House Plants – Moving them Outdoors for the Summer

When summer finally gets here we often get the itch to move our indoor plants outdoors.  If you do, don’t forget they will all need to come back in for winter.  All this moving can be confusing to the plant and hard work for you.  Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.

Do all plants need to go outdoors for the summer?  No, but almost all plants will benefit from a few months of fresh air, frequent showers and higher light. A few like Christmas Cactus and Azaleas do need the cycle of summer to fall to trigger buds for future flowers.

 How warm does it need to be before I can move the plants out? Most house plants are tropical or subtropical. Temperatures should remain consistently above 50 day and night. A few such as Camellias and Azaleas can tolerate cooler temperatures and can be moved out as soon as there is no danger of frost.

If the days are nice and warm but the nights are still cool, can’t I move them out?  Not unless you are willing to slide them back into a garage or another protected area in case of frost warnings. Even temperatures in the low 40°’s with a breeze can frost leaves that aren’t used to cool temperatures.

Is there anything I can do to get my plants ready to move out?  Water your plants well a few days prior to moving them out and put them in your sunniest location indoors.  Check to make sure they are in a large enough container and have room to grow.

 Last time I moved out my plants, they got big white patches on the leaves and looked bad.  What happened?  The white patches are sun-scald.  If damage isn’t too severe the leaves may recover but most often they will die.  When you first move a plant accustomed to low light levels outdoors, place it in a shady area for a few days. Gradually move it to increase its light level.

Is that what they call acclimating a plant? Yes, the process of gradually exposing a plant to different conditions (temperature or light levels) is called acclimating and is an important key to successfully moving your plants in or out of the house.

How much sun can my plants take outdoors?  That will vary depending on the variety of plant.  Some such as Hibiscus and Citrus want lots of sun, others prefer what they call high light or filtered sun.  Check what your specific plant needs.

How can I keep my plants from tipping over outdoors? If your plant has become top heavy try re-potting in a larger heavier container. Rocks or broken clay pots in the bottom will add weight and reduce the volume of soil required. The easiest way around this is to tie the plant to a nearby railing, arbor or fence with a piece of soft cloth or old pantyhose.  If you have room dig a hole and set the pot at least ½ way into the soil to help keep it upright.

Can I actually plant my indoor plants outdoors for the summer and dig them back up in the fall?     This is very hard on the plant when you have to dig it out in the fall and re-pot it.  It would be less stressful to leave your plant in a growing pot and place the pot in the ground. Pull up growing pot in late summer, drop into a decorative container and prepare to move your plant back indoors for winter.

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