Watering plants while away on vacation: how to keep the garden watered

Worried about watering plants while away on vacation? Our guide will prevent garden plants and houseplants from drying out while you're away from home

Preparing for watering plants while away on vacation by giving plants a good soaking with a hose
(Image credit: Alamy)

Many gardeners worry about watering plants while away on vacation as the thought of beloved plants dying when you're on holiday can cause lots of stress. 

During a scorching spell in the height of summer, just a week’s absence has the potential to do lots of damage to many plants, and watering plants during a vacation can seem an impossible task. But don’t panic! Watering plants while away on vacation is easy enough to do – even if you haven’t got a kindly neighbor to pop in and do it for you. 

Watering plants while away on vacation: simple steps for success

Going away from home doesn't mean your plants have to suffer from a lack of water. Follow our quick and easy ideas for watering plants while away on holiday and your plants will stay happy and healthy while you get to relax on vacation. 

1. Prioritize what needs the most water

The first thing to do is prioritize what needs the most water in your garden to ensure that they are watered first. This includes the following:

Watering healthy pea plants using a purple watering can

Cropping plants and flowers growing in containers and baskets need the most water

(Image credit: Future/Ruth Hayes)

Start by giving all these plants a thorough soaking before you go. Saturate the soil so the roots get a really good drink - this may see most of them through until you return from your vacation.

Greenhouse plants will definitely need watering while you are away, and if you don't have a friend or family member who can pop round and water them for you, then technology (see below) is the latest hero to come to the aid of vacationing gardeners.

Woman watering potted tomato plants in a trough

Greenhouse crops such as tomatoes need watering well before you go away

(Image credit: Future/Ruth Hayes)

2. Use apps to control remote watering

Many gardening brands have developed smartphone apps that let you control when and where you water your plants from the comfort of your sunbed.

The apps and the accompanying kit are easy to set up and use and can be attached to the best garden hose, the best garden sprinkler or mini drip-irrigation kits that you can string between your containers and greenhouse growbags to keep plants and crops adequately watered.

Set them up before you go and relax poolside knowing your plants can get adequately irrigated while you enjoy your vacation with complete peace of mind.

Our guide to the best self watering systems and planters has more advice and tips on what to buy and how to use them. 

Attaching an automated smartphone watering timer to an exterior garden tap

Many gardening brands have developed apps and kit so you can time and control watering from your smartphone

(Image credit: Future/Ruth Hayes)

3. Group containers together in the shade

Containers are a watering hotspot as lots of plants growing close together in an relatively small space will soon gobble up all the available moisture and water. 

One of the easiest options for watering plants while away is to group your garden planter ideas together in a shady and sheltered spot. This means they are easier to water before you go away, plus they are less likely to be damaged by sun and wind in your absence.

Once grouped together, they will also create their own little microclimate that is slightly cooler and damper than the surrounding air, which helps keep them healthier.

Water them thoroughly, and feed with a liquid fertilizer before you leave home to give them the best chance of flourishing in your absence. 

Woman clustering garden containers together to make them easier to water

Group garden pots together so they are easier to water and create their own little micro-climate

(Image credit: Future/Ruth Hayes)

4. Insert slow release nozzles in your containers

Another option for watering plants while away on vacation is to invest in some terracotta, pottery or plastic nozzles. You simply attach one of these to an old wine bottle or plastic bottle filled with water and liquid fertilizer, and then insert the nozzle into the container compost. It then works as a slow-release irrigation in your absence, with the nozzles gradually releasing their contents over a number of days as and when the plants need it.

Watering a container using a bottle filled with water and fertiliser attached to. nozzle

This pottery nozzle attached to a plastic bottle filled with water and liquid fertiliser will slowly keep plants watered and fed

(Image credit: Future/Ruth Hayes)

The nozzles are widely available in garden centers and online, and they're a simple but highly effective option if you're looking cheap gardening ideas

using an old wine bottle filled with water and liquid feed to water a container dahlia

Terracotta nozzles attached to wine bottles filled with water and fertiliser are a quirky and easy way of watering

(Image credit: Future/Ruth Hayes)

5. Remember to water houseplants too

When you're thinking about watering plants while away on holiday, don’t neglect your houseplants. Consider these easy solutions to keep your indoor garden ideas looking their best when you are away from home. 

  • One of the best ways of watering plants while away on vacation is to stand houseplants on trays of gravel and then water them well. The gravel will remain damp after the water is absorbed and create a healthy, humid atmosphere around the leaves. 
  • Remember to move houseplants out of direct sunlight, and if you are closing any curtains or blinds while you are away, make sure you move the houseplants in these rooms to areas of the house with more light. 

Watering houseplants by standing them on capillary matting that is soaking up water from a bowl

Use capillary matting to suck up and deliver water to houseplants while you are away

(Image credit: Future/Ruth Hayes)
  • Absorbent capillary matting is another good option for watering plants while away on vacation and it's widely available from garden centers and homeware shops. Simply cut a length and lay it on a kitchen surface with one end in a bowl of water, then stand your houseplants on the flat area next to the bowl. The water will slowly soak up through the matting and under the plants and should be enough to prevent them drying out.
  • Alternatively, run a little water in the bath and stand your houseplants in it - a cool, light bathroom provides ideal conditions for most plants.

houseplants in a bath to keep them watered

Run some water into the bath and place houseplants there to keep their compost damp

(Image credit: Saulgranda/Getty Images)

Saving water in your garden 

While you are thinking about watering plants while away on vacation, consider implementing some garden water saving tips to reduce your water usage throughout the year. 

Make sure you install water butts on every available downpipe to collect rainwater, and use ‘grey water’ from washing up that isn’t too contaminated with food particles, grease or bleach. 

You can even use water used for cooking vegetables, pasta and eggs once it has cooled down, and don’t forget to collect and recycle the water that runs off while the hot tap is heating up.

Pouring water used for washing up into watering cans to water the garden

'Grey water' used for washing up can be reused on plants as long as it doesn't contain too many food bits or bleach

(Image credit: Future/Ruth Hayes)

Ruth is the gardening editor of Amateur Gardening magazine and spends her working days carrying out, writing about and photographing the tasks the readers should be carrying out each week, as well as testing many of the new products that arrive on the gardening market.

She is horticulturally trained, with a qualification from the Royal Horticultural Society, and her work varies with the seasons and includes everything from sowing and planting, to pruning, taking cuttings, dealing with pests and diseases and keeping houseplants healthy. She covers ornamental plants and edible crops and everything she writes about and photographs is in her own garden, a mature plot that has been a work in progress since her family moved to their current house in 2012. 

Her main interests are gardening for wildlife and organic gardening, as she firmly believes you don’t need to ‘nuke’ pests and problems with toxic chemicals, nor use peat composts to produce the garden of your dreams.