How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors

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Moving indoor plants to an outdoor environment takes care and attention; otherwise, you risk causing them stress. Here are strategies to make the transition process smooth, successful, and beneficial.

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When springtime comes, and the weather starts to warm, you’re itching to get outside — and your indoor plants feel the same way!

Almost all varieties will benefit from some sunlight and outdoor air exposure, but starting the transition process too early or going too quickly will cause more harm in the long run. Rushing the process will put plants in shock and may even kill them.

How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors

Here’s how to successfully transition indoor plants to the great outdoors this year.

Why Move Indoor Plants Outside?

Much as your houseplants may like the conditions in your home, most will benefit from some time in the elements. The ample sunlight, fresh air, and natural rainwater can perk them up and trigger the end of winter dormancy for better long-term growth.

Plant care also tends to be cheaper when you don’t have to run humidifiers or keep grow lights on in your home.

How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors
Can All Plants Go Outside?

Not all indoor plants can handle outdoor exposure — at least not in full sun. For example, many tropical plants evolved to grow in heavy shade conditions, and too much light exposure will burn the leaves and stunt their growth.

Others are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment and will find the transition stressful. After all, the growing conditions remain the same for houseplants day in and day out. Dealing with fluctuations is an adjustment.

How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors

Houseplants that tend to do best outdoors typically have the following characteristics:

When to Move Houseplants Outdoors

It’s a tricky decision to determine when to bring indoor plants to your backyard. Make the transition too soon, and chilly temperatures will stun them. But, wait too long, and the sun may be too intense for their sensitive leaves to handle.

The precise time of year it’s best to bring plants outdoors depends on your location and unique growing zone.

How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors

Across much of the northern hemisphere, the right season is roughly early July through late August. Those in more temperate climates can get away with bringing their plants outdoors in March and April.

Generally, it’s best to go by outdoor temperature. Wait until nighttime temperatures remain consistently above 55 degrees F (13 degrees C) for an easier transition.

How to Transition Houseplants Outdoors

Adapting houseplants to your yard isn’t as simple as putting them outside once the weather warms. Instead, you’ll need to go through a slower transition process to give them the best chance of success. Here are the six steps to follow:

1. Start with Limited Outdoor Exposure

Plants do best when exposed outdoors slowly. Start by bringing them outside for a few hours a day, gradually expanding the time over two weeks until you eventually leave them outdoors overnight.

How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors
2. Stay in the Shade (at First)

Outdoor light is extreme, even for plants used to sunny windowsills. Ease the transition to natural light by protecting them from the full force of the sun. For example, put potted plants in a sunny spot in the morning and move them into the shade by midafternoon. After a few weeks, they should be able to handle full sunlight again.

You can also leave pots under leafy trees for some dappled light exposure that will change in intensity over the day.

3. Protect from the Wind

One of the fastest ways to damage indoor plants is by exposing them to sudden gusts of wind. Those that have been coddled their whole lives won’t have the natural resistance to withstand it, and they may experience snapped stems. It’s best to shield plants from strong winds for the first few weeks to give them time to harden.

How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors
4. Keep Out of Heavy Rain

While light rain is one of the best things a potted plant can experience, too much too fast can saturate pots, cause the soil to flood out, and rot the roots. Likewise, the pelting of large drops can damage fragile leaves and stems.

How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors

Ensure pots have proper drainage before being placed outdoors, and move them to a protected area when extreme weather is in the forecast—at least for the first few weeks.

5. Consider Watering and Fertilizing More Often

Heat, wind, and other changes in their growing conditions put strain on potted plants, which can make them become heavier feeders than when raised indoors. Likewise, weather extremes can dry out soil before roots have a chance to draw in moisture.

That’s why it’s best to plan on increasing your watering and fertilizing frequency over the summer months spent outside. Make sure you touch the soil often to check whether it’s dry so you better know when to rehydrate.

How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors
6. Watch Out for Insect Damage

Insects love to seize the opportunity to munch on plants that were previously protected indoors. Check your potted plants regularly for aphids, flea beetles, and other signs of infestation that are getting out of control.

Signs an Indoor Plant is Stressed Outside

You’ll know right away if your houseplant isn’t acclimating well to living outside. Here are common signs of stress:

How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors
How to Move Plants Back Indoors

As the weather starts to cool again, you’ll need to transition your houseplants back indoors. Follow the same steps, but in reverse. Start by placing the plants in the shade for part of the day and then bringing them inside for a few hours at a time, working to gradually increase the time over a week or two. This helps the plants readjust to living with less intense lighting.

How to Adapt Your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors

Note: Make sure you start the process several weeks before nighttime temperatures are predicted to drop below 55 degrees F (13 degrees C), so you don’t accidentally cause damage.