Depending on the size of your plant collection, leaving for a few days can turn out to be a burden. Aside from the personal attachment, you may have a considerable amount of money wrapped up in your collection. And while you might find someone to sit your child or pet, you might have a harder time finding an understanding plant sitter. But before you run to start a career in this new profession, there’s a solution for those previously rooted to their homes.
They sell these glass globes that hold water. The user sticks the tube end into the soil. As the soil dries, it draws it from the globe as needed so that a continuous supply of water is available. These are probably a viable option for those who have one or two plants. But what about the serious collector?
The solution lies in the topic of my fifth grade science project: transpiration. As a plant uses up water, it exits through its leaves and goes into the atmosphere. But if you can harness that moisture and recycle it, you can create a hydration system for each plant. Sounds high-tech huh? Well if a fifth-grader can do it, so can you.
Seriously, get a box of freezer bags. Put one over each plant and seal the bottom closed with a rubber band. You can use clear garbage bags for large plants. The moisture will collect on the top, drop back into the soil and keep the plant hydrated. This is called a humidity tent. Providing you’re not leaving on an Odyssey, this should keep you good for over a week. Unfortunately, this method inhibits airflow, which will eventually take its toll. It not only deprives the plant, but it creates an environment favorable to mold.
It is also true that not all of the moisture gets recycled back to the soil, meaning the plant will eventually dry out.
Additions to the process that can be useful include moving plants into lower light conditions, reducing temperature, cutting the tips off leaves or removing larger leaves. All of these will help the plant conserve water. While you don’t want to put the plant in a dark fridge, a small reduction in temperature or sun light will slow the plant down a bit as well as hinder the evaporation of moisture directly from the soil. It is important to note that certain plants would be more tolerant of this than others. Removing the tips or larger leaves would also help conserve water because these are the parts of the plant that tend to use more than they contribute. This is why you often see the larger leaves drop first. It is also why the tips tens to turn brown first.
One last addition to this technique, and this may even suffice as a technique on its own, is to place the pot in a dish or bowl of water. Water is allowed to draw up through the soil as it is needed. This is actually a good way to water plants. The drawback of using this for an extended leave is that the amount of water is critical. If the source water in the dish dries out before you return, the plant may still dry out. By adding a larger amount of water, you may be at risk of over-watering your plant. A result like root rot can be just as fatal as drying out.
It is essential to keep in mind that different plants have different needs. The humidity tent is quite versatile. But for some plants it may be best to employ a combination of these methods. But if you’ve found the solution to leaving your plants by themselves to be a mystification, I hope this will help.