Water plants paper towels vacation

Key concepts
Plant biology
Capillary action
Have you ever heard someone say, “That plant is thirsty,” or “Give that plant a drink of water.”? We know that all plants need water to survive, even bouquets of cut flowers and plants living in deserts. But have you ever thought about how water moves within the plant? In this activity, you’ll put carnations in dyed water to figure out where the water goes. Where do you think the dyed water will travel, and what will this tell you about how the water moves in the cut flowers?
Plants use water to keep their roots, stems, leaves and flowers healthy as well as prevent them from drying and wilting. The water is also used to carry dissolved nutrients throughout the plant.
Most of the time, plants get their water from the ground. This means it has to transport the water from its roots up and throughout the rest of the plant. How does it do this? Water moves through the plant by means of capillary action. Capillary action occurs when the forces binding a liquid together (cohesion and surface tension) and the forces attracting that bound liquid to another surface (adhesion) are greater than the force of gravity. Through these binding and surface forces, the plant’s stem basically sucks up water—almost like drinking through a straw!
A simple way of observing capillary action is to take a teaspoon of water and gently pour it in a pool on a countertop. You’ll notice that the water stays together in the pool, rather than flattening out across the countertop. (This happens because of cohesion and surface tension.) Now gently dip the corner of a paper towel in the pool of water. The water adheres to the paper and “climbs” up the paper towel. This is called capillary action.
• Water
• Measuring cup
• Glass cup or vase
• Blue or red food color
• Several white carnations (at least three). Tip: Fresher flowers work better than older ones
• Knife
• Camera (optional)
• Measure a half cup of water and pour it into the glass or vase.
• Add 20 drops of food color to the water in the glass.
• With the help of an adult, use a knife to cut the bottom stem tips of several (at least three) white carnations at a 45-degree angle. Tip: Be sure not to use scissors, they will crush the stems, reducing their ability to absorb water. Also, shorter stems work better than longer ones.
• Place the carnations in the dyed water. As you do this, use the stems of the carnations to stir the water until the dye has fully dissolved.
• Observe the flowers immediately after you put them in the water. If you have a camera, take a picture of the flowers.
• Observe the flowers two, four, 24, 48 and 72 hours after you put them in the dyed water. Be sure to also observe their stems, especially the bumps where the leaves branch from the stem and it is lighter green (it may be easier to see the dye here). If you have a camera, take pictures of the flowers and stems at these time points.
• How did the flowers look after two hours? What about after four, 24, 48 and 72 hours? How did their appearance change over this time period?
• What does the flowers’ change in appearance tell you about how water moves through them?
• Extra: In this activity, you used carnations, but do you think you’d see the same results with other flowers and plants? Try this activity with another white flower— a daisy, for instance—or a plant that is mostly stem, such as a stalk of celery.
• Extra: Try doing this activity again but use higher or lower concentrations of food color, such as one half, twice, four times or 10 times as much; be sure to mix each dye amount with the same amount of water. What happens if you increase or decrease the concentration of food color in the water?
• Extra: How would you make a multicolor carnation? Tip: You could try (1) leaving the flower for a day in one color of water and then putting it in another color of water for a second day or (2) splitting the end of the stem in two and immersing each half in a different color of water.
Observations and results
When you put the flowers in the dyed water, did you see some of the flowers start to show spots of dye after two hours? Did you also see some dye in the stems? After 24 hours did the flowers overall have a colored hue to them? Did this hue become more pronounced, or darker, after 48 and 72 hours?
Water moves through the plant by means of capillary action. Specifically, the water is pulled through the stem and then makes its way up to the flower. After two hours of being in the dyed water, some flowers should have clearly showed dyed spots near the edges of their petals. The water that has been pulled up undergoes a process called transpiration, which is when the water from leaves and flower petals evaporates. However, the dye it brought along doesn’t evaporate, and stays around to color the flower. The loss of water generates low water pressure in the leaves and petals, causing more colored water to be pulled through the stem. By 24 hours the flowers should have gained an overall dyed hue, which darkened a little over time. The stems should have also become slightly dyed in places, particularly where the leaves branch off.
More to explore
Plant Parts: What Do Different Plant Parts Do? from Missouri Botanical Garden
Capillary action from The U.S. Geological Survey, Water Science School
The Water Cycle: Transpiration from The USGS Water Science School
Transpiration in Plants from TutorVista.com
Suck It Up: Capillary Action of Water in Plants from Science Buddies

This activity brought to you in partnership with Science Buddies

Greenhouse, Garden & Allotment Blog

One of the first things you learn when becoming a gardener is that if you don’t water your plants, they will die. However, that being said, it works the other way too, overwatering your plants can also cause them to die early.

Overwatering plants is one of the biggest issues seen with plants today, people often tend to water their plants if they aren’t looking too healthy or have begun to wilt or lose leaves, etc. which could be the beginning of a costly mistake.

You can easily diagnose whether you are overwatering your plants with these 7 signs;

Root Rot

Roots should have a healthy white glow and look rather clean, roots which are brown, grey, black, slimy or non-existent are usually casualties of root rot. More common in houseplants than in outdoor ones, the rotting of roots is usually caused by poor drainage and waterlogging plants. Fungi is another cause of root rot, usually phytophthora, pythium and rhizoctonia which causes the plant to die.

If you think you have root rot, follow the steps below to try and save your plant.

How to treat root rot

Remove the plant from the soil and wash roots under running water. You want to wash away as much soil and affected roots as possible whilst remaining gentle with the plant.

Trim away the remaining affected roots, you may have to trim away a significant amount of the roots if the plant is badly affected.

If that’s the case, clean your shears or scissors by rubbing alcohol and prune back a third to half of the leaves on the plant. This gives the plant a better chance to regrow roots as the plant will not need to support as many leaves.

If you can, dip the healthy roots in a fungicide solution to kill off any possible root fungus.

Be sure to repot your plant in a clean, sterile pot that has good drainage and only water when the top of the soil is dry. It’s also worth noting that whilst your plant is re-growing you should avoid trying to fertilize it as this may stress the plant out.

Lack of Oxygen

Overwatering plants can lead to the plant suffering from a lack of oxygen. By overwatering your plants, you are essentially drowning them, soil which is constantly wet won’t leave enough room for air pockets which means the roots can’t breathe so the plant will quickly become stressed and prone to picking up diseases, in most cases, root rot.

How to fix overwatered plants

Potted plants

Let the soil dry out in the overwatered pot then lift the plant from the container, you will want to remove as much soil away from the roots as you can so you can inspect the roots. Trim off dead, damaged or unhealthy-looking roots so that only white ones remain. Using fresh soil and a fresh pot, carefully repot the plant. It’s best to use a pot which has drainage holes at the bottom as this helps to remove excess moisture.

Garden plants

If your soil isn’t draining quickly and you’ve got pools of standing water around your plant, it’s likely it’s been overwatered. This could be down to you being spray happy with the hose or there might have been heavy rainfall, whatever the reason, it might be worth considering moving the plant until that part of your land becomes drier or assessing whether that area has poor drainage. Carefully check the roots of your plant and rehome it somewhere else, remembering not to overwater the plant in future.

Removes Fertiliser

Fertilizers are added to soil to supplement its nutritional profile and aid the growth of the plant. Overwatering is known to flush out these fertilisers, depriving plants of their essential nutrients.

How to fix removed fertilizer

You will need to replace the missing food source with organic fertiliser. This will ensure your plant has the energy it needs to regain its heath. Topping up with mulch will help too.

If leaves are discoloured and appearing yellow, this usually means your plant is hungry. Use a slow release, powered organic fertiliser and compost to help restore the nutrients.

Foliar spray can also help revive the plant, be sure to spray the foliar spray on both sides of the leaves.


If you notice bumps, blisters or crystal-like growths on the undersides of lower or older leaves, it’s likely your plants have got Edema.

Often, mildly affected plants will recover from Edema however if your plant has been severely affected and its dropping a significant amount of leaves with distorted leaves remaining, this plant is probably not worth saving.

How to fix Edema

It’s likely your watering habits could be the cause of your plants problem, plants should never be sat in water so make sure there is plenty of drainage in your pots and remove any saucers which you sit your pot in.

If your plants are indoors, be mindful of humidity. Humidity can play a big part in Edema, it’s best to assess the air circulation around your plants and make adjustments where needed.

Light intensity will also help many plants which are suffering with Edema, moving your plants to a warm sunny area is advised but gradually as you don’t want to cook your plants or move them too quickly into brighter light.

Keep your plants in this area and monitor closely, you want your plants to no longer wilt, that’s when you know you are making progress.


Plants that wilt can be victims of overwatering, if the soil is wet with water standing on the top, you’re suffocating your

lants. Roots are unable to get the oxygen they need when plants have been overwatered, leading to root diseases and fungal organisms to attack the plant.

You may also notice that the plants leaves have begun to drop off and foliage is turning yellow or developing mildew and mould.

If you act now you might be in with a chance of saving your plant.

How to fix a wilted plant

Gently remove the plant from its post and turn the pot on its side to slide the plant out. Remove the soil from the roots, carefully trying not to break any roots.

Remove roots that look dead, damaged, rotten or overly soft.

Once you have carefully removed the roots which can’t be saved, add a third full of pasteurized potting soil to a new, clean pot. Make sure you use a pot which is of an equivalent size and has drainage holes at the bottom.

Set the plant in the pot and spread the roots out over the soil. The root ball should sit 1 inch beneath the pots rim.

Continue to add soil until the plant is the same depth it was growing at previously.

Water the soil lightly to keep it moist and remove any drainage trays you have after watering so the soil doesn’t absorb excess moisture.

The plant will need to be kept in a warm room away in indirect sunlight.

Resume plant care once growth appears and shows that the roots have recovered.

Yellow Leaves

If your plants are showing yellow leaves, it’s likely you have been overwatering. If the plant hasn’t started to wilt, fixing this is fairly simple and straightforward.

How to fix yellow leaves

Be sure your pot has drainage holes and only water when the top soil is dry. Stop watering when water comes out of the drainage holes and do not allow your pot to sit in water.

Your plant should bounce back providing there isn’t any unnoticed root damage.

Smell of Soil

If your soil has start to let off a pungent smell, the cause could be from overwatering. The smell is from bacterium growing from the excess water.

How to fix smelly soil

Repot the plant which has been affected with fresh potting soil. The potting soil should be of high quality and made up of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite or pine bark.

If your plant is sat on a drip plate, be sure to wash and clean the drip plate thoroughly, excess water which is left for some time on the drip plate can cause a bad odour and also encourage mould and mildew.

Avoid overwatering the plant by only watering when the top layer of soil is dry.


You will find sometimes that you simply can’t save a potted plant that’s got too wet, try going through the advice in this article to do your best to save them but if it’s too late, learn from your mistakes and try again.

Keep at it and good luck with your plants.

When the warmer weather strikes, our gardens and outdoor spaces become a perfect oasis for rest and relaxation. But as nice as the hot weather might be, extreme conditions and record-breaking temperatures can wreak havoc on your plants.

There’s of course no question, that when it’s hot, plants will need watering, but knowing when’s the best time to do this can be tricky. Evening watering gives plenty of time for the water to penetrate the soil and for the plant to take it up, but there is a concern that leaves staying damp overnight will provide access to disease.

On the other hand, morning watering means leaves will dry out faster – but there is less opportunity for the water to penetrate the soil and for plants to take it up before the day gets hot. So what’s the answer?

All living things need water to allow chemical reactions in their cells that provide energy for growth. Plants also need water to carry nutrients from the soil to the growing cells. This water is drawn up to replace water lost through stomata – the breathing holes in leaves. These stomata are needed for gas exchange – carbon dioxide in, oxygen out – during photosynthesis. In high light levels, on sunny days, a lot of carbon dioxide is fixed to make sugars by photosynthesis. Loss of water is also important to cool plants on hot days.

If plants run short of water they shut down their stomata and photosynthesis stops and is replaced by photorespiration – a process that releases carbon dioxide. Desert plants get around this by breathing at night and storing carbon dioxide for release to photosynthesis during the day while the stomata are shut. But in our gardens, few plants are adapted to do that.

As the water shortage gets more severe plants will wilt – the beginning of cell collapse. Initially this is temporary wilting and the plant can recover rapidly when water is available. But further drying will cause permanent wilting, which results in the death of parts of the plant – or even all of it. Some plants survive drought by dying down below ground – this is the case with garden bulbs such as bluebells, daffodils, tulips and snowdrops. Others may shed their leaves or survive only as seeds.

Avoid full sun

What is generally agreed is that plants should not be watered while in full sun. The notion that wet leaves on sunny days cause scorch in plants was disproved nearly ten years ago. But there is no doubt that watering in full sun is not water efficient – as much of it will evaporate before entering the soil.

In the current hot breezy weather it is probably best to water in the early evening. This gives the plants enough time to dry out, but there is still the chance for overnight water uptake by the roots. And if you want to water in the morning then start very early – before the sun is shining.

Some cactus species can go for two years without water. Pexels

When you water, the key thing is to ensure all layers of the soil in the root zone are wet. Regular light watering causes shallow rooting of plants and makes them less drought tolerant. So water plants thoroughly but occasionally – and don’t let the soil completely dry out because it becomes harder to wet at that stage.

You can water the soil rather than the plant, but take care not to cause the soil surface to form a hard pan. A bit of mulch (wood chips or compost) can protect the soil and keep moisture in – but beware of slugs.

Beware of over watering

Plants can have too much of a good thing – and while the surface might be dry, the soil 15-20cm down, might not be. Most plants will have a greater root depth so could well be pulling up water that you can’t see.

The best rule of thumb is if the plant is not wilting it probably has access to water. Some herbaceous plants will wilt in full sun to save moisture but will then rehydrate as the temperature cools later in the day (temporary wilting). My garden lupins are doing this on a daily cycle at present, but they are deep rooted and they do pick up in the evening.

Position plants in the shade if possible as they will need less water.

You must keep containerised plants well watered. Water on to the soil and water in the evening. As with any other watering, water thoroughly and then not again until there is sign of need. Greenhouse tomatoes will probably need watering daily at present. And if you are growing carrots make sure the soil stays moist or you may end up with split roots.

Your lawn will probably be looking quite dry, but don’t worry too much about this – as grasses die back when dry but can regrow quite quickly when the rains return. One things to remember though, is to avoid excessive walking on a brown lawn or you will end up with bald patches – this is because the combination of drought and heavy wear are just too much for your lawn to handle.

So the message is clear, enjoy your garden in the heat, but remember that your plants are similar to us humans – they too enjoy a bit of shade and a nice drink.

Moisture indicator 16cm

How to use the moisture indicator

Insert the probe in the soil until only the display at the top is visible. Leave the moisture indicator in the soil permanently. The display will show blue if there’s enough water for the plant. If you have a plant which needs a lot of water, you start to water the plant as soon as the display changes to red (red spots will appear). Does your plant have an average need of water, you water when the whole display shows red. In case you own a plant with a low need of water you wait a couple of days after the whole display shows red before watering.

It will take 3 -4 hours before the color will change. You need to wait about 4 hours after you’ve watered your plant. If the color didn’t change into blue after 4 hours you need to water again. Every single plant will need his own moisture indicator; you can’t check different plants at the same time.

There are no batteries required and the life cycle of the Seramis moisture meter is about 1 year. You can test the meter as follows. Wait until the meter is completely dry and put it in a glass filled with water. If the color doesn’t change from red into blue you need to replace it. In case the meter will show black, this is also an indication for replacement.

Don’t put the display in water; this might damage the meter and shorten its life cycle.

If you’re going on vacation for a few days and don’t have a way to keep your indoor plants watered, you can actually keep them alive with some paper towels and a glass of water.

We’ve shown you several ways to make an automatic plant watering system in the past, but this technique is the easiest and quickest we’ve seen yet. Simply roll up some paper towels as tight as possible without them breaking, dunk the ends in a glass of water, and lay the remaining across the soil so that each plant is at least a few inches away. The paper towels will absorb the water from the glass and spread it evenly over the soil. The key is to make sure the end of the paper towel is as deep in the glass as possible to ensure adequate watering. The deeper the better.


We haven’t tested this one ourselves, but a quick Google search reveals that this is actually a pretty popular technique—so we’re confident it would work well if you don’t have an automatic watering system already in place.

Plant Hack: Watering plants while you’re away | Andy Shora

The Vacation Watering Quandary

Keeping our beautiful container creations happy while we’re away is a bit of a challenge, but not impossible. The following ideas can be customized to any gardener’s situation; many are simple and free, others more elaborate or costly. Some ideas require planning ahead with your vacation in mind. But whatever works for you is the ideal.
As gardeners, we often think the best solution is to have a friend, neighbor, or family member come to the house and water. There are some drawbacks to this idea and you must weigh them carefully before entrusting this chore to someone else.

  • Try to use someone who also gardens, and realizes the importance of watering.
  • Take your chosen watering person on a tour of the project to make sure they understand how much is involved and what the schedule should be. Do this at least one week before you leave. If they seem hesitant or shocked at what’s involved, find someone else.
  • Be sure to demonstrate how to tell if the soil is dried out. Overwatering can be just as disastrous as no watering.
  • If indoor plants are involved, be sure it is someone you know and trust with a house key.
  • About a week before you leave, do a dry run of your watering needs, then write down which plant needs how much, and how often. Mark each pot to correspond with the information.

Unless you will be away for 3 weeks or more, most of the following ideas will work just fine and you wont need to worry about someone forgetting to water your plants.
Outdoors: Trips up to 7 days
Simple and Free

  • The simplest method for outdoor pots and hanging baskets is to move all of them into your dark, cool garage. (Do this BEFORE watering them; theyll be lighter and easier to move.) The temperature will remain constant and evaporation will slow. Always use drip pans under the containers to retain water. If you will be away longer, then ask a trusted individual to come in and give any dry pots a drink.
  • Move all your containers to a shady, protected area. Place drip pans under each and water well. Group together those that need less water and place in the most protected spot; then group the thirsty ones together and place them close to the others. Unless a heat wave comes while youre gone, they should all be fine. If you will be away longer, then ask a trusted individual to come in and give any dry pots a drink.
  • Take down hanging baskets and place in a drip pan in a protected area, out of the direct sun and wind. Water well just before you leave. If you will be away longer, then ask a trusted individual to come in and give any dry pots a drink.
  • Double potting smaller containers also helps insulate the soil during the hottest weather. Place the container inside a larger one, then fill the space with soil or fine mulch. (This is beneficial whether you’re away or at home.)
  • Remember that dark containers absorb more heat than the lighter colored ones. Consider this early in the year when planning your patio pots.When planning your outdoor containers, take your vacation plans into consideration and try to use plant materials that require less water; they will fare better while youre away.
  • Adding a layer of mulch to the surface of each pot helps cut down on evaporation.

Make your own self-waterer:
For large containers

  1. Cut the bottom out of a 2-liter plastic beverage container.
  2. Remove lid and cover the opening with a small piece of gauze, secured with a rubber band around the neck of the bottle. (This keeps the soil from forming a plug in the opening.)
  3. Push neck of bottle into the soil; do this near the edge so the bottle can rest against the pot.
  4. Fill the bottle with water the day before you leave; then on the day you leave, top up with water again.

For small containers (such as houseplants)

  1. Use small plastic beverage or cough syrup bottles.
  2. Remove the bottom.
  3. Remove lid and cover the opening with a small piece of gauze, secured with a rubber band around the neck of the bottle. (This keeps the soil from forming a plug in the opening.)
  4. Push neck of bottle into the soil; do this near the edge so the bottle can rest against the pot.
  5. Fill the bottle with water the day before you leave; then on the day you leave, top up with water again.

The range of watering aids is diverse and priced from moderate to expensive. Your own landscape and the value you place on its well-being will determine what you choose.
Soakers & Drip Hoses
Simple soakers are inexpensive and work very well for landscape beds; they can also be used to aid in watering containers while you are away.

  1. Move all your containers to the selected flower bed, then run the soaker hose across the tops of the pots.
  2. You can either leave the faucet on for just a tiny drip, or you can purchase a timer which will better conserve water. BE SURE TO PLACE A NOTICE ON THE FAUCET SO SOMEONE DOESN’T TURN IT OFF WHILE YOU’RE AWAY!
  3. In this instance, do NOT place drip pans under the pots; the plants will drown.
  4. The soaker will water both your containers and the garden around them.

Drip hose systems are a little more expensive, but they specifically target the plants and containers where you place them. Again, a timer will be needed for this type of system.
Water Delivery Devices
Many products are available, with water delivery over a period of 3 to 5 days, up to 2 weeks.
Self-watering probes (see photo A) are suitable for short vacations. A ceramic cone is inserted into the soil, and an attached watering tube is immersed into a container of water. The manufacturer states that the probes emit 1/4 to 1 liter of water per week, depending on the needs of the plant. (Information on website.)
Plantastic!® water delivery spikes (see photo B) deliver about 1.5 ounces of water per day. This is a commercial version of the beverage bottle, but with a long spike that sinks deep into the soil to deliver water directly to the roots. Manufacturer states that the bottle will last from 10 to 20 days, depending on the needs of the plant. (Information on website.)
Gels, or time-release water products
Several products are available which utilize all-natural, biodegradable ingredients to keep soil moist. The gel-form water gradually releases the moisture when it comes into contact with the soil.
DirectRoot GelSpike (see photo C) is bottled time-release water in a direct delivery form. Insert the spike into the soil and the gel is slowly released. Manufacturer states that the 3-inch spike lasts for 1 to 2 weeks, and is safe for use around children and pets. Larger sizes are also available which last 2 to 3 weeks and 3 to 4 weeks. (Information on website.)
Bottled crystals use the same principle, but must be mixed into the soil at the time of planting. They are great for indoor plants, but should be used with caution in outdoor planters. With over-watering or a heavy rainfall, the crystals expand 4 to 6 times their size and can push plants completely out of the container.
Simple and Free
For short periods (3 to 5 days), simply move all houseplants out of direct sunlight or close the blinds/drapes. If this isn’t possible, move the plants to a shady, cool part of your home (especially if you turn the air conditioner down or off). Place drip pans underneath the pots and water well just before you leave.

  • For longer periods of up to 2 weeks, use your bathtub as a watering hole. Don’t use this method for plants that rot easily; e.g., African violets, succulents, etc.
  1. First, water each plant thoroughly.
  2. Run a little water into the tub, about 1 inch. Don’t use too much or the plants will drown.
  3. Spread a thick bath towel on the bottom.
  4. Place the pots in the tub. If you have a shower curtain, close it to retain humidity in the space.
  • Use the small homemade self-watering bottles mentioned earlier in this article.
  • Make a greenhouse tent over each plant by covering it loosely with clear plastic bags. Be sure plants are not in direct light when using this method; they will cook!

Commercial Watering Products
Any of the gels or plastic spike water delivery systems will work well for houseplants. Be sure to follow the directions.
Now that you have that chore taken care of, have a fabulous vacation!


Article lead: Toni Leland

Self-Watering Probes, used with permission of Gardener’s Best

Plantastic! used with permission of Plantastic!

GelSpike used with permission of DirectRoot

Easy and Effective Ways to Water Plants While You are on a Vacation

Do you avoid vacations only because of concern for watering your indoor plants? Here are some easy ways to help you out …

In case of a short vacation of three to four days, the easiest way is to shift the plants to a cool, shaded, indoor location, and place drip pans beneath the pots. Water well, before you leave.

The very thought of a vacation could be a cause of worry for those avid gardeners who have no one to water their plants in their absence. While two to three days without water may not cause damage to most plants, a longer duration would affect them detrimentally. It is also not possible to water them well in advance. In such cases, you may either go for some plant watering aids from garden stores, or try some DIY ideas. So, all you have to do is to adopt any of these methods or get some ready-made devices, so that you can find your plants hale and hearty, when you return from a vacation. Go through this Gardenerdy article for a brief overview of the same.

DIY Watering Systems

Bottle Method 1

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Let’s Work Together!

This is one of the simplest methods to ensure that your plants get enough water while you are on vacation. Take a plastic bottle, and make a tiny hole through its base. Fill the bottle with water, and place it on the soil just besides the plant. The base of the bottle must be slightly below the soil surface. Now, water the soil thoroughly. The water will drip from the bottle, as and when the moisture level of the soil drops.

Bottle Method 2

Take an empty beer bottle; clean and fill with water. Water the soil thoroughly. Now close the opening of the bottle with your hand, and flip it upside down. Insert the bottle into the soil (with its neck down) at an angle. Do this fast, so as to reduce the amount of spillage. As in the first method, water will flow from the bottle to the soil, in a gradual manner. If the plant is big, you may use two bottles.

Absorbent Threads

This method uses the capillary action of water to provide moisture for plants. Take a container filled with water. Place it on a slightly elevated area besides the plants that are to be watered. Take some absorbent strings (even shoelaces will do), and tie them to a small, heavy object. Put that object inside the container so that it holds the threads in place.

Now, use a screwdriver to poke holes near the plants. The holes must have a minimum depth of three to four inches. The other end of each string must be inserted inside the hole. The strings will wick water from the container to the soil.


A thick layer of mulch will reduce the amount of water lost from the soil. So water the soil well, before covering the surface area with mulch. However, make sure that the mulch layer is of normal thickness. However, an unusually thick layer of mulch may cause harm to the plant. You may also use newspapers soaked in water for mulching. This method is not suitable for a period of more than four to five days.

Water Tray

If you have a big, shallow tray that can hold several pots, make use of it. Spread some pebbles or small stones on the tray. Fill the tray with water, till the pebbles are completely immersed. Place the plant pots on the tray.

Plastic Bag

Water the plants thoroughly. Now, place a clear plastic bag over the plant, and secure the ends of the bag to the rim of the pot using a rubber band. You may insert some bamboo stakes in the soil so that the foliage of the plant does not touch the plastic bag. This set up works like a miniature greenhouse, as the plastic bag traps moisture inside but allows movement of air. Make sure that the plants are not kept in direct sunlight. Shift them to a location with some indirect light.

These are some of the simple ways to water your plants while you are away on vacation. If you have extra empty pots, add some soil into them and water thoroughly. Place potted plants inside them. Instead of soil, damp newspaper or sponge may also work. You may also try covering the plant pots with damp towels. If you find these methods time-consuming, you may opt for devices and gadgets that are readily available in garden stores.

Store-bought Watering Devices

Capillary Mat

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Let’s Work Together!

Made of absorbent fabric, the capillary mat holds moisture which, in turn, can be taken up by the plants. If you are going for a long vacation, spread this mat inside the bathtub, and turn on the faucet till water trickles drop by drop. Make sure that the drain is open. Now place the potted plants on the mat.

Aqua Globe

This instrument is nothing but a glass bulb with an attached tail. All you need to do is to fill water in it and push the tail into the soil near the plant. When the moisture level of the soil reduces, water will drain slowly from the globe to the soil. These instruments are available in different sizes, from which you can choose the right one as per the size of the plant and the duration of your vacation.

Terracotta Plant Waterer

This conical, hollow, terracotta spike (like an ice cream cone with a hole at the bottom) has an open end to insert a bottle filled with water. The other end with a pointed tip has very small holes. Clean an empty wine bottle and fill with water. Place the cone over the top of the bottle. Now tip the bottle upside down, along with the cone. Insert the tip of cone into the soil, at an angle. Water will seep into the soil through the pores in the terracotta and the small holes provided in the tip.

Drip Irrigation

Get an inexpensive drip irrigation kit for watering plants while you are on vacation. However, you must attach a timer to the spigot so that you can choose the time and amount of watering.

Soaker Hose

These hoses can be used to keep the soil moist for a long duration. They have tiny weep holes, through which water seeps into the soil in very small amounts. You can keep the hoses beneath the soil or mulch. In this case too, you have to attach a timer to regulate watering. Another option is to keep the faucet open, just enough that it drips water.

Time-release Water Products

Various products are now available for time-released irrigation. These products contain biodegradable materials with water in the gel form. Water is released, as and when the gel comes into contact with the soil. Water the soil thoroughly, before placing the gel. The amount of gel must be in accordance with the size of the pot.

In short, watering plants in your absence is no longer a cause of concern. You can use DIY mechanisms or ready-made
devices for the same. Otherwise, hire a garden sitter, who will take care of the plants, while you are away. Find out if any of your friends or neighbors are ready to help you out.

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