Can I take my indoor plant outside?

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I didn’t know this was even a thing until last summer when I was hit with a plethora of YouTube videos in my subscriptions feed about putting house plants outside.

I mean, why?

It does look pretty cool. Check out this video from Planterina. Her plants look incredible outside. But then again, she’s a landscape designer with a really cool verandah-thing and loads of massive plants.

I always kind of assumed it’d be too cold to put house plants outside in the UK, but she lives in New York state, so whilst it’s hotter there, it’s not a million miles away climate-wise. It’s not exactly tropical.

Making the shift easier

I’m afraid you can’t just kick all your plants outside and hope for the best. Unless you can put them under a protective awning or something, your plants will need to build up a tolerance to the sun.

This is where the whole thing falls apart for me.

Yep, right at the beginning.

I don’t have the time (or inclination, which is really the issue) to haul my plants outside and then back in every day for a couple of weeks, in the hope that they’ll eventually be ok.

But if you want outside-inside plants, then those are the steps you’ll need to make to stave off any transport shock or burning.

Unless you can come up with a way to shade them. Planterina has a covered deck all around her house, which offers some protection, but I have a west-facing, exposed back garden.

My plants are going crispy just thinking about it.

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Temperature

GENERALLY, you’ll be ok putting your house plants outside between May and September (that’s summer in the northern hemisphere – for all you southern hemisphere people, that’s October-February I think).

It’s advised that you wait for at least a couple of weeks after the last significant frost.

If the night time temperatures fall below 10 degrees C, bring your plants inside.

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Watering

Your plants will need a LOT more water when they’re outside.

If you live somewhere rainy, then you’ll be fine. Lucky, even. If you don’t, you may need to water your outside house plants every other day. Every day even.

Why?

Well, it’s less humid than it is indoors, so the water evaporates more quickly.

There are also influences such as wind that will affect how quickly plants dry out.

It’s also hotter outside. Well not necessarily hotter, but there’s no walls and glass to protect plants from the sun. So when it is hot, the soil dries out quickly.

It may be worthwhile investing in a hose.

I personally think it’s a bit wasteful to put plants outside when I know they’ll be consuming more resources. I already have thirsty plants like hostas and hydrangeas outside, so I don’t really want to add to the burden.

If you have a lot of rainfall, or a natural spring or something, then, by all means, go for it. But if you live somewhere where water is a scarce resource, leave your plants inside.

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Pests

There are definitely more pests outside than there are inside, so be extremely vigilant about checking your plants when you bring them indoors.

A hose can be useful here – you can blast those critters of the leaves.

This isn’t a dealbreaker.

Sure, there are a load of sapsucking pests out there, but there are also a LOT of bugs that will love to eat them. By encouraging bugs like ladybirds and lacewings into your garden you’re helping the local ecosystem.

Insects are super important to birds, hedgehogs, and even animals like badgers and foxes.

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Wind

It’s windy outside. It’s not windy inside.

If it’s really windy, then bring your plants inside. It can physically damage them, and it can really dry them out (think about how quickly clothes dry on the line on a windy day).

Again, if you have a bit of protection by for your plants, you might be fine, but if they’re exposed, haul ’em in.

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Humidity

I always assumed that it was more humid inside than outside, but apparently the answer isn’t as easy as that. I googled it. It, you know varies. Depending on air con, and time of day, and don’t even get me started on relative humidity (seriously, don’t. I don’t really understand it).

But generally yeah, your house is more humid than your garden.

What I can tell you is that it’s impossible to control the humidity outside.

(Unless you’re an evil overlord that has the technology to control the climate. In which case go right ahead).

So if you have plants that require high humidity and you don’t want them to crisp up and die, keep on the safe side and leave them where they are.

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When to take them out/bring them in

Take them outside when the night time temperature is above 10 degrees C (50 F).

Bring them in when it’s:

  • too hot
  • too cold
  • too windy
  • too dry
  • threatening to be frosty in the next month or so

Seriously, why do people do this (she says, knowing full well she’s going to give it a go at some point)?

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Sunburn

I’ve already touched on this, but it’s important.

You know how plants like bright, indirect light?

The ‘indirect’ bit usually comes from glass (preferably textured in a south/west-facing window), or a sheer curtain. So if your plants are outside in direct light, er, they might not like it very much.

And shrivel up and die.

You see, a lot of house plants come from the rainforest, or tropical regions, where the light is dappled, rather than direct.

Even traditional desert plants, like cacti and succulents, struggle in the direct sun if they’re not acclimatised properly.

If you want to have inside plants outside, you have to do a lot of legwork.

Whether that takes the form of hauling them back inside in the brightest part of the day every day for a fortnight or building them a porch is entirely up to you.

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I feel like I’m trying to talk you out of taking your plants outside, and that’s honestly not my intention.

It’s just that I used to assume taking my plants outside would be a lovely treat for them. Actually, it would be like if someone dumped you in the desert with no sunscreen or water.

You certainly wouldn’t have fun, and may even die of exposure. It’s the same for your plants.

And on that cheery note, I’ll end the post. Have a great day, and remember to dust your plants.

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