Going out of Station? Here is how to ensure your plants don’t die

Hello again friends!

I have been out of station and out of touch with the world of blogging for about ten days; but you might have guessed that from the title of the post. One of the major worries before I left was how to arrange for the livelihood of my plants, as ten days of neglect in the sweltering Delhi weather is like a death sentence. Well as they say, where there is a problem, there is a jugaad 😀 And so, I found some means to ensure they at least stayed alive and when back, decided to share the gyaan with the larger audience just in case I ended up helping someone 🙂

This is a post about tending to your plants in your absence and contains some ideas I followed and some I didn’t (or couldn’t). So let’s get down to it, shall we?

Please click on the images to enlarge them.

The first and most important step is to segregate your plants as per their watering needs. Segregate them in three groups – high, moderate and low water consumption. Once that is done, you can prioritise and use the limited resources for watering in your absence judiciously.

Entrust your plants to a friend/neighbour

This is the best option. And the most difficult, because this would mean one of the two scenarios – either you give them a key to your place; or you transfer all your plants to them for the period. There are practical issues here – they have to take time out to come over to your place and water your plants everyday; or they have to have enough space to accommodate all your plants or you need to be able to trust them with a key to your apartment.

However, if you can work around these issues and find such a person, there is no better option than this. Your friend/neighbour can act as a foster parent to your plants for the period that you’re away. If you have the option of giving only a limited number of plants to your part-time plant caretaker, use this option for the high and moderate water need plants – in that order.

Drip Irrigation

Read about drip irrigation being used in agriculture? Well why can’t you use it for your plants? This is the second best option, next only to personally watering plants. Keep your plants under taps and open the taps just a little, so that water falls into the pot drop by drop. Make sure it’s only drops, because a continuous flow would mean over-watering your plant and would also end up using up all your water fast and corroding the soil away. Remove any obstacles in the path of the water, so that the drops don’t bounce away from the plant before reaching the soil (this includes twigs and leaves of the plant).

My Tulsi under a tap. I turned the pot around until the water found a resistance free path
My Tulsi under a tap. I turned the pot around until the water found a resistance free path

Use this option for high water need plants, if you have fewer taps than you have plants. I used all the taps in my house – bathrooms, kitchen and balcony – to keep my moisture loving plants under them. If you have a garden and your plants are in the ground, you can place pipes in the rows of plants with the taps opened just a little to ensure a slow and steady supply of water. The same can be done with sprinklers in a lawn or garden.

A makeshift water well

This is essentially replicating the process of trees and plants in the ground absorbing ground-water through their roots. Instead of watering from above, make a water well below the roots so that the roots absorb the water and stay hydrated. This is the next best option after drip irrigation since unlike a drip, the amount of water will be limited here.

My Silverdust plant watered and kept in a large cooking pot filled with water.
My Silver Dust plant watered and kept in a large cooking pot filled with water. Notice that the pot isn’t overflowing.

Use this for moderate water need plants, and only after you’ve run out of taps under which to keep your pots. use any large containers – buckets, drums, cooking pots – which can accommodate your plant pots. Fill them partially with water, so that the well is full but not overflowing after you place your pot. And, you’re done! Water the plants thoroughly before doing this, so that you can delay the consumption of water from the well as much as possible.

Water them thoroughly and leave them

Sounds cruel? I know. Which is why, do this only for your low water need and hardy plants and only after you have exhausted all other options. Plants such as bougainvillea, cycus, palms and succulents etc. are hardy desert plants and can survive for a week or ten days once watered thoroughly, if you keep them away from harsh sun. They won’t thrive, but they’ll live.

My succulents ten days of no water - I watered before I left
My succulents after ten days of no water – I watered before I left
My succulents ten days of no water - I watered before I left
My succulents after ten days of no water – I watered before I left

Moreover, a couple of points should be kept in mind while leaving your plants behind.

Light for the plants

For the plants kept inside your house such as under the tap in your kitchen or bathroom or any indoor plants, ensure that they are either near a glass window or get some kind of light. If your house becomes completely dark after closing up, switch on a bulb in the room. If a plant gets no light for ten days, it’ll surely wither and die no matter how much water you give it.

Keep them away from direct sun

While arranging for light, ensure that no plants are left in direct sun. The water will dry up much faster this way and then your plant will wither and burn. Indirect sun is the best, so try to keep them under a shed or something; otherwise take the bulb lighting route.

Be prepared for minor damage

Try as you may to do everything you can to provide for them in your absence, be prepared for some damage. The water in your water wells may not be enough, or a bird or a squirrel may open or close your tap more than you intended to thereby damaging your plant, or the hardy plants may not be hardy enough to handle the weather and the neglect. Take it in your stride and move on – all living things die one day and you cannot control everything.

Take a look at my plants after my return. Most of them survived, but there was some damage such as yellowing of leaves or shedding of flowers and buds. My white hibiscus and croton died, despite trying my best. The croton was so shrivelled that I didn’t even take a picture 😦

Cycus survived the absence well
Cycus survived the no water period well
Cycus survived the no water period well
Cycus survived the no water period well
Money Plant is doing well too
Money Plant is doing well too; I soaked the moss stick and the soil well before leaving
Money Plant is doing well too, despite no water for ten days. I soaked the moss stick and the soil well before leaving
Money Plant is doing well too; I soaked the moss stick and the soil well before leaving
The Periwinkles, despite no water, are healthy. They've dropped all their flowers though.
The Periwinkles, despite no water, are healthy. They’ve dropped all their flowers though.
Red Hibiscus was put in a water well. Except a slight yellowing of leaves, all is well.
Red Hibiscus was put in a water well. Except a slight yellowing of some leaves, all is well.
White Hibiscus, not so much. I might have miscalculated water needs, because it's gone beyond repair despite a water well :-(
White Hibiscus, not so much. I might have miscalculated water needs, because it’s gone beyond repair despite a water well 😦
Coleus is doing well in water well :-P The discolouration is a result of lack of sun, but should be okay once back in full sun.
Coleus is doing well in a water well 😛
The discolouration is a result of lack of sun, but should be okay once back in full sun.

Now that I’m back, I’ve replaced them all to their original places and watered them thoroughly and frequently over the last two days to try to repair any recent and reversible damage due to lack of water. Keeping fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

A small caution though: if your visit is longer than ten days, try to arrange for a caretaker. If you’re going to lock up your house for a long time, it’s best to give away your plants as they won’t survive unless put under a drip. You can always get new ones later and that’s preferable to starving them.

Hope you all like this post and find it helpful, the next time you have to leave your plants behind. Not able to keep my promise to write more frequently; something or the other keeps happening 😛 But this time for sure, I will write again soon! Promise 😀

Till then, keep loving your plants and go green!

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4 thoughts on “Going out of Station? Here is how to ensure your plants don’t die

  1. Ankita……nice one….you seem to be quite a nature lover,observer and preserver.The Article has pretty useful day-to-day tips and help.Good Job!
    Love Amiliya

    Like

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