Like us, houseplants can benefit from time outside, too. The best time to move your houseplants outdoors is during the summer growing season when conditions are just right. But before you do so, there are a few things to consider. Below are our top tips for transferring houseplants from indoors to outside.
Tip 1: Wait for temperatures to warm up.
Most common houseplants are native to warm tropical or arid environments. To avoid potential cold damage or worse, wait until the temperature outside is consistently above 60–65 degrees Fahrenheit (15–18 degrees Celsius) before moving any plants. Some plants may tolerate temperatures as low as 50°F, but waiting until it warms up a bit will help you avoid any accidents if temperatures dip drastically at night. If days are warm but evenings are cool, you can help plants get acclimated by bringing them outside for a few hours each day leading up to the transition.
Tip 2: Keep windy days in mind.
One of the biggest challenges outdoors is the wind, especially on rooftops and balconies, where wind can knock plants right over, dry plants out, or can even chill them if the weather is cooler at night. Get acquainted with how windy your outdoor space gets before making any plant moves. If it’s super windy, you might only want to move larger, mature plants outside that will not blow over, and keep smaller, tabletop plants indoors.
Tip 3: Avoid harsh direct sun.
One of the other biggest challenges outdoors is the sun and heat on those warm summer days. In cities, bricks and concrete absorb and radiate heat exceptionally well, and your plants could end up cooked like egg. The heat will also dry out your plants' potting mix much faster than when they are indoors! You might find yourself watering your houseplants every single day when they’re outside, possibly even twice a day, especially in midsummer.
To avoid your plants from frying in the summer sun, place them in full shade when you first move them outdoors. Avoid right sunlight to start—even for sun-worshipping cacti and succulents. Remember that indoor light is much weaker than outdoor light: The sun’s rays outside can be twice as intense or more than the sun’s rays indoors. Plants that have adjusted to direct light indoors can burn if placed in direct sunlight outdoors. Ambient light or shade is best for houseplants to acclimate to the outdoors. After about two weeks in the shade, you can move plants more into the sunlight. Check your outdoor houseplants daily during this transition period.
Tip 4: Opt for planters with drainage holes, or place them in a covered space.
If your plant is in a planter without a physical drainage hole, do not put it outside unless it will be completely covered from the elements. Why? Accumulating rain can be trouble for any plant in a non-draining pot, as rain can accumulate in the non-draining planter quickly and lead to overwatering and potentially root rot.
Check your outside houseplants’ potting mix daily, and water thoroughly when dry. With the increased light and heat, they will most likely dry out quicker than they did inside. For plants in planters with drainage, when it does rain, you can skip watering that day.
Tip 5: Check weekly for plant pests.
While your plants are outdoors, you may notice a few bites taken out of them. Totally normal. What to watch out for are insects making a home out of your plant. And when you bring your plants back inside come fall, you want to make sure you’re not bringing any pests in as well. Trim and inspect plants thoroughly throughout the summer and before bringing them back inside. You can even spray them with insecticidal soap regularly to be extra cautious. Learn more about common plant pests here.
Tip 6: Expect some leaf loss come fall.
When you bring your plants back indoors come fall, your plants will receive less light and therefore less food. That means unless you keep plants in an area that receives a ton of natural light, like in front of a window, or add supplemental lighting, your plants will drop leaves when you bring them back indoors. This shouldn’t deter you from bringing them outside for the summer, however, because even plants kept inside can lose leaves when the days shorten.
Now that you know what to keep in mind before moving plants outdoors, you might be wondering if it’s worth the trouble! Besides beautifying your outdoor space, bringing your plants outside has its benefits:
“The darkest shade outdoors is still brighter than a bright window indoors” is not just a horticultural adage. Make it your mantra for when you move your plants outdoors. Light is food for plants. The more light you give them, the more food they are receiving and the faster they will grow. If you want your Monstera to be monstrous or desire an even bigger Fiddle Leaf Fig, you will want to put these plants outside for the summertime. You should see growth in a relatively quick period of time.
Stimulate Fill-In On Sparse Plants
If you have a plant that looks sparse, putting it outdoors will help to activate dormant lateral buds in some plants—AKA your plant will become fuller in shape. Combine that with light pruning, and you’ll have a super bushy plant by summer’s end.
Vivid Colors and Flowering
For plants that produce pigments, the color will be enhanced and vibrant and leaves will be larger than if left indoors. Some plants like cacti may even start to flower.
Free Up Space
Putting plants outside frees up space inside. With all that space, you can see what new plants you want to add to your plant collection!
Words By The Sill
Empowering all people to be plant people—a collection of articles from The Sill’s team of plant experts across a variety of plant care topics to inspire confidence in the next generation of plant parents. Welcome to Plant Parenthood™.