Gardening Houseplants Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Give Your Houseplants a Summer Vacation Outdoors

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Your houseplants will love a summer outdoors!

If possible, put your houseplants outdoors for the summer. Even in the best of cases, our homes never quite equal the conditions that exist in nature and therefore our houseplants are essentially under constant stress. Just as humans adapt better to a stressful or boring desk or factory job when they have an annual vacation, plants grow best when they receive two or three months of summer respite during which they can enjoy better light, higher air humidity and cooling rain that opens pores and removes dust and grime.

Wait for Warmth

The vast majority of indoor plants are tropical plants that are not very tolerant of cold. Even a night temperature of 50˚F (10˚C) can be harmful, especially when the plant is used to indoor nights that were never below 70˚F (21˚C). Not only should you wait until there is no more risk of frost, but for night temperatures stay above 60˚F (15˚C) most of the time before putting them outside for the summer. In many climates, that means mid-June or even later.

Acclimate First

Before placing your vacationing houseplants outdoors for the summer, however, remember they need a period of acclimation before they will be ready to tolerate the sun, otherwise their foliage may burn badly. Put them them first in the shade for about a week and then in part shade for another week. Only after that will they be ready for full sun.

Note that this applies even to plants that may have been getting full sun indoors, like cacti. Window glass filters out ultraviolet rays, so even a plant that has been growing in the sunniest spot in your home risks a bad sunburn if you transition it outdoors too rapidly.

The Right Plant in the Right Place

Of course, just as you do indoors, it’s important to give each plant the conditions it likes when it goes outdoors: shade for ferns and philodendron, part shade for begonias, pileas and phalaenopsis orchids and full sun for cacti, most succulents, bougainvilleas and others.

Houseplants for Dummies.jpgYou can learn more on about the needs of houseplants in my book Houseplants for Dummies.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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