Summer Vacation Plant Care
Whether you're skipping out of work for a long weekend or packing up the family for a long-haul vacation, your plants at home don't have to suffer in your absence. If you do things right, your plants won't even know you were gone.
Choose low-maintenance plants
If you are gone for a weekend or even a week, your low-maintenance plantings aren't going to suffer from lack of attention. Cacti, succulents, and drought-tolerant prairie natives, such as purple coneflower and black-eyed Susan, can easily go a week or longer without watering, even in hot weather.
Cover up soil
Adding mulch to beds, borders, and even containers, will help retain soil moisture. Exposed soil loses moisture due to evaporation, but soil tucked beneath a blanket of mulch will stay much moister.
It really doesn't matter what type of mulch you use -- pine straw, cedar chips, or pebbles -- any way you cover the soil helps. And the thicker the mulch layer, the longer it stays moist.
Use a drip system
Use a drip system or soaker hoses to deliver hydration where the plants need it the most: their roots. Overhead watering wets leaves, but much of the effect is lost to evaporation. A drip system keeps moisture close to the ground and allows you to deeply water plants. Use a timer while on vacation to water while you are gone.
If you have a number of containers on your deck or patio, group them together to help conserve moisture. Grouped containers form a little island of protection and will also help consolidate watering chores if you have a friend stepping in to look after your plants.
Water well before you go
Before you go on your trip, water pots and garden plants deeply so their root systems can drink in the moisture. If you live in an area that has had sustained hot and dry weather for a long period of time, make sure plants are well watered in before you go. Plants that are under stress from drought conditions may need a little extra TLC before you blast out of town.
Watch the weather
If you are traveling for an extended period of time, check the weather (and rainfall amounts) back home. You can track weather back home with a variety of apps such as RainTracker, Rain Gauge, RainLog, or NOAA Radar.
Give indoor plants a vacation too
You are going on vacation to renew and relax, so why not do the same thing for your plants? Move houseplants, such as dracaena, orchids, and palms outdoors into shaded areas under trees or the north side of your home. These indoor plants need to be acclimated to brighter light outdoors, so set them outside for a few hours a day about a week before you leave. Don't place your indoor plants outdoors if there is a chance that the temperatures could drop into the 40s or 50s. Houseplants like warm temperatures. When you bring them back indoors, check leaves (especially the backs) for insect hitchhikers. Simply brush them off before bringing plants back inside. Summer is also a good time to repot houseplants that have outgrown their containers.