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Communications May 12, 2020

Five Vacation Plant Care Tips

For most gardeners, there’s nothing worse than coming home from a relaxing vacation to a yard full of dying plants.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to protect your garden and potted plants before heading out on your great adventure. From Ziploc bags to kiddie pools to ice cubes, our experts offer a variety of vacation plant care hacks so you can focus on what really matters – quality time with family and friends.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Create a mini terrarium by storing your potted plants in a Ziploc bag. Bags come in sizes of 1 quart, 1 gallon, or 2.5 gallon, so be sure to choose a bag that completely covers your potted plant. Water the plant thoroughly. Allow the water to drain out of the pot before placing the plant completely into a Ziploc bag and sealing it. The evaporating moisture will create a high humidity environment and prevent the plant from drying out. This works especially well for plants that like high humidity such as philodendrons and other tropical plants. The plant can last for a couple of weeks inside the bag without water. Just make sure to keep it out of direct sunlight.

Ceil Dow,
Harris County Master Gardener
The Mercer Society Ginger Grower

2. Purchase an inexpensive, plastic kiddie pool. Place it in a location in your yard that is ideal for the plants you want to keep watered. Fill it with a few inches of water and place the potted plants into the pool. The water will be drawn into the soil through the holes in the pots, so the plant will stay healthy while you’re away.

Amy Conroy,
The Mercer Society Board Member
March Mart Trees & Shrubs Growing Group Chairperson

3. Move outdoor potted plants to areas where the sprinkler system reaches them. Retain water in the soil by adding soil amendments, such as polymer granules. Place water-filled saucers under your water-loving potted plants, and don’t forget to add mosquito dunks to the saucers to control mosquitoes. Add compost to garden beds to help retain moisture in the soil.

Anita Tiller,
Mercer Botanic Gardens Botanist

4. Water your plants well before leaving on vacation; then let nature do the work. Typically, Houston rainfall averages 4 inches per month, so plants should receive about 1 inch per week on average. If you have a sprinkler system, water for 30 minutes twice a week in the early morning. Make sure you’ve adjusted your sprinkler to reduce runoff. Leading up to your summer vacation, train your plants to require less water with good gardening practices. Water deeply and less frequently so garden plants send down deep roots and are resilient in times of drought. Unless you are gone for more than two weeks, most garden plants should be fine when you return.

Suzzanne Chapman,
Mercer Botanic Gardens Collections Curator

5. An easy way to ensure your family and friends don’t overwater your indoor potted plants is to instruct them to use ice cubes. For every inch in diameter of the pot, use one ice cube. So a 6-inch pot gets six ice cubes once a week. Of course, ice cubes won’t work for outdoor plants. If you don’t have an irrigation system, instruct your designated plant caretaker to follow a watering schedule. Potted plants should be watered twice a week and flower beds need to be watered once a week.

Jeff Heilers,
Mercer Botanic Gardens Horticulturist