Potted plant water loss from evaporation?

On your garden variety potted plant, say a small ficus tree or whatever, how much of the water it is given gets evaporated from the top of the soil?
If substantial, what are good ways to prevent this?
I travel a lot so I'm trying to come up with ways to reduce watering needs. I've heard of people putting rocks on top of the soil to reduce evaporation. And I was thinking that I could fit a plastic picnic plate to the top of the pot. But then there would be a dark and damp place between this and the soil. Might mold grow here?
What's the best way to reduce evaporation losses?
Thanks for you help.
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On Sat, 15 Nov 2003 16:46:28 -0500, "Bruce W...1"

I have used black sheet plastic covered with bark or pebble mulch for cosmetics. not only in containers, but on the ground, with soaker hoses running under this. i live in a hot dry place. this works as long as you keep the soil moist enough; otherwise you can encourage ant colonies of record-breaking size!
hermine
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On Sat, 15 Nov 2003 23:34:03 GMT, hermine stover

right you're clueless....
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well, i did not even INVENT this method! and, ASTOUNDINGLY enough, the plastic is NOT hermetically sealed to the plant material and to the edges of a container, it is loose laid. Now, if you think that plants have actual mammal-type LUNGS lying about just below the soil line, I guess you might think you are making some sense. But the other thing is...the plants which have been grown like this are simply marvellous, and maintain positive hydrostasis. you and your bud are apparently enjoying a folie deux. hermine ps sometimes i do use a plastic coated paper plate with a seam cut to a hole in the center. so far, no aspyxiation has taken place.
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Absolutely, we both have a severe mental disorder which prevents us from being comfortable with wallowing in our own feces...
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wrote:

herm
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When the Hermaphrodite is in its manic state, it terrorizes all sorts of newsgroups and forums with its incoherent self-obsessed babble. That's what we all are suffering through now.
Can't wait until it gets depressed again and it realizes how many new enemies the tattooed gargoyle has made!!! Will that be the final straw (or should that be bamboo stalker)?

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On Sat, 15 Nov 2003 16:46:28 -0500, "Bruce W...1"

With indoor pot-plants, a much greater cause of problems is overwatering and standing water, which causes root-rot and encourages a variety of fungus diseases.
The popular 'Weeping Fig' (ficus benjamina) prefers "evenly moist" soil, high humidity, and warm temperatures (65-85F). Letting the soil dry out slightly (to a depth of 1/2" or so) between waterings is recommended. This is true of many 'indoor plants' -- they need water, but not sog.
If you are seeking "easy care" solutions to watering chores, there are many commercial and home-brew solutions involving reservoirs and wicks. IMHO, it's easier to just water plants as needed.
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