Transitioning your indoor plants to the outdoors is not easy. Outdoor plants require extra attention and commitment — more so than indoor plants do. We recommend moving your plants outside only if you are confident in your ability to keep an eye on them. If you are, then here's what to look out for and how-to do it.
The short version is: place your plants outside in full shade for at least 2 weeks as they acclimate, then move to the appropriate lighting.
But... there are factors out of your control outdoors that need extra attention:
One of the biggest challenges 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. Get acquainted with how windy your outdoor space gets before making any plant moves.
Sun & Heat
One of the other biggest challenges 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 will most likely be watering every single day, possibly even twice a day, especially in summer. If you miss even just one watering, the sun and heat will dry your plants out, quick. Check your outdoor houseplants daily! No exceptions.
Water & Rain
If your plant is in a planter without drainage, do not put it outside. 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. For plants in planters with drainage, when it does rain, you can skip watering that day.
Leaf Drop When Back Indoors
When you bring your plants back indoors for fall, your plants will receive less light and therefore less food. That means unless you keep plants in a well-lit area like near or on a window, or with a supplemental light, your plants will drop leaves when you bring them back indoors. (Learn more about light requirements here.)
While your plants are outdoors, you may notice a few bites taken out of them. Totally normal. What to watch for are plants that have insects making a home out of your plant. That is, when you bring your plants back in, you may be bringing pests back in as well. Always trim and inspect plants thoroughly before bringing back indoors. You can even spray them with insecticidal soap to be extra cautious.
Bring out your indoor plants outside when nightly temperatures are consistently above about 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius). If temperatures dip below, bring them back inside.
How-To Move Plants Outdoors
Take your houseplants in pots with drainage holes (see: Water & Rain) and place them in full shade outdoors. No direct sunlight to start. Not even for sun-worshipping cacti and succulents. Remember that indoor light is much weaker than outdoor light. Plants that have adjusted to indoor light can burn if placed in outdoor direct sunlight (even if they were in bright direct light inside). Ambient light or shade is best for them to acclimate to outdoors. After about two weeks in the shade, you can move plants to their appropriate light needs.
Besides beautifying your outdoor space, bringing your plants outdoors has its perks:
Faster Plant Growth
“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 + 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. Be sure to give your place a clean sweep.
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