Moving Houseplants Outside

Time for some fresh air

When the winter ends and the air grows warmer, everyone wants to throw open the windows and doors and let the fresh air in. This is also a time to plant flowers, view the budding trees and greening grass and enjoy the return of the season. Plants that you've been growing inside your house all winter will take their place outside in your garden, but what about the plants that are indoors all year round?

Moving houseplants outside is beneficial to them because they get uninterrupted natural light, air and water, which is what they thrive on. Letting them stay outside all summer long will give them much-needed nutrients for the winter, when they're back in your heated house. Most houseplants will thrive with a summer outdoors, except for plants with fuzzy leaves like African violets.

When to Move Houseplants Out

Technically, it's safe to move houseplants outdoors when the overnight temperature is above 50 F, but some people wait a few weeks until they're sure the weather won't change. A good rule of thumb is to move them out when you would start planting your garden - around the 24th of May. If the weather has been unseasonably cold or unpredictable, wait until you've had at least a week of warm night temperatures, and then give your houseplants the boot out.

Moving Houseplants Outside in the Summer

When you're ready to move houseplants outside, follow these gardening tips to make sure that the move goes smoothly and that both you and your houseplants are happy with their new home.

  • Hold off watering big plants a few days before the move to make them easier to carry. Consider getting a dolly to help you wheel big plants outside.

  • Gradually expose the plants to sunlight by placing them in a partially shady spot. If you place them directly in full sun, the leaves might suffer from sunburn. Once they've adjusted, you can move them to a sunny location.

  • Add two cups of fresh potting mix to each plant, since the mix will decompose during the winter.

  • Since plants grow faster outside, you'll need to adapt your watering and fertilizing schedule. During hot summer days, you'll need to water daily to prevent the plant from drying out. The leaves will also benefit from a shower - this will remove any dust buildup and help the plant's photosynthesis.

  • Trim all foliage that seems to be damaged or dying to give other leaves a chance to grow. Cutting leaves at an angle will encourage more natural growth.

  • Depending on the size of your houseplant and where you've placed it, you might need to provide some extra support by tying it up to a railing or hook. Summer storms can easily blow your potted ficus or palm over, causing broken limbs and branches.
Moving Houseplants Inside in the Winter

When the days shorten and the nights get chilly, you'll have to bring your houseplants back inside. Tropical plants are very susceptible to injury caused by cold temperatures. Here are a few tips to make sure that your plants' move back indoors is successful:

  • Houseplants need time to readjust to the climate of your house. They've enjoyed a vacation filled with warm summer days, refreshing rain showers and gentle breezes. Make sure you bring them indoors before the temperature drops below 50 F and before you turn the heat on in the house.

  • Inspect the entire plant for pests and diseases. You don't want to risk bringing any nasty bugs inside. Wash the leaves and branches gently. Allow the houseplant to dry and then spray the entire plant, soil and all, with insecticidal soap or a mixture of soapy dish detergent and water. Repeat this procedure and bring your plants indoors a few days later.

  • Check the soil and drainage holes to make sure no insects have crawled into your pots. This is especially important for plants that have been sitting directly on the ground.

  • Depending on how much space you have indoors, it is ideal to quarantine your houseplants for a few weeks when bringing them back inside. Keeping plants in a separate room from any other plants will prevent any stowaway insects and disease from infecting any of your other indoor plants.