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Taking Your Houseplants Outside

May 27, 2011

When the world warms up and the sun starts shining I often get a lot of questions about taking houseplants outside. Is it safe for the plants? Is it beneficial? Should they be placed in sun or shade? Should they be brought in at night?


Most houseplants benefit from increased light, humidity, and air circulation when moved out doors for a few months. There are a few things to keep in mind, however, so that you don’t do your plant more harm than good.


  • Watch the temperature. It must remain above 50 degrees! This being Alaska, I don’t need to tell you that nights here can get cold, even in the summer. Some tropical plants are hardier than others, but many will get cold damage if exposed to cool weather, even for a little while. You may have to bring the plant in on some nights.

  • Harden it off. You have to do it with your annual flowers, too. The principle is the same. Put the plant in a shady location out of the wind for an hour or so on the first day, then bring it back inside. Over a period of a week or two gradually increase the length of time the plant is left outside.

  • Don’t fry your plant. Most plants do well in the house because they are understory plants, growing on the shady forest floor. While there are certainly exceptions, most of your indoor plants will burn if you put them in a sunny outdoor area, even after hardening them off. Direct morning light or dappled afternoon sun is the most your houseplants can safely handle.

  • Watch the watering. You know how you watered your ficus once a week when it was inside? Check it more frequently once you put it outside. It’s very likely that it will dry out more quickly.

  • Check for hitchhikers. Be aware that when you bring your plants back inside for the winter, they are likely to bring a few little friends with them, including but not limited to fungus gnats, aphids, or spider mites. It’s a good idea to look your plants over very thoroughly once you’ve brought them back inside.


Tropical plants make great patio accents, so don’t hesitate to bring them out to add some flair to your deck. Get creative and turn them into bold centerpieces in larger planters brimming with flowers. Just keep in mind the advice listed above, and both you and your houseplants will be happy spending the summer outside.

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