Transitioning your indoor plants to the outdoors is not easy. Outdoor plants require extra attention and commitment—much more so than indoor plants do. We strongly recommend you only do so if you are confident in your abilities to keep your plants alive. If you are, then here's what to look out for and how-to do it.
The short version is: place all plants out in full shade for 2 weeks, then move to 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 and can even chill them if the weather is cooler.
Sun & Heat
One of the other biggest challenges is the sun and heat on 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 much faster than when they are indoors. You will 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 plants 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 will accumulate in the non-draining planter and drown the plants. When it does rain though, you can skip watering that day.
Leaf Drop When Bringing Back Indoors
When you bring your plants back indoors for fall and winter months, 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 and even spray with insecticidal soap before bringing indoors. Learn more about common plant pests here.
Bring out your indoor plants outside when nightly temperatures are consistently above 55. If temperatures dip below 55, bring them back inside.
How-To Move Plants Indoors
Take all the plants in pots with drainage holes (see: Water & Rain) and place them in full shade outdoors. No. Direct. Sunlight. Not even for sun-worshipping cacti and succulents. Indoor light is much weaker than outdoor light. Plants will burn if placed in outdoor direct sunlight. Ambient light or shade is best for them to acclimate outside.
After two weeks in the shade, you can move plants to their appropriate light needs. What was high light indoors will be in full sun outdoors. That means plants like succulents, cacti, and that fiddle leaf fig or bird of paradise. Medium or low light plants should stay in full shade or get part sun outdoors. If your plant can handle a few hours of sun indoors, like Monsteras or Philodendrons, then it can handle a few hours of sun outdoors. It should still be in the shade for the most part. Low light plants like calatheas and certain ferns should remain in full shade. They only get ambient light and shade outdoors.
Besides beautifying your outdoor space, bringing your plants outdoors has 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. You should see growth in a relatively quick period of time. Just be sure to increase fertilizer with growth rate. For some plants, you could be fertilizing up to once every two weeks. Get the 101 on fertilizer here.
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 fill-in. Combined with a prune, 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.