Guest Author - Lisa Beth Voldeck
When the weather starts to get nice again after a cold winter, I really look forward to moving some of my houseplants outside. Lots of plants really appreciate the extra sun and air they get outside. Giving your houseplants a season outdoors can give them a boost of vigor and bring new life to plants that may have been fading.
The first thing you should consider when deciding which plants you would like to put outside is what kind of temperatures are acceptable for your plants. Most tropical plants are going to have serious problems if the temperatures fall below 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. Tropical plants exposed to temperatures much below this will exhibit symptoms of chilling injury. Symptoms of chilling injury vary among plants, but wilting, rotting, mushiness and discoloration are all evidence of low temperatures. Unfortunately, plants usually do not recover from this type of injury unless the damage was very mild.
For those of us that live in temperate zones, some care must be utilized when making the transition to the outdoors. Plants that have been indoors are not acclimated to sun, wind, and the fluctuating temperatures outside. It is a good idea to ﾓharden offﾔ your plants before leaving them to the elements.
Hardening off is the process of acclimation that plants go through when adjusting to a new environment. When houseplants are brought outside into relatively harsh conditions, they can suffer from immense stress. It is best to introduce your plants to the outdoors gradually so that they donﾒt go into shock, or even die.
In order to harden off your plants, you will want to put them outside for just a few hours at a time, bringing them inside again afterward. Place them in a sheltered area where they are shaded from the sun. Give them a few hours outside every day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them outside and slowly move them into sunnier places. This way, they can slowly adjust to the new light levels and changing temperatures.
Wind can also hurt a houseplant that hasnﾒt been given a chance to adjust. Indoors, plants donﾒt get moved about very often, and arenﾒt toughened up to handle some motion. A sudden, unexpected gust of wind can snap a plant in half if it hasnﾒt been acclimated.
Donﾒt let houseplants sit in saucers if you donﾒt think you will remember to empty them. A few rainy days, and your plants might drown. Itﾒs also a good idea to check the weather before watering your thirsty plants. If Mother Nature is going to do it for you, withhold watering.
Be sure to remember that your plants are outside. It seems like a simple thing, but many people have lost their entire collection by forgetting about their plants for a day. If plants that have not been acclimated get a heavy dose of midday sun, their leaves may all be scorched and the plants will look awfulﾅassuming they even survive. Another thing to watch out for is for the occasional chilly night in the spring and fall.
Remember, your houseplants have slightly different needs than garden plants. Keep in mind the effects that sun, wind and temperature have on your houseplants, and you will have no troubles when summering your houseplants outdoors.