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How to Keep Houseplants Watered While You’re Away

Indoor shelf full of houseplants and cacti.
Rattiya lamrod/Shutterstock

When you’re on vacation or a business trip, who takes care of your plants? Here’s how to keep them healthy and hydrated while you’re away.

If all your plants are cacti or other succulents that only need once-a-week watering, they might be fine while you’re gone. But what about the rest? And, what if you’ll be gone for more than a week? Let’s look at some strategies to avoid coming home to wilted houseplants.

Ask a Friend to Help

It’s tough to beat asking a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor to water your plants. They’ll not only help your plants but keep an eye on your house while you’re away.

Make sure to leave notes on the proper care of each plant. If your friend doesn’t have a green thumb, you might want to leave separate instructions near each one, so she doesn’t have to guess which is the spider plant and which is the bamboo. If you have particularly fussy plants that require specific amounts of water at specified intervals, you can put a disposable cup in front of those plants with the water level and days marked off. This way, it’s easy for your friend to see that the plant needs 1/3 of the cup on Monday and Thursday.

If someone’s coming to your house a couple of times a week while you’re away, it also deters burglars—an added safety bonus!

Use the Drip System

If you don’t have anyone who can care for your plants while you’re gone, there are other things you can do to make sure you still have flourishing plant life when you return from your trip. One of these things is the drip system.

You can buy beautiful watering globes or other cute drip systems. You fill them with water, stick them in the pot, and the soil pulls water when the plant needs it.

You don’t have to purchase a fancy one, though. You can create a DIY drip system with an empty water or soda bottle. If you have a small- or medium-container plant, you’ll want a small water bottle. To create your own drip system:

  • Clean the bottle.
  • Drill a hole or two into the lid of the bottle.
  • Fill the bottle with water and place the cap on tightly.
  • Dig a starter hole in the soil to place the bottle, flip it, and then quickly place it in the pot.

Just like the store-bought versions, the soil will draw water as it dries out, ensuring your plant is hydrated when it needs it.

Use Water Wicking

Water wicking is another cheap and easy way to keep your house plants watered while you’re away. All you need is a bucket and some cotton clothesline. To create a water-wicking system:

  • Place one end of the rope in the empty bucket, which should be sitting a few inches lower than your potted plant. Make sure the rope touches the bottom of the bucket.
  • Cut the rope to a length that enables the other end to fit about five inches (depending on pot size) into the plant’s soil. Keep it away from the roots but close to the plant.
  • Fill the bucket with water and ensure the rope stays at the bottom.

The cotton rope continuously “wicks” moisture via capillary action to the dry soil, so the plant receives a continuous stream of moisture.

Make an Indoor Greenhouse

Going on an extended vacation? Your plants might need the moisturizing effects of a greenhouse. And, you can create that without investing in a fancy setup—this one works right on your kitchen counter.

For this, you’ll need a clear bag for each plant. Each bag(s) should fit over the plant and pot. It needs to be clear so the plant can get light. Add some stakes tall enough to keep the bag from clinging to the plant.

Once you have the bags and stakes in place, here are the steps for setting up your indoor greenhouse:

  • Water your plant as you normally would.
  • Place the plant in the clear plastic bag and slowly pull the back up over the plant. Be careful not to poke holes in the bag with your stakes.
  • Blow some air into the bag to puff it out before sealing it. This keeps the bag from smothering the plant’s leaves.
  • You can tie the bag off with a twist tie, or even a chip clip—just make sure it’s tight.
  • Leave your plant in an area that doesn’t get direct sunlight. Indirect light will ensure the plant doesn’t overheat.

The greenhouse captures the evaporating water from your plant, leaving condensation in the bag, which then drips back onto the plant.

Bathe Your Plants

If you have your pots set up with a good drainage system (meaning holes in the bottom, mainly), you can place them in a few inches of water in your sink or bathtub. Where you put them depends on the available light (you don’t want to keep them in a dark bathroom for an entire week).

This easy way to water your plants allows the soil to pull from the water in the sink or tub when it starts to get dry.


With a little extra effort—be that recruiting a neighbor or investing a little DIY energy—you can come home to happy, healthy plants.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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