a vibrant, blooming garden atmosphere.

    What to Do If Plants Look Like They Are Dying

    If you went on vacation and your gardens are looking less than stellar, caring for plants may be a bit tricky but you can try reviving them with these tips. I’ve seen plants almost completely dried up, brown and devoid of life, bounce back after spending the time to rehab them.

    While not all plants bounce back, some will do better than others. At that point, what have you go to lose? Thanks so much for following along. I hope you have a great trip!

    Final Thoughts About How to Keep Plants Alive While On Vacation

    Taking a vacation doesn’t mean your plants have to suffer. With a bit of planning and the right techniques, you can keep your plants alive and thriving while you enjoy your time away. Happy travels, and happy gardening!

    Do you have any special tips you’d like to share that would help care for plants when traveling? I would love to know more in the comments below.

    For more garden care tips and tricks, check out this article from the University of Florida Extension Service.

    If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear! And feel free to share this post with anyone you think would find it helpful too.

    Thank you for visiting the blog today!

    Enjoy your day! xo

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    1. Great ideas. I find even if it rains, the container pots still need watering as the plant itself blocks the water from going into the container.
      Have a wonderful summer and please keep us posted on all your good thrift finds.

    2. When I was reading your Bricks ‘n Blooms weekly post on Saturday I was wondering how you maintain your beautiful yard and garden when you go to Vermont to stay in your vacation home. You have a great system set up so you don’t have to worry about your NJ property while you are in VT. Great post with so many helpful tips!

      1. Thank you! Yes, I’ve had it down to a science in prior years, but this year with all the seedlings. They are definitely more work!

    3. Pingback: Dirt Road Adventures - Memorial Day Weekend - The Ponds Farmhouse
    4. Thanks for sharing this great advice, I was planning for vacations and this was the last thing that I needed to make it worry free.

    5. These are great tips! I needed this as we’re leaving for vacation in a few weeks. Thanks for sharing!