The original domain of trees and plants is not indoors of course, though we have been keeping them inside our homes and other indoor spaces for a very long time now – domesticating them, so to speak, rather like we have with dogs and cats. So, is it fine to put indoor plants outside? The answer is not cut and dried. Would you suddenly put your pampered pet pooch out in the wild and expect them to adapt without a hitch? It could be catastrophic. The same is true with houseplants. Many can certainly survive outdoors, if the transition is carefully executed. Some indoor plants cannot live outside. For many though, it is possible to place them al fresco now especially if they’re moving out for the long haul
SHOULD YOU PUT INDOOR PLANTS OUTSIDE?
Most indoor plants can tolerate (indirect) sunshine and fresh air for a spell, but you can’t simply kick them out of the house one day without warning, not your babies! If you do that, it’s quite likely that they might go into shock, just like a teenager would. Your plants don’t have legs to take them to a friend’s house until things cool off. House plants which have lived a lavish life of indoor indulgence cannot handle a sudden radical change in their immediate environment. If you place them outside without making the right prerequisite provisions for the pilgrimage, they may die.
WHY WOULD YOU TAKE YOUR HOUSEPLANTS OUTDOORS?
Perhaps you ran out of space in your house or apartment, or you’ve recently moved and have a balcony or courtyard that requires greening. Whatever the reason, taking your plants for a vacation or sabbatical or permanent move to an outside location should be undertaken with the plant’s best interests at heart. Like any decent journey, it needs some proper planning. It’s true though, in the same way as an adventure in the great outdoors will do humans the world of good – an opportunity to spread out, slow down and reset – many houseplants will relish in a safari now and again. They’ll benefit greatly from a carefully curated blend of sunshine, rain and fresh air.
WHEN SHOULD YOU PUT INDOOR PLANTS OUTSIDE?
If you’ve never done it before, you’ll probably be a bit nervous on your first time. Perhaps you live somewhere where the seasons are more extreme and moving your plants inside/outside with the seasons is a requirement (especially for those cold winters). There’s a lot to think about – will your precious pot plant get too much direct sun? Might it get too cold at night? What if there’s a downpour and it drowns? These are legitimate concerns, and it’s good that your natural tendency to nurture is coming through. In fact, it is these very matters which do matter for your plant’s vegetable matter. The concept you need to be most mindful of is adaptation. Your mantra should be transition. The simple answer with regard to the when is basically: mid-late Spring. What you want to avoid is moving a warm and happy plant all of a sudden into a cold and frosty spot. It won’t cope. You need to avoid the extreme simmer heat or winter cool as the last thing you need is your plants going into shock.
HOW SHOULD YOU ADJUST INDOOR PLANTS TO AN OUTDOOR ENVIRONMENT?
Be like the turtle, not the hare. Slow and steady wins this race (it’s not a race). Take it easy and your beloved botanicals won’t stress out. Start off with some low-key visitations. A little morning excursion to the back deck. Leave them there for a few hours, in the shade or indirect moderate sunlight; give them some water. Let them become used to the different qualities of light, air, humidity and temperature outside, by doing this for a week or so. Do they seem to be enjoying these wee sojourns outdoors? If so, they’re ready to try living outside for a while. Choose a choice spot where your favourite flora will not get hammered by direct sun. This is the golden rule. A bit of morning sun is often ok, but steer clear of direct sunshine, especially early on in the transition - after having come from a quiet, shady corner inside – it won’t be at all happy. You might consider bringing your houseplant inside the house at night at this stage, if you get quite cold nights in your part of the world. Then gradually start leaving it out overnight once, twice a week, then… you get the picture. You can do the same thing with direct light. Give it a spoonful of sunshine for an hour or two every day, ensuring it’s in the shade the rest of the time. In time, the plant will adapt; this may take several weeks. You need to monitor it really closely throughout this transitioning.
WATERING AND FERTILISING.
It’s possible that your indoor plant will crave more water when you initially put it outside. This is typical. Don’t fall into the trap of overwatering it though. During its transit from indoor to outdoor, your houseplant will probably use up more energy than usual, so it’s a good time to give it a decent dose of appropriate fertiliser.
Since it’s been living indoors with you, your houseplant has probably not had to deal with any pesky bugs. Well, it’s a different ball-game once you step outside. Out here there could be critters who want to bite your buddy. If so, you’ll need to deal with it, lest your darling be devoured. Even though our neem oil is not a registered pesticide, many of our customers use it to help manage plant pests.
You want to be keeping close eye on your indoor, now outdoor houseplant. Checking it often. The weather, which wasn’t really a factor before when it lived inside, is now a significant element in its life. Strong winds can cause damage or knock it over. Lots of rain can water-log it. You’ll need to tend to it accordingly.
MOVING BACK INSIDE
Apart from some hardy varieties, and depending on your geography, you’ll probably want to move houseplants back indoors, come winter. You’ll have to adjust them to life inside, in reverse – i.e. gradually. Otherwise, they’ll get frazzled and might freak out. At this stage you want to give the plant a really good day spa session – check the soil, administer as required: water, food, a good trim – and make sure you aren’t going to unwittingly smuggle any contraband pests into the house, which are hiding out somewhere on the plant or pot.
DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT
There are some types of plants which just won’t deal with life on the outside, once they’ve experienced the luxury of existence inside your abode. These will vary depending on where you live and what the climate is like outside. While in Melbourne its almost impossible to have a fiddle thriving outside all year round, in more temperate climates they’re going to thrive. Check with an expert if you’re not sure about your houseplants.
Clearly, moving plants from inside to out and back again is quite a labour-intensive exercise. You don’t want to be doing this with lots of house plants or with large heavy ones. During the transition periods the houseplants are high maintenance. If they are thriving and happy inside, and a delight to be beheld there, then probably let them be? For a contented indoor plant it’s definitely not necessary, but it may well enjoy the odd stint of R&R (rain & rays) outside. If you’re comfortable doing it, and can see the value in it, why not give your houseplants an occasional extramural experience and expand their little green horizons.