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How to Water Plants While Away: 5 Different Ways

watering plants using plastic bottle

Plants can be pretty complicated to take care of if you’re a person with an unpredictable schedule. Or you might be someone who has a brown thumb and can’t seem to keep anything alive. Either way, sometimes we have to leave our homes and plants unattended.

Luckily, when it comes to keeping your plans on the schedule, there are ways to ensure they stay watered. Whether you’re away on a trip or just really terrible at remembering a routine schedule, here are a few self-watering options you can consider.

garden flower divider

The 5 Different Ways to Water Plants While Away

1. Wine Bottle Method

empty wine bottle in the grass
Image Credit: Piqsels
Items Needed Wine bottle, or glass bulb

The wine bottle method is a clever and inexpensive idea for watering plants while you’re away. When you fill the bottle with water, you can turn it upside down so it will water the roots slowly as needed. You can use any old wine bottle you have lying around, permitting you to clean it properly.

Here’s how it works. Tipping the wine bottle over creates a way for the water to leech into the soil slowly. If the soil is very dry, you might notice that the wine bottle empties quickly. If the soil is already decently moist, it will take longer to drain completely.

The idea is that it will gradually feed the plants, not overwhelming or underwhelming the soil. While this is a terrific alternative for a short trip, it’s not practical if you plan on being gone for several weeks.

  • Slowly waters the plant
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to replace
  • No timed distribution

2. Plants in a Shady Spot

plants in pots indoor
Image Credit: vadim kaipov, Unsplash
Items Needed Shaded, but bright room

When plants are in direct sunlight, the heat quickly dries out the soil. If they are in shaded spaces, the soil stays moist longer. When you’re leaving for a few days, try moving all plants away from the sun.

Granted, this will not work if you plan on being gone for weeks at a time. Keeping your plants in a shaded space alone not only will dry out eventually, but it will also stifle the growth and health of your plant.

Sunlight is just as important to plants as water. Even though some plants are more shade tolerant than others, being in indirect sunlight for long periods can damage the plant and even kill it.

So, remember that you should only be gone a few days if you plan on keeping your plants out of sunlight.

  • Quick fix
  • Prevents soil from drying quickly
  • Plants shouldn’t be without sunlight long
  • Some plants are very intolerant to shade

3. Use Plastic Bottles

plastic bottle irragation system
Image Credit: plastic bottle irragation system
Items Needed Plastic bottle

If you use a plastic water bottle, it has the same effect as using a glass bottle. The only difference is it is cheaper and maybe more convenient. You fill up the plastic water bottle, turn it over, and let it slowly seep into the soil.

A major downfall of using plastic is that many plastic water bottles don’t have a long neck. Many of them are shallow, which can cause the bottle to shift or tip over. If you use a plastic water bottle, it might need extra reinforcement to hold it in place

Also, plastic tends to crinkle up and wear down the more you use it. So, we only recommend using a plastic water bottle for quick trips and not for permanent solutions.

  • Quick fix
  • Same effect as wine bottle

Might tip easily

4. Water Wick

water wick
Image Credit: Olya Detry, Shutterstock
Items Needed Bucket/basin, absorbent cord, small weighted pieces, water

Water wicks are becoming more popular, especially among indoor plant owners. The system works very simply. You run tubing into the soil of your plants using a material such as a shoelace or actual water wicking cord and let water from a different basin fill the soil.

Essentially it’s like your plant drinking out of a straw; the plant draws in the moisture it needs.

There are tons of DIY water wick systems that you can create, and they’re easy to make with supplies you might already have on hand. You can also buy fancy water wicking systems as they are readily available on the market.

One complaint about water wicking is that some of the nutrients might be lost in the process. So, you won’t want to use this method all the time, but trips away should be just fine.

  • Inexpensive to make
  • Available commercially
  • Slow watering method
  • May have trouble with nutrient delivery

5. Irrigation System

irrigation system in a raised bed
Image Credit: Alin_Kris, Shutterstock
Items Needed Kits

An irrigation system might be a worthy investment if you’re a serious gardener and want to put in an advanced system to keep your plants thoroughly watered.

You can find relatively inexpensive options on sites like Amazon. You can buy an irrigation system as a kit that comes with a timer that you can set as you wish. That way, the system waters the plants on a schedule, providing more control over how much water your plant is getting.

The entire concept is to slowly feed your plants when you are not available to water them yourself. The irrigation system is likely the best option for someone who plans to be gone for a few weeks. If you set up your system appropriately, you can ensure that your plants are watered while you’re away.

  • Excellent for frequent traveling
  • Full control over timer
  • Affordable options
  • Not affordable on all budgets

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Watering Importance

You must carefully factor in the environment your plants need to live in. Each plant has slightly different watering requirements; some prefer drier soil, but others prefer to stay moist.

watering hydrangea cuttings with watering can
Image Credit: Mariia Boiko, Shutterstock

How to Choose the Right Option

Self-watering options are filled with positives and negatives depending on what you choose, and here’s how to break it down.

How to Choose the Right Option:
  • Length of Time Away: When choosing a method to water your plants when you’re gone, you have to consider how long your trip is. If you only plan on being gone for a weekend, you wouldn’t want to get an entire irrigation system. However, if you’re going to be gone for several weeks or traveling frequently, it might be worth setting up something a little more intricate.
  • How Much Water a Plant Needs: A wine or plastic bottle might work perfectly well if you have plants that don’t require extensive maintenance. Also, putting the same plants in the shade would probably be a good idea if you only plan on being gone a day or two. However, investing in an irrigation system might be the best option if you have a specific plant that requires an exact watering schedule.
  • How Often You Will Be Away: If this is just a quick trip, no more than three days, there’s no reason you can’t just grab a water bottle to water your plants. However, if you’re going away every weekend or every few weeks for business, you might want to get a more permanent setup. Also, if you spend weeks away from your home, you won’t want to use a water bottle or put your plants in the shade. Instead, you’ll have to invest in an irrigation system.

garden flower divider


As you can see, there are a few ways to ensure that your plants stay moist while you’re gone. Ultimately, your method will significantly depend on the length of time you will be away. For more lengthy visits, it might be a good idea to invest in an irrigation system or build of water wick. If you’re going to be gone for a few days, a wine or plastic bottle will suffice.

Featured Image Credit: Khoe, Shutterstock


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