Give your houseplants a summer vacation

May 13, 2009 lawanda Newspaper Columns

      Giving your houseplants a summer vacation outdoors will revitalize them with better air circulation, increased light and more humidity.  Remember though, that the plants aren’t used to cool night time temperatures, hot sun and wind.  So go easy and gradual.

      Wait until there is no chance of frost, and night time temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees. 

      Don’t just place them outdoors in the hot sun the first day.  Even though they may have been sitting indoors in front of a south window, the sun’s strength outdoors is much more intense and can burn the leaves. 

      For the first few days, place the plants in a shady area out of the wind and bring them back in at night.  Then, leave them out all night, still in the shady spot.  If they are plants that do best in the shade, leave them there all summer.  If they are sun-lovers, move them to a partly shady spot for a few days and then gradually move them into full sun for longer periods each day. 

      If you see white or brown patches on the leaves, wilting foliage or burned leaf edges, you moved too fast.  If you notice it soon enough, the burned plant may be set back a bit but won’t die if you move it back to the shade immediately and start the process over more slowly. 

      The plants will need much more water outdoors than they did inside due to evaporation from the sun and wind.  They may need to be watered every day.   Stick your finger into the soil about an inch.  If it is dry, water the plant.

      Be on the lookout for pest infestations.  Aphids and spider mites are most common.  They can be sprayed off with a hose or rinsed under a faucet. 

      Spring and early summer are good times to repot plants, so before you move them outdoors, check to see if they need repotting.  If you water the plant and it runs right through, you see roots coming out the drainage hole, or the top of the soil is white and crusty, it’s time to repot.

      If you pull the plant out of the pot and see little soil and a lot of roots, either move to a bigger pot size, or use a sharp knife to cut chunks of the tangled roots off on all four sides and the bottom of the plant before repotting with fresh soil.

      When you bring the plants back inside in fall, which you should do when temperatures drop to 50 degrees at night, the moving process goes much faster.  Still, when they get indoors it is best to place them next to an open window for awhile until they adjust to the indoor temperatures and humidity. 

      Before you bring them back indoors, rinse the plants to remove any pests or pollen that have settled on them. 

      There are some plants that should stay indoors.  These include African violet, weeping fig, philodendron and peace lily.


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