“Hey, I’m going on vacation for a few weeks. Can you water my plants while I’m gone?”
This seems like a simple enough question, but what begins as an innocent ask can send some people into an anxiety spiral once reality sets in.
First of all, take a breath. These are plants, not animals. It’s going to be OK. I’ve been a plant-sitter for many friends, and I’ve had friends plant-sit for me, and there are a few things I’ve learned along the way. Here’s how to set yourself up for a winning run, even if your own plant parenting has been less than successful.
Ask about their care routine, and set expectations.
In the same way you might research the care routine for a new plant you’ve purchased, you should inquire about specific care routines of the plants you’re plant-sitting.
For example, I mist my plants every day, and I wipe down the leaves of my Monstera and Fiddle Leaf Fig once a week. If someone were plant-sitting, I might ask them to do the same, or I might skip the wipe down request if I’m only going to be gone for a week or so.
Depending on your friend’s expectations, your plant-sitting gig might include not just watering, but also misting the plants, trimming away any dead pieces, wiping their leaves to keep away dust or pests, or even singing or talking to them.
Know the expectations of your plant-sitting gig before agreeing to it.
Find out if there are any specific instructions about any fancy plants.
OK, so all plants are important, but if your friend spent hundreds of dollars on some fancy tree that can only be watered from the bottom of its planter, then it’s a good idea to know that ahead of time.
Identify what supplies you’ll need, and their location.
Do they use a mister? If they have hanging plants, is there a ladder nearby you can use? Watering can? Paper towels? Figure out where things are located in advance to help make quick(er) work of your plant care routine.
Knowing when it’s time to water your plant is an essential lesson for plant-sitters and plant parents alike.
When deciding if it’s time to water a plant or not, I always use the finger test. Stick your finger in the soil and if it’s moist to the touch, skip the watering. If it’s dry at least an inch or so down, then generously water.
For succulents, cacti, and snake plants, water sparingly (if at all).
Depending on how long you’re plant-sitting for, it might be a good idea to leave the succulents, cacti, and snake plants alone. They are sensitive to overwatering, so if you only plant-sit for a week, skip their water. If you’re plant-sitting for a more extended amount of time, find out when the last time your friend watered them. Was it right before they left? Even more of a reason to skip the water routine for a week or two.
Budget your time accordingly.
You might think watering a plant or two will only take a minute, so you pop over to your friend’s place on your way to run a time-sensitive errand. If your friend only has a plant or two, that’s probably fine — but if they have a full collection, including handing plants and bigger ones, it’s going to take a lot longer than a minute, and you don’t want to feel rushed.
I’ve tried to hurriedly water hanging plants before, and take it from me, you don’t want to have to clean up that mess. Make sure to budget enough time to care for them properly to avoid frustration (and extra cleanup).
Check in when you’re ready to leave.
So you’ve watered, misted, and dusted the plants. You even put on some Lizzo for them to encourage some new growth, and the plants seemed to be into it. Before you leave, it’s a good idea to shoot your friend a short text update. Let them know if any plant is starting to look a little sad so you can keep them in the loop — or if they all look happy, let them know that, too.
With these tips in mind, plant-sitting can be a fun, relaxing experience instead of an anxiety-inducing one. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Trust your gut. And when in doubt: Play Lizzo for the plants.