Outdoor Space – Taking Plants In And Out With The Seasons
Let's be honest: if given the option between inside and outside, our houseplants would choose to be outside. That's where they're from, after all. Outside, plants have access to more light, cleaner water, constant airflow, and humidity. They also have a whole food chain above them that naturally protects against pest outbreaks.
That said, we love having plants inside! Many plants thrive indoors given the right conditions, and we plant lovers have perfected the ways of providing for plants indoors so we can reap the psychological, aesthetic, and air-purifying benefits of our leafy friends year-round.
If you do have outdoor space, however, there is simply no better cure-all for plant ailments, issues, and growth slowdown than sticking a plant outside.
When Can My Plants Be Outside?
Typically, the plants we keep indoors are from tropical or arid climates. There, winters are mild. You'll want to ensure your plants are outside in temperatures they can handle. In spring, you can bring plants outside once nighttime temps solidly reach 55°F. Likewise, in fall, bring any tropical or arid plants inside when nighttime temps drop to around 50°F.
Why Bring Plants Outside?
There are countless reasons why bringing plants outside for the warm season can benefit a plant. Here are just a few:
- Summer is the growing season for most plants. When that season occurs indoors, conditions often require a plant to restrict growth, become leggy, or start to lean. Even lighting outdoors typically leads to fuller, bushier, and more growth in summertime.
- Plants that thrive in higher light conditions can get the same amount of energy in light shade outdoors as they do in full sun indoors.
- Rain naturally takes the chore of watering off your hands – and it cleans leaves in the process.
- Wind regulates and reduces water stagnation in pots outdoors. The chance of root rot drops dramatically for plants kept outdoors.
- Plants with pests will be introduced to wind, rain, and pest predators outdoors, which could quickly bring an infestation under control.
- Plants that often don't flower inside due to a lack of light, like Bird of Paradise or many cacti, could flower beautifully in the heat and sun outside.
Bringing Plants Out For The Summer
When placing plants outside, it's important to consider the difference in lighting conditions inside and outside. What we call "direct light" inside isn't actually direct light, but direct light filtered through a window, dust, and screen. It's been filtered and diffused, and therefore is very different from direct light outdoors.
Many plants kept inside, though they can eventually adjust to the direct light of the sun, will often burn if exposed to it after being kept indoors. To keep this from happening, provide generous light shade to most of your arid plants and nearly all tropicals. If you're curious about just how much light your particular plant can handle, look up outdoor care for your plant. Many people live in regions where they can keep tropical and arid plants outside year-round. Their knowledge should help you out!
In summertime, with high heat and steady airflow, plants kept outdoors generally dry out faster than when kept indoors. Don't count on rain for all your watering. Keep an eye on soil moisture and adjust your watering schedule as needed. For more info about when to water, check out this Plant Read.
Plants that are in pots without drainage can easily overflow and rot if rain is intense. Consider keeping plants in pots without drainage indoors year-round.
Keeping plants outside means exposing them to Mother Nature. Keep an eye on the forecast. When intense rainstorms or wind comes through, consider top-heavy plants or arid plants that were recently watered. Top-heavy plants could tip and become damaged. And though the chances of rot are much lower in plants kept outside, it's often the safest bet to bring in arid plants with wet soil so they don't get overwatered.
In the event of any freak freezes or temperature drops below 45°F, bring all tropical and arid plants inside.
Bringing Plants In For The Winter
Being outside, your plants have been spoiled all summer. Do your best to make the transition between the light of outside and the dim of inside as easy as possible on your plants. Place them in higher light locations inside before moving them to their more permanent indoor spot. Reconsult the recommended indoor light conditions for your plants before choosing that spot.
If you find plants are struggling through the winter due to a lack of light, consider purchasing a grow light.
Plants will dry out slower indoors, due to reduced airflow, temperature, and light. Establish a new watering schedule that follows your plants' needs related to soil moisture. Again, more info on watering can be found here.
Many of our favorite tropical plants thrive in humid conditions. Inside during the winter, however, our homes are notably dry. Consider purchasing a humidifier for your tropical beauties to reduce leaf crisping and pest proliferation.
Airflow is a vital yet under-discussed requirement of plants kept indoors. Keep the air moving through the winter with the help of fans near year plants and overhead. Stagnant air leads to stagnant water, which could quickly rot in both tropical and arid plants.
Any time we bring plants that were kept outside into our homes, there is the chance we bring parts of the outside ecosystem inside with them. Throughout the winter, work a regular pest check into your watering schedule. For more info on pest identification and management, check out this Plant Read.
Plants Are Outside Pets
While we care for our beloved plants, it's important to keep in mind where each of them came from. A low-lying tropical rainforest or a mountainous, desolate desert. These divergent ecosystems have very little in common, but what they do have in common counts – they're both outside.