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How to Transition Houseplants Outdoors

Moving houseplants outside

By James S. MastalerPublished 18 days ago 4 min read
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Moving houseplants outside during summer is a fantastic way to unlock their full potential. After all, they are originally outdoor plants and will benefit from spending a few months in the sun and fresh air. But before you rush to move your pots to the garden or balcony, remember that they will need help with this transition.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to prepare houseplants for spending summer outside.

What Are the Benefits of Moving Houseplants Outside?

Taking potted plants from the comfort of your home and putting them outdoors may seem counterintuitive at first. It does, however, have several benefits.

More Light: Light is the main factor that triggers plant growth. Even plants that require low light grow better when exposed to some natural sunlight. Increased light levels will also encourage blooming in plants such as Hoyas, which are notoriously difficult to get flowering indoors.

Access to Rainwater: This will benefit plants sensitive to the salts and chemicals found in tap water, such as Calatheas, Dracaena, and carnivorous plants. Rainwater also contains essential micro and macro-nutrients. Plus, it will wash away dust off the leaves and allow plants to photosynthesize better.

Improved Airflow: In the wild, plants always move with the wind. This helps strengthen their stems and improve their ability to take up nutrients. It will also reduce the risk of fungal diseases and mold.

Increased Humidity: The air in our homes can become dry during the summer, especially with the AC on. This can cause crispy leaf edges and even issues with pests like spider mites. Outside, the humidity boost will improve foliage health, promote lush growth, and remove the need to mist your plants.

How to Acclimate Plants From Inside to Outside

All houseplants need to be acclimatized to outdoor conditions before leaving them outside. This gradual process allows them to get used to the increased light levels, the wind, and changes in temperature and humidity. Without it, your plants will go into shock and potentially wilt and die.

Here are a few tips on how to prepare them for this transition.

Pick a Sheltered Spot: The first things your houseplants will struggle to adjust to are intense sunlight and strong winds. During the acclimation process, find a place that’s protected from drafts and the afternoon sun. A north or east-facing wall that gets dappled shade would be ideal.

Consider Sunlight Exposure: Plants can develop sunburn just as easily as humans. Even houseplants living in a south-facing window indoors can get badly burnt if you suddenly put them outside in the sun. Sunburn symptoms include wilting, scorched leaf edges, and leaf discoloration.

The best way to acclimate plants to the sun is to take them out in the morning or late afternoon when the sun is less intense. You can also take them out on a partly cloudy day, to reduce the risk of leaf scorch.

Please note that not all houseplants can acclimatize to full sun. Some calathea, velvet-leaf Anthuriums, Alocasias, Syngoniums, Scindapusus, Aglaonema and other low-light plants are best kept in full or dappled shade.

Gradually Increase Time Spent Outdoors: Start by putting your plants outside in a sheltered spot for two hours, then bring them back inside. Next day, leave them out for an extra hour, then continue to increase that time until they spend a whole day outdoors.

Wait Until Nighttime Temperatures Are Above 59°F: Most houseplants are native to tropical and subtropical regions and are not used to cooler climates. Some may tolerate temperatures as low as 50°F for a day or two, but prolonged exposure will stunt their growth.

Use a max/min thermometer to monitor nighttime temperatures outdoors for at least a week. Once they are consistently above 59°F, you can safely leave your plants outside overnight.

Provide Some Protection: Strong winds and animals can knock down top-heavy plants, so it’s worth adding supports. Use canes to keep them upright, or secure them to a fence with hooks and twine. Placing pots inside a decorative cache pot will also provide extra stability. If your plants are in small pots, consider keeping them on a table or workbench to keep them safe from slugs, snails, and pill bugs.

Caring for Houseplants Outdoors

Houseplants will need more care and attention while living outside, where they’re more exposed to the elements and a different variety of pests than you might see indoors.

Consistent watering should be the first thing on your to-do list. Due to the heat and the wind, the soil in the pots may dry out quicker. Check them regularly, and give your plants a good soak if the top inch feels dry to the touch.

The increase in light and humidity will probably trigger faster growth, which means your plants will need more regular feeding. Use a balanced organic fertilizer to sustain that growth spurt.

Also, remember to still check for pests at least once a week. Slugs, aphids, and caterpillars may not be an issue indoors, but they can decimate outdoor plants in no time.

Which Plants Should You Not Move Outside?

Not all houseplants will respond well to a sudden change in their environment.

Ficus plants have a well-earned reputation for shedding leaves at the slightest sign of stress, so taking them outside is not worth the risk.

If you have plants that are flowering or due to bloom soon, keep them inside. Otherwise, the fluctuations in growing conditions can shock them, and they may drop their flowers and buds.

Lastly, some houseplants have specific temperature and humidity requirements and may not cope with your local climate. Ferns and orchids may thrive outdoors in Florida, but will likely struggle in the arid summers of Nevada. In such cases, it’s best to keep them inside.

CONCLUSION

Acclimating your houseplants to the outdoors can take between 7 and 14 days, depending on the weather and your local climate. But once they get used to it, you can leave them outside until mid fall, or until nighttime temperatures once more drop below 59°F.

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