Wanted: A Plant Hotel

Most of us have a collection of plants in our city flats. They thrive despite the pollution in the city and bring great joy and beauty to our lives. No true plant lover will complain of having to manage nutrients, pruning, correct light conditions or watering however busy the schedule.

The biggest problem arises when the entire family goes out on a vacation. Nuclear family units mean the house is empty and there may be no one who can be entrusted the job of caring for the plants. By and large this period lasts up to 15 days and can be very traumatic for the plants. Servants cannot always be relied upon to water correctly nor is it advisable to leave house keys with them. Very few have the luxury of friends and family chipping in to do the needful.

I would like to share some of my plant vacation ideas with all of you. I carry out what I call ‘plant training’ prior to my departure. Essentially it means acclimatizing the plant to going without water. Depending on the duration of my stay away I begin by watering the plant on alternate days progressively increasing to every third, fourth, fifth day etc. By the time I leave the plant is used to surviving without water for up to 10 days. Of course the season plays a very important part.

To reduce the trauma, I shift the pots indoors, which also cuts evaporation. In case of plants, which require lots of water, I immerse them in a tub half filled with water. To prevent the roots from rotting, I usually place the pot + tub in the balcony. In hotter months, the soil in the pot can be covered with gunnysack soaked in water or wet paper.

Avoid fertilizing the plants just prior to departure. Make sure you do spray some pesticides though. Avoid adding to your collection just prior to a planned vacation. Mud pots remain wet for a long time hence providing valuable moisture to the plants.

Make sure to water your babies the moment you return but do not immediately place in bright sunshine. Move gradually from semi shade to usual spot.

Don’t be worried if the plant loses leaves- most plants revive soon. Of course this method works best with established and healthy plants. It generally takes me about 10 days to get back to my routine but on my last holiday, my fern, asparagus, arelia, serisa, Erica palm etc had all got new shoots in the period, recovering faster than me!

Naturally some activists may protest about my training but it’s better than keeping the pots in the compound/yard – open for vandalizing (broken stems and pots) or even stealing (yes , healthy well grown pots too are stolen!). For stays of over 15 days this technique is not an ideal one.

I read of a pet hotel in Delhi meant for pets when the owners were out. With so many plant lovers, a reliable place to house plants for up to 15 days is a necessity in Pune. There are plant libraries and nurseries but I was unable to locate a plant hotel. Takers anyone?

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