Best way to water plants on holiday

So you are about to go on holiday and you want to know the best watering solution for your indoor plants, then look no further than my top products for keeping your plants alive automatically. All these products are portable and don’t require a mains water tap connection. Depending on how long you are going on holiday it’s up to you to select the best watering method. Some watering systems will last more than a month, others will last only a week.

I’ve split this article into long term watering solutions and short term watering solutions.

Long term watering solution

1. PlantMaid

PlantMaid On Table medium

The PlantMaid has a miniature pump and soil sensor built-in, it is designed to sit on the soil next to your plant and automatically water when the soil is dry. Its runs off batteries so it is portable. Easy to setup and install. you need to provide a water bottle or similar container for your water reservoir. The PlantMaid is designed as a long term solution to watering rather than just a vacation solution, you can leave it in watering the whole year to manage your plants watering requirements.

Plus symbol It has a soil sensor so it accurately waters your plants when the soil is dry rather than just bulk watering. You can press the sensor button to get the current soil moisture level and light levels, it also shows you the number of times it’s watered, as well as the min and max temperatures.

Negative symbol It is designed to work with one plant, if you have multiple plants you might want to look at another option.

2. Continental AWS Automatic watering system

AWS watering plants

There are a few rebranded version of this device online. This basic watering device has a pump and 10 connectors, you can set the timer to automatically water every few days for a set amount of time (ie 30 seconds). The device needs to be suspended above a water source as it has a pump which hangs down and needs to be submerged in the reservoir. The easiest setup it to clamp it onto the edge of a bucket.

Even though it has 10 pipes, each pipe is fed from the same pump so they all your plants get the same amount of water, it’s not possible to water some plants individually.

Plus symbol It’s cheap and simple which makes it reliable for what it does. It works for a large number of plants.

Negative symbol You need to cut and setup the pipes yourself and pin each pipe into the soil with the wire pins (it starts to look a bit unsightly). The water pump needs to hang roughly 40cm below the unit so needs to be close to the water reservoir. Each plant will get the same amount of water each day.

3. Oasis watering system

Oasis watering plants

This is a self-contained water reservoir with a lid, it runs off batteries and the electronic valve will allow water to drip every few days. It works on gravity so you need to place this box above your plants. The nice thing is the water is in a sealed container so bugs are kept out. The system drips water daily and the only thing that can be adjusted is the amount of water. At the maximum drip-rate it lasts 10 days at the slowest drip-rate it lasts 40 days. It requires a bit of setup by cutting pipes and attaching drippers for each plant.

Plus symbol The water reservoir is in a covered container which means dirt and bugs don’t get in. It runs off a 9V battery which means it’s portable. It can water up to 20 plants by joining the dripper pipe in series between the plants, but be prepared for a lot of setup (including venting air from the pipes)

Negative symbol This is a gravity-based system, it needs to sit above the plants which means it’s difficult to hide and a bit unsightly for a permanent setup (ok for a holiday vacation setup). It has 4 possible watering drip amounts and will continue to water until the reservoir is empty, each plant received the same amount of water so you could potentially overwater some plants. It only works indoors and can’t be exposed to the weather. It’s fairly expensive at $179USD

4. DIY Drip irrigation pump

The DIY irrigation is a pump with a timer attached (There are a few similar copies of this product on the web), its easy to setup and use. The programming options are simple, set how often you want to water and for how long. You will need to test by trial and error how much watering is going to be dispensed(it dispenses 1 ounce every 4 seconds). You can chain multiple pipes together to water more than one plant but each plant will get the same amount of water.

Plus symbol Simple to setup and use. It also has a water-out alert.

Negative symbolIf you set it up to water more than one plant they will each get the same amount of water (which is usually not ideal). As with most of the other electronic watering devices, this device is not weatherproof so for indoor use only.

4. Ceramic Spikes

Hydro spike with plant

There are a few makes of these spikes, I have tried HydroSpike but they are also made by Blumat. and some generic companies on Amazon.com. These spikes work similar to a wick but draw water up through a hollow tube from a reservoir of water. For them to work correctly the water reservoir must be placed at a lower level than the ceramic spike to allow the capillary action to work.

Plus symbol Cheap and reliable and discrete once setup.

Negative symbolYou can’t regulate how much water the plant needs, you may need to setup multiple spikes in a single pot for all round watering. There is no warning when it runs out of water, you need to check the reservoir every few days.

Short term watering solutions

1. String in a pot

Pot with string watering plants

This method is one of the most obvious methods toted on the internet, but it’s flaky at best. The first thing to know is that you need a proper wicking cord, not just any old string. Pure cotton string will rot quickly and not transfer water correctly, which is why you should use a nylon composite fiber.  Also, the thickness of the string will determine how much water is transferred, its guesswork on how thick you need your string to be. Ideally use a synthetic fiber such as nylon Venetian blind cord, acrylic yarn, strips of nylon stocking or any other non-rotting fiber. Nylon shoestrings can work well. If you google wicking string on Amazon you can buy proper wicking cord.

Wicking fiber

The system works by having the water source above the plants, the wick will draw water into the plants. A large pot should be enough to keep your plants alive for about 3-7 days.

5. Idres drip system

This is a tripod drip system for a water bottle, adjustable valves allow it to drop slowly into your plants. By selecting one of the 4 drip nozzles you can make the drip system last about 2 week. Make sure you make an air hole at the top of your water bottle.

Clabber in pot

Plus symbol Very simple system, you can visibly see the amount of water left. Can work outside in rainy weather.

Negative symbolYou will need to balance an unsightly bottle on top of your plants, will only work for very large plants that are in a stable pot as the tripod is quite big. Doesn’t account for hot or cold weather fluctuations, so you may over or under water. Idress have come up with a simpler solution, look further down under ‘watering spikes’.

2. Moisturematric

The MoistureMatric is a clip on reservoir with a wick, as the soil gets dry the water is drawn up from the reservoir by capillary action. The reservoir lasts about 7 days. They are easy to install and use. Simply fill with water and insert the probe into the water.

MoistureMatric in pot

Plus symbolThe water reservoir is part of the device. It’s discrete and sits on the side of the pot, easily hidden behind the pot. Its weather proof.

Negative symbolMay not work on all pots if the lip of the pot is too far away and the probe can’t reach the soil.

3. Terracotta water spikes

These ceramic spikes work by inverting a bottle of water into a ceramic spike which is then inserted into the soil. The terracotta is porous and slowly leaks water into the soil. These are very easy to setup but you can’t control the amount of water released, some people say their 1 litre bottle lasted only 1 day.

Terracotta Water Spikes

Plus symbol They are cheap. Very easy to setup.

Negative symbolIt takes a bit of experimentation before they become reliable, you need to ensure your pot is watered before you add the spike. The terracotta can be very thin and break easily when you insert into the soil. There is no way to control the amount of water dispenses and they often drain out within a day.

4. Plastic water spikes with control valve

These are a bit more robust than the terracotta ones and have an adjustable water release valve. You can use a 1 litre coke bottle as the reservoir, just make sure you drill an air release hole at the top. You can use a bigger bottle (2L) but it becomes unstable to balance on such a thin spike unless you support it.

Plastic Watering Spike

Plus symbolCheap. Easy to setup. The plastic is more robust than terracotta equivalents.

Negative symbolCommon complaints are that the water released too quickly and the valve is not accurate. It’s basically trial and error to get the right amount of dripping setup. They also tend to topple over due to balance, some of the newer versions come with a side brace for support.

5. Idress spike

Adjustable Watering spike

Idress makes the same equivalent as the spikes but is likely to be better quality given their history of plant watering products. They are also fairly cheap.

6. Water from a stone

Water from a stone

Similar to the water globe except that it looks like a stone. Watering lasts for up to 3-4 days. The bottom of the stone has a cork plug which acts as a drip dispenser. All the stones are hand-blown glass. It certainly looks unique! With only 4 days of watering these aren’t likely to help water when you go on holiday, they are more of a short term water release system.

7. Watering globes

Watering globes are basically a glass reservoir that slowly dispenses water into the plant. Refill them every 1-2 weeks. They work by inserting the glass probe into the soil and it will dispense a constant amount of water. They work well for plants that need constant water, but if you are refilling the reservoir every week you might as well water by hand.

Glass Watering Globes

Plus symbolYou can get some elegant shapes that can look quite unique sitting in your plants, such as birds or mushrooms.

Negative symbol Cleaning the globes requires a thin pipe cleaner and dirt can often clog the glass tip. Care must be taken when inserting the glass probe as its prone to breaking. Some people say the water only lasted 2 days, make sure you water your plant before using an aqua globe.

8. Bordy watering

Similar to a watering globe except that it is plastic and look like a cute bird or frog, it has a ceramic spike which is inserted into the soil. There are a few different semi-transparent colors. Watering lasts for up to 4 days.

Bordy plant watering birdBordy plant watering frogs

Summary of results

Best for watering multiple plants

Continental AWS watering

Best long term solution

PlantMaid

Cheapest solution

Ceramic spikes