So it’s officially summer! Warm sunny days and the nights are above 50 degrees. Time to move your houseplants outside for a summer vacation! After all, houseplants are from rainforests; they grow with sun, wind and rain. I like moving my plants out every summer because it gives me a chance to wash off the dust that’s gathered on the leaves, control any bugs that I can now spray off with the hose, and give them some great light, fertilizer and growing conditions that make them thrive for a few months. It’s also a mini vacation from watering. I can use the hose and not have to lug watering cans all over while worrying about leaks and spills on the floor and the wood shelves. That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind as you do the houseplant shuffle.
- Plants will dry out a lot quicker outside. It’s hotter, windier and the plants are using their water a lot quicker. If your plants are pot bound, now is the time to repot too. Fresh soil and room to grow will help your plants become healthier and happier and more able to withstand the dark days of winter ahead.
- Watch the sun! We have very intense sun here. Moving shade loving plants to a sunny porch will not work. Lower light plants need to go on the shady side of the house or on a shady porch for the whole summer. Sun loving plants need to be gradually introduced to full sun. Even if they are in a sunny window indoors, the intensity of the unfiltered sun outside will burn your leaves. Even succulents and cactus will get burned. So introduce them gradually to a sunny spot. Start them out in the shade until they acclimate, usually a week or two. Then work them out to partial sun for a week or so: under the dappled light of a tree or where the sun hits them as it rises or sets works great. And then take them out to more full sun if the plant requires that, like citrus, gardenias, or hibiscus. This has to be a gradual process but doing it this way will keep you from burning leaves and stressing the plant.
- Place the plants where the hose will reach. It’s fun to decorate with tropcials, but they need to be in a place where they can get water. It’s easy to lose track and forget plants out by the driveway. And in the heat of summer, a planat drys out fast and won’t last long. A dry plant won’t last too long in the hot sun. So just keep them where you can reach it with the hose.
- Don’t worry about bugs! I know a lot of us live in constant fear that bugs are going to kill our plants but a lot of this is really unnecessary worry. (Spend that time worrying about hail, we’ll cover that one next.) Bugs are not hanging out just waiting to destroy your plants. Bug infestations tend to be a by-product of stressed or weaker plants. Taking your plants outside is actually creating a stronger plant that is much more likely to withstand, defend itself against and be all around less prone to insect attacks. If you do see some bugs, it’s easy to remove them with a spray from the hose or with soap spray. Bringing your plants outside is also a great way to get rid of fungus gnats. Between the wind and a drier soil, they disappear quickly.
- Pay attention to the weather. While plants adore rainwater, nothing makes them greener, shiner or happier, they do not endure hail well. Most of our houseplants have bigger leaves which suffer greatly when hit by hail. Plants like succulents, orchids, agaves hold their leaves for a long time so a damaged leaf will last for years. It’s best to either place them under cover on days there is severe weather predicted. Or get ready to do the hail run when you hear the fist pitter patter of hail hitting.
- Get your plants back inside when the night temperatures start to go down to 50 degrees. As the days shorten in the fall the nights begin to get colder and tropicals do not like it when the nights get cold. Start preparing early so saucers are ready and windowsills cleared. Then bring in your new healthy robust friends.