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7 Ways to Water Basil Indoors While Away

Watering indoor basil while you are away can be a stressful experience. It will be on your list of things to do before you leave. Use this guide to learn about the various ways to water basil indoors while you are away.

Watering basil plants

When you have worked hard to bring basil seedlings to a beautiful plant that you want to enjoy on pizza and pasta, you don’t want it to wither away when you are on vacation. The amount of time that you are away will make all of the difference.

Additionally, you just need to remember that warmth, light, and water are the only things your basil will need when you are gone. The love for your plants will always be there.  Prepare your basil for both before and after you go away, and you won’t have to worry about a thing. Use this guide when learning the many different ways to water basil indoors when you are away.

1. Self-Watering Pots

GardenBasix Self Watering Pots Window Box for Indoor Plants Set of 6 Home Garden Modern Decorative Flower Planter for All House Herbs Succulents (6, Tricolor)

Self-watering pots are an excellent option for watering your basil while away.  There are many to choose from and they don’t cost much money.  The above is just one example of many.  An additional benefit is you don’t have to bother with watering all that often when home as well.

How do self-watering pots work?

There’s a water reservoir at the bottom. An absorbant cloth (some pots use absorbant ropes), water is absorbed by the roots via the absorbant cloth or rope.  It’s not a sprinkler design so no threat of over-watering or water spilling out while away.

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How long will these pots “self-water” your basil plants?

One to two weeks.  You will want to test them before your trip.  If you plan on traveling longer than the water will last in the reservoir you may need to call on someone to swing by your place to water your basil.

2. Use an herb growing system with self-watering feature

AeroGarden Aerovoir for self-watering herbs

If you have the budget, you can use an AeroGarden herb/indoor vegetable growing system.  With the Aerovoir add-on feature shown above, you can self-water your herbs for a long time.

3. Houseplant self-watering sprinkler method

Blumat Classic Plant Watering Stakes | for Everyday Home or Vacation Use | Indoor or Outdoor Water Spikes for Plants | Automatic Drip Irrigation (3 Pack)

Blumat Classic Plant Watering Stakes | for Everyday Home or Vacation Use | Indoor or Outdoor Water Spikes for Plants | Automatic Drip Irrigation (3 Pack)

Blumat Classic Plant Watering Stakes | for Everyday Home or Vacation Use | Indoor or Outdoor Water Spikes for Plants | Automatic Drip Irrigation (3 Pack)

With the self-sprinkling method, you can keep your basil in your regular pot instead of having to transplant into a self-watering pot or herb gardening system.  Moreover, you can take longer vacations by using a larger reservoir.  

4. DIY self-watering pots

You can create your own self-watering systems.  There are a variety of methods for this. Here’s an example:

DIY self-watering flower pot

Click here to make the above self-watering pot.

Check out more terrific DIY self-watering pot ideas and projects here.

5. Make an Indoor Greenhouse For Your Basil While Away

A woman preparing indoor basil green house.

If you are going to be gone for longer than five days, you can make an indoor greenhouse that includes water traps for your indoor basil plants. One common way of doing this is by creating a plastic bag around your indoor plant to bring your own greenhouse into the home.

You don’t need to have a huge building of heat-attracting glass to have a greenhouse. You just need to know how to create a greenhouse using items that you already have at home. Start by using a plastic bag that you can pull up over the end of your pot.

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You don’t want to close it because you want the indoor basil plants to have access to air still. If you want, you can use large ziplocks around your pots so that the light can still get through.

You can prop large bags up with skewers or even large sticks to prevent the plastic from reaching the basil leaves. Close the bag with a rubber band or tie it with a string so that the plant is sealed within the bag. This is going to create a small greenhouse and a moisture trap for your basil. You can put the basil under grow lights or lamps to ensure that it continues to get the warmth that it needs.

6. Use Pebble Traps to Retain Moisture for Indoor Basil Plants

A woman preparing pot with pebbles for basil.

Pebble traps are a common way of retaining moisture with indoor plants. Many indoor gardeners do this whether they are traveling or not, but it is a good way to set up some moisture traps and allow your watering to extend itself just a little bit longer while you are away.

Buy a large bag of pebbles or rocks from the local garden center or even your dollar store if you can find them. Put the pebbles at the bottom of your trays that are holding your basil containers.

You want to use pebbles here and nothing else because pebbles contain moisture and retain moisture easily. This will extend the life of your watering plan while you are away. When the water goes into the pebbles, it will travel up through the soil into the plant if it is needed when you are traveling.

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The smaller the pebbles, the more likely you are going to succeed here. Large stones just aren’t going to work here. You can also put it directly in the bottom of your container if you are truly concerned about your soil retaining moisture while you are gone.

7. Use Wet Towels and Newspaper for Watering

A basil in pot with paper and water container.

Another common way of leaving water subtly for your indoor basil plants is by creating another moisture trap with wet towels or wet newspapers. The best way to do this is by leaving your plants in the bathtub. You don’t want to fill the bathtub here, you want to keep the tub empty.

But, you can add soaking wet towels around your plants to provide the moisture that they will need when you are away longer than five days. Soak the towels and put your pots with the drainage holes on top of them before you go away.

The pots will enjoy this extra water, and you won’t be overwatering the plants. If the plants need it, they will draw on the moisture from the wet towels. If they don’t, they won’t be bothered by it at all.

Wet newspaper and wet paper towels perform the same function but aren’t as effective. Wet newspaper and wet paper towels will dry out faster than wet towels in the bathtub.

If you are using wet newspaper or wet paper towels, you want to put them on top of the plants and not underneath them. Although these are not as effective as retaining moisture for longer periods, paper methods of trapping moisture will help to prevent evaporation of water in the plant.

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So, if you are going away for longer than five days, you can prevent worrying about watering by preventing evaporation of existing water in the soil, and in the plant using this paper method.

Other Basil Watering Considerations

Know What Basil Needs

Basil in pot next to windowsill.

Knowing what your basil needs will be the most critical step in making sure it is well taken care of when you are away. Basil needs water and warmth, and also plenty of light. You want your plant to have at least 6 hours of direct sunlight when you are away. So plan your plant location and know that it needs this almost more than anything. Light will be more important for your basil.

Basil needs new light every day, but it does not need new water every day. When your basil has nutrient-rich soil that is moist and drains well, your basil will be ready for you when you go away. You also have to take into consideration the climate that you are in, and the season that you are taking your vacation in. Even for indoor plants, the weather is going to play a big role.

For light, if you are traveling in winter, you want to put your basil under lamps while you are away or in a location where it will get at least six hours of light daily. Watering can be done ahead of time if you are only going away for a few days. Your indoor plants will thrive with some water and a lot of light.

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Plan Your Timing

A basil sprouts in pot.

When you are going away and have basil plants indoors, timing is everything. The amount of time that you are away will help here. If you are going to be away for only a few days, you won’t have to worry about how to water your indoor basil while you are away.

When you are gone for longer than a week, you will need to be more strategic about your watering plans. You can also get strategic with your lighting, as mentioned in the previous step, and this will go hand in hand with your watering.

If you are going away in the winter, you won’t need to water as much. In cooler temperatures, even indoors, basil won’t need as much water. The timing here is weekly for watering for basil if you really need to stretch it out. You can let the basil go for one week without watering if you need to.

In most cases, you are better to underwater than overwater when you are worrying about watering the indoor basil while away. Overwatering is going to lead to root rot and mildew, or botrytis, and you will ruin the basil. It is better to let the basil go a little dry. When you are planning your timing with your basil, this is an important consideration.

Age of your basil is important to plan with your timing. The younger the basil is, the less water it will need. A seedling can not handle a drenching of water before you go away. Make sure the soil is moist but do not soak it, and misting the leaves will help. You don’t want the soil to get dry, but you don’t want it to be drenched either.

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Recognizing Healthy Plants

Unhealthy basil in a pot.

Recognizing healthy plants is critical when it comes to timing your watering well. When you are going away, you will want to understand what it looks like when you are underwatering and when you are overwatering. It is common to overwater indoor plants while underwatering outdoor plants and the plight of every gardener.

Both kinds of watering to the extreme will result in wilting plants and in some cases, dead ones. For overwatering, you are going to see root rot, and for underwatering, you are going to see dry and wilted leaves.

At the same time, a healthy indoor basil plant is going to droop a little bit. Its leaves will look puckered, and you will notice that it curves slightly. This may appear sad to you as a plant lover, but this is how basil looks.

For a basil plant that is well watered, its stems are what you want to look at. Is it standing tall and firm? That is because water is shooting up and down its stem and feeding the plant exactly what it needs.

If that stem is a little droopy, then you have an issue with overwatering, as the stem can not carry the weight of all of the water that you are giving it. You may feel like the soil is wet and that the basil has enough water, but if the stem is giving, then it’s time to lay off the water a bit. Still, you want to be sure that the soil is moist enough before you go away.

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Additionally, the plant will carry that fragrant scent that basil is known for. If your basil does not have that scent, there may be some watering issues going on.

You only need to water the basil every 4 days, or even every 5 days. This gives you a lot of leeway when you are preparing for vacation. If you are gone much longer than that, there are ways to water your plant automatically while you are away.

Pre-Trip Watering Plans

Basil in pot with water container next to windowsill.

Before you go away, you want to make sure that you know how to water the plants. If your plant looks healthy, be sure that you are staying on top of its moisture levels before you go away. You want the soil to feel damp before you go away and not drippy.

If the soil is cold, that does not mean that it is wet, so you need to make sure that the soil is moist and not cool. Add a little water if you are going away in the winter, and your soil is cool to touch on the days prior to you leaving.

If you aren’t sure, put a toothpick or a popsicle stick into the soil to check its moisture level. If soil comes out on the popsicle stick, the soil is moist enough. Plan to water your basil early in the morning on the day of your trip. It is also a good idea to get in the habit of just watering as early in the morning as possible on a regular basis.

This gives your plant all day to drink something. At the same time, it prevents drying out as the warmth of the day arrives onto your plant. The warmth is necessary for the plant, and so is the moisture. Both are critical.

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You want to see water coming out of the pot. That means that the pot and the soil drains well. You want to water the entire soil, and not just pour water into one spot on the soil, as many gardeners are wont to do. Be sure that the surface of the soil is wet when you are watering your basil before you go away.

If you are very concerned about your basil getting dried out when you are away, you can take it out of direct sunlight and put it near the light when you are away. There are ways to water your indoor basil plants when you are traveling if you are going to be gone for more than five days.