Here’s your permission to travel without letting your greens perish.

My fiancé and I just came off a wonderful, three-week trip. You see, we moved to California six months before the pandemic—and were so excited to see our family and closest friends in Chicago and New York. But, somewhere in the pre-planning phase between scheduling our social calendar and relearning how to pack nearly a month's worth of stuff into a tiny carry-on, it finally dawned on me: What are we supposed to do with our plants?

Prior to the shelter-in-place order, my fiancé and I were seasoned travelers; however, we're still relatively new to the horticultural world. And, for as long as we've been plant parents, we've never spent so much time away from home. We could have enlisted a friend to watch our plants for us, but I felt guilty about having someone schlep back and forth to our apartment. There had to be an easier way, I thought to myself.

Fortunately, there was. Determined to keep our plants alive, I took to Instagram to see if anyone in my community had any tips. My sister—who is the proud parent of dozens of plants—followed through with the perfect solution.

how to water plants on vacation using cotton rope
Credit: Kelsey Mulvey

The magic lay in two classic hardware finds: cotton rope and a bucket. Once I procured my materials, I filled the bucket with water and cut off a few sections of rope. (The key is to have a rope that's long enough to reach from your plants to the bucket of water, plus have enough give so your pots don't topple over in the process.) From there, place one end of your rope in water-filled bucket and push the other a few inches into your planter's soil. And voilà, you can pack your bags and jet off to somewhere fabulous.

Though I was initially skeptical of this DIY project—it seemed far too easy to actually work—I must admit the logic made sense. Cotton is super-absorbent, so the rope would slowly transport the water from the bucket to my pots. And, since the cotton rope created a slow, continuous stream, I wouldn't have to worry about these precious plants getting a water overload and drowning in the process.

I went forward with this DIY project, slightly nervous we'd come home to shriveled-up, frail foliage. But, to my pleasant surprise, the reality was the exact opposite. Not only were our plants just as vibrant as I had left them, but some of them even sprouted new leaves. And, all with a few hardware store staples? I know, wow.

While this simple project was a game-changer for our plant collection, I understand that everyone's home and growing conditions are different. Brightness levels, humidity, and temperature are just a few factors that came to mind. To set up our plants for success, I closed our blinds and turned off our thermostat, creating a cool environment. (After all, I didn't want these poor plants to perish because of the California sun.) But, if you're looking for an easy way to keep your leafy greens in check as you travel the world, I couldn't recommend this hack more.