When you’re on vacation, the last thing you want to worry about is your orchids and their care. Fortunately, you can take some steps ahead of time to ensure that your orchids stay alive while you are gone. Among other things, you will need to set up adequate lighting and water them before you leave. I’ll go over what to do for your orchids so you can take a worry-free vacation.
Before you go on vacation, water your orchids thoroughly. Place them in a location out of direct sunlight and where they will get adequate airflow. Ask a friend to come to water them once a week. Have your friend check on your orchids to ensure there are no issues or pest infestations brewing.
Next, you’ll learn how to take care of your orchids before and during your vacation. I’ll give you some tips to ensure their survival, including:
- How to prepare your orchids prior to going on vacation.
- Tips for going on long vacations and ensuring that your orchids will still have enough water to survive.
- How long orchids typically last without watering.
Keep reading to learn more about how to care for your orchids while on vacation.
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Prepare Your Orchids Before You Go On Vacation
Vacations are meant to be a break from everyday life. Ideally, you wouldn’t want to worry about your orchids or wonder how they are doing while you are on vacation.
Here are some steps you can take to prepare your orchids for your time away:
Water Your Orchids Before You Leave
If you are taking a short two to four day vacation away from home, your orchids will likely be fine. There is very little you need to do. Just check the potting media before you leave and give your orchid a thorough watering if the potting media feels dry or nearly dry.
If the potting media is still damp, then there is nothing you need to do. Your orchid will survive while you are away on this short trip and be just fine.
However, if you are taking an extended vacation, that is a different story. For longer trips lasting a week to three weeks or more, you will need to do more prep work. Make sure your orchids have a good watering beforehand and at least one or two watering sessions during your trip.
Whenever we are preparing to leave on a trip lasting a week or more in the summer, this is what I do: A day before we leave, I thoroughly water all my orchids. I soak each orchid pot in a small bucket of lukewarm water for at least five or ten minutes, then I let them fully drain. I follow the technique outlined in this guide on how to water orchids.
Since I know about this trip ahead of time, I’m able to adjust my watering schedule in the weeks prior. That way, I am able to thoroughly water all the orchids one last time before we leave. This gives the orchid roots a chance to absorb some water. At the same time, the water saturates the potting media.
By giving the orchid potting media and roots a good soak before our trip, the orchid will not dry out as quickly while we are away. I do this first thing in the morning, so that the potting media has a chance to dry a little before nightfall.
If we are going on a short trip in the winter and the potting media is still damp, I generally do not water my orchids before we leave. Instead, I will just water the orchids when we return, assuming the potting media has nearly dried out by then.
Enlist a Friend or Family Member
If you are going away on an extended vacation lasting several weeks, your orchids may need more than one watering. This is also true if it is summertime and temperatures are high. Definitely water your orchids before you leave on vacation.
In addition, ask a neighbor, family member or friend to check on and water your orchids for you while you are away. This may work out well if you already have someone scheduled to come check on your house, feed your pets or collect your mail.
As you most likely already know, orchids do not need to be watered daily. In warmer weather, once or twice a week watering will be adequate. In cooler weather, once every other week should be sufficient.
Key Points to Review with Your Family Member or Friend
Just make sure that whoever is helping you is familiar with proper watering techniques for your orchid. They will need to know to water the roots and potting media only. It is important that they know not to allow water to get into and sit in the orchid crown. If this happens, it can lead to crown rot. Likewise, if water gets in between the leaves and main stem, you could end up with stem rot. Either of these will quickly kill your orchid.
Ask your family member or friend to water the orchids early in the day. In addition, make sure they know to empty the tray or saucers under the orchid pots after watering the plants. Don’t leave your orchids sitting in standing water while you are gone.
It might seem like a lot to ask, but this is something you could ask your house sitter or pet sitter to do if your family or friends are unavailable. If you can find a fellow orchid lover to help you, that would be the best. It would be less stressful for you and them. They would already know the basic techniques of orchid care and would know what to do.
Maintain Optimal Temperature, Light and Humidity
I have talked about how to keep your orchids watered while you are away. There are several other key factors to consider before you go on vacation. Namely, you want to maintain optimal temperature, light and humidity conditions for your orchids while you are gone.
While watering your orchids may be at the forefront of your concerns, don’t forget about temperature requirements for your orchids. Maintaining a balanced temperature is important too.
Your orchids will wilt and become dehydrated with a thermostat set too high, especially during the winter months, when the air is already dry. On the flip side, if the thermostat is set too low, that can lead to cold injuries or stress in your orchid.
Maybe someone will be house-sitting or pet-sitting for you while you are gone. If you plan to keep your thermostat on, set it at a temperature range that would also work for your orchids.
However, it is more likely that your thermostat will be off while you are gone. If this is the case, then make sure that temperatures at night will not drop too much in your home. Your orchids can probably tolerate a few days at a lower than ideal temperature. For their safety, they should not be left in conditions outside their temperature tolerance range for too long. Otherwise, they may start to experience cold stress and injury.
Make sure your indoor orchids will not be sitting in a drafty area while you are gone. Likewise, avoid keeping them by a sunlit window all day long. Too much light exposure will cause the green leaves to turn yellow or light green or get sunburned. Instead, put your orchids in an area with bright, indirect light.
What if the room you plan to leave them in gets very bright during the afternoon hours? One option is to set up a sheer curtain to cover the window. This will allow your orchid to receive lots of light without running the risk of sun damage and overheating.
If they are outdoor orchids, you will have to make sure they are in a safe location. Put your orchids where stray or wild animals walking by cannot easily knock them over. Make sure they will get adequate sunlight, but keep in mind that the orchids will still need protection from direct light during the peak hours of the day.
If you would like to learn more, check out this guide about orchids and light.
Remember that orchids need at least 40% humidity to thrive. Most people will turn off their central air or heater before going on vacation. This eliminates the risk for drafts or dryness due to the heater running.
You can also purchase a humidity meter called a hygrometer. This will tell you the humidity level in your orchid’s growing area. You will be able to make adjustments or prepare a humidity tray before you leave.
A humidity tray would also help you create some humidity around your orchids. Use this if you will be gone for an extended time. To make a humidity tray, you can purchase or prepare a shallow tray. Line the bottom with decorative river rocks or pebbles. Then, add just enough water to cover the rocks most of the way.
Now you have made a humidity tray! You can then place your orchid pots on top of the rocks. Make sure the pots are sitting on the rocks only and not actually touching the water. As the water evaporates, it will add humidity and moisture to the air around the orchids.
Keep The Bugs Away
Thoroughly inspect your orchids before you leave for vacation. Look for any pests or bugs that may have taken up residence in your orchid plant or pot. If you see any pests, take the necessary steps to eliminate them before you go. As they say, nip the problem in the bud.
Orchids can be easy to maintain while you’re away. Long-term vacations can make things a bit trickier, but caring for your orchids while you are away is still very doable. It just requires a bit more preparation. You can find everything you need to know about hydrating your orchids and how long they last without water below.
How Long Can Orchids Survive Without Water?
Most orchids can live two to three weeks without water. Note that not all orchid species are the same. Some can last a bit longer, while others cannot go without a watering for longer than one to two weeks.
On a personal note, my Phalaenopsis orchids have been able to go up to two weeks between waterings, with no ill effects. This is during the summer months. I generally give the pots a good long soak in a basin of water before we leave on vacation. I also keep them in a shaded location away from direct sunlight. This probably helps keep them from drying out too fast. Of course, your situation may differ depending on where you live and your local climate.
Orchids are one of the few plants that do not require a plant expert to handle the upkeep. Fortunately, they do not need daily watering, allowing you to go on vacations without worrying too much about your orchids at home. You can even get away with forgetting to water them a few times without causing permanent damage.
How You Can Help Your Orchid Go Longer Between Waterings
There are a few factors that come into play when determining how long an orchid can go without water.
Even if you gave your orchids enough water and you are going on vacation for just two weeks, you are not in the clear (yet). The ambient humidity and temperature can dehydrate orchids in a matter of days.
Do not let the temperature around the orchids exceed 75 °F (24 °C) too many days in a row. Keeping your outdoor orchids in a covered area is essential. If they are indoors, try to ensure that the surrounding humidity does not dip below 50%-60% for your vacation’s duration.
Use A Hygrometer
You can measure the temperature and humidity levels around your orchid using a hygrometer. I use this hygrometer by Thermopro and love it. It measures both temperature and humidity and tracks both for a 24-hour period. It helps me know when I need to turn up my orchids’ humidifier or turn it off.
Have Someone Check On Your Plants
This is true even if everything is set up perfectly and you are only going to be gone for a couple of weeks. It is still best to have someone check on your orchids at least once during your vacation. This will ensure they are hydrated and doing well.
Orchids are tough plants, but they still need water, sunlight, humidity, and regulated temperatures to thrive. Vacations longer than two weeks will require additional outside assistance. Most orchids will need to be watered after one week. On that note, did you know there are ways to water your orchids while you are away?
How to Keep Your Orchids Watered While You Are On Vacation
Your orchids can still get water and care while you are on vacation. In fact, it is easier to maintain your plants from afar than ever before. There are two tools that can change everything, and two more that will complete your orchid care kit.
How to Water Orchids While You Are Away
- Use watering globes. The Wyndham House Plant Watering Globe Set is an excellent example of these functional globes. Fill them with water, stick the tip in the potting media, and go on your vacation. This would work best for terrestrial orchids. Water slowly trickles out of the globe, hydrating the roots as time goes by. It is the simplest and easiest method. As an added bonus, you will not need to ask anyone to come by your house to water your orchids. The globes are beautiful, too!
- Get a timed drip irrigation system. Whether your orchids are indoors or outdoors, you can use timers to water them. Attach timers to small hoses and tubes to supply water via drip irrigation once or twice during the week. This method would also work best for terrestrial orchids that are planted in your garden bed. While this is not as easy as a water globe, these systems are more reliable for long vacations. They will not run out of water like a watering globe would. When positioning these, ensure that the water will go to the roots, rather than the leaves or crown of the plant.
- Ask a friend to water the orchids. If you have orchids potted in bark or moss, you won’t be able to use water globes or a drip system. One way to maintain your orchids while you are on vacation is to ask someone for help. This person can follow your regular routine to hydrate and maintain the orchids. As mentioned earlier, you will want to show them how to water your orchids. Have them focus on watering the roots and potting media only. They will need to empty any excess water from the pot or saucers. In addition to a souvenir from abroad, you could give them an orchid of their own.
- Increase the ambient humidity in the room. Use a hygrometer and cool-mist humidifier to prevent your orchids from getting dehydrated. This will allow you to maintain optimal humidity in the room. Keeping adequate humidity for your orchids while you are away will help prevent dehydration and wilting.
Your Orchid Vacation Care Kit
In short, your orchid care vacation kit can include the following items:
- Watering globes for your terrestrial orchids for one-to-two-week trips.
- Timers and a drip irrigation watering system for your terrestrial orchids if you will be away for more than a week.
- A cool-mist humidifier to help maintain optimal humidity levels.
- A hygrometer to keep track of humidity and temperature levels in your orchid’s growing area.
- (Optional) Use a programmable thermometer such as a Nest Thermostat. This will keep temperatures inside your house at an ideal range while you are gone
Watering orchids and taking care of them while you are gone can be pretty straightforward. The main reason why many people love these plants is that they are relatively self-sufficient and low-maintenance. As long as you have taken the proper steps to prepare your orchids prior to your vacation, you will not have to worry about them while you are away.
Set your orchids up for success by watering them before you go on vacation. Inspect them for pests and bug infestations and treat these before you go. Put your orchids in a location where they will be exposed to indirect bright light. Ask a friend or family member for help. Invest in the equipment you need to help your orchids stay alive. If all goes well, you will come home to healthy, happy orchids.
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