Going away for the holidays or on a vacation takes a lot of planning, and for someone who owns a plant or two (or more), a little extra preparation is needed. Fortunately, for those who don't have neighbors or relatives who can take care of your plants while you're gone, there are a couple techniques that should do the trick. That way, when you come home from being away, your plants will still be thriving and healthy.
Figure out how much water your plants need. Some plants like cacti and succulent plants (ones with leaves that retain water) do not need much, if any, water while you're gone. Even some of your weekly feeders may be able to do without for a little bit of extra time. Once you determine that in fact, your plants do need water while you're gone, be sure to give them a good watering before you leave and follow one of the techniques listed below.
Mix polymer crystals into the soil and water your plants well. The crystals will swell up when wet and will only release their water once the soil begins to dry. This is the perfect solution for those plants that are medium drinkers or for plants that are outside in your garden.
Place your plants in a saucer of water. The holes in the bottom of the container will allow the water to soak up through the soil and to the roots. This will keep your plants evenly moist for a couple of weeks. If your plant is a heavy drinker or if you are going to be away for a long time, use a large bowl, which will hold more water, instead of a saucer.
Make a homemade watering wick. Use a plastic bottle. Generally, one that holds 8 to 20 liquid oz. will suffice. Choose a size that is appropriate for your size plant and your time away. Fill the bottle with water and make a one-inch hole in the soil, a couple inches from the base of your plant. Place your plant on a water-safe surface. Cover the top of the bottle with your fingers and flip it over. Do not put the cap on. Remove your finger and quickly stick it into the soil. This system will also work well for those plants outside where rainfall is not sufficient.
Select commercial watering systems that are similar to the methods listed in steps 3 and 4. They are available at local nurseries and online. The wick system basically looks like an upside-down vase with a long straw-like neck; fill it with water, quickly turn it upside down and stick the neck (which is open on the bottom) into the soil.
Capillary mats are available in many designs. Some can be cut to fit individual pots and some are designed to hold multiple pots at the same time. Some have a polyurethane bottom (to hold the water) with small holes and a fabric on top which slowly soaks up the water to water your plants. One kind of capillary mat can be stuck in water on one end and the pots sit on the other.