Acclimating your Indoor Plants to the Outdoors

Acclimating is the process of adjusting to a new environment over some time. Sound familiar? Remember getting used to being stuck indoors and adapting to limited resources, or better yet, relearning how to socialize and read facial expressions after being isolated from society longer than expected?

If you decide to move your indoor plants outside for the summer, then some of them may need a period of adjusting (acclimation) to their new environment, and where you intend on placing them will determine the process. Sun-loving plants and low-light plants have different acclimating methods. Let's explore both! If you are a visual learner then watch our video on bringing your plants outdoors!

Full Sun-Loving Plants and Flowering Plants

Houseplants that naturally bask in the sunlight outdoors require very bright indoor light when inside. Although they may have been receiving the maximum amount of light in your living room, it is still a fraction of what they will be exposed to outdoors in full sun! Flowering plants like mandevilla, jasmine, ixora, citrus, oleander and other sun-loving plants need to be acclimated until their foliage can harden (leaf cells thicken). Hardening off is a term mainly used for toughening up tender seedlings. Still, since our houseplants have been indoors and removed from all outdoor environmental exposures for months, they need to be acclimated before being placed in full sunlight.

TIP – Make sure the nighttime temperatures are over 50°F before bringing your plants outside.

Days 1 & 2

Start by placing your plants in the full shade outside. They can be placed on a porch, or patio, under a trellis, tree, or in the shadow of a building. They mustn't receive any direct sun on the first day. This is a big day for your sun-loving houseplants. They are feeling the breeze, learning how to open and close their stomata, allowing them to hold on to and release moisture. Signals are being sent to their roots, triggering them to grow to help anchor them against winds and storms. Their leaves are getting closer to that glowing gaseous orb in the sky, reminding them that it's time to kick cell hardening into high gear! Water your plants and continue to monitor the soil. The outdoor heat, wind, and humidity will determine how often they need to be watered!

Plants can acclimate quickly, even after a few days, but keep your sun-loving plants in the shade for 2 days to be safe and prevent excess leaf damage.

TIP – when you bring your indoor plants outside for the summer, fertilize them more often as they use resources in the soil much faster than inside.

Day 3 & 4

Now it's time to start giving them a sunlight skinny dip! The best time of day to give your plants their first exposure to the sun's direct rays in the morning. The light is less intense, allowing the leaves to harden off with less stress. Try leaving them for 2-3 hours, and periodically check for leaf scorch. If you see many leaves losing color, set the plant back into the shade. On day 4, repeat this process, but leave the plants for 3-5 hours.

TIP – If you are setting your plants outside without protection from the rain, put a layer of mulch on the soil's surface. This will help prevent heavy rains from dislodging the potting soil!

Days 5 & 6

On day 5, you can try leaving your -- formerly known as indoor plants – out in the sun for the entire day! At this point, your sun-loving plants should be acclimated fully to the sun, and you can leave them there to enjoy their summer vacation! This is a great time to prune back any leggy foliage or vines as they will start producing growth more rapidly than indoors! They will love the natural humidity and warmer temperatures and reward you with blooms and gorgeous green growth!

Moving Indoor plants outdoors

Shade-Loving, Low-Light Plants

Most indoor plants are shade-loving, meaning that direct exposure to the all-day sunlight can damage their leaves. Plants like philodendron, monstera, pothos, spathiphyllum, syngonium, bromeliads, calathea, peperomia, and others can tolerate the gentle early morning sunshine, but they need to be protected from afternoon direct sunlight. Most of your houseplants will be shade-loving, and it's best to use this acclimation method if you are unsure of what type of plant you have!

The outdoor acclimation process for shade-loving indoor plants is less time-consuming and requires only a few steps, which all happen on the first day!

Day 1

Find a permanently shady setting for your shade-loving houseplants and place them there!

It's that easy, but ensure your plants are watered and fertilized when you bring them outside on the first day. Also, if you are placing them in a setting with no protection from rain or wind, ensure they are securely placed, so they do not topple over. If your plants are in cover pots with no drainage, it is best to remove them from the cover pots and set them into pots that have drainage holes. This is extremely important if the plants have no protection from the rain.

Monitor your shade plants as you would with sun-loving plants, including checking for dry or overly wet soil, pruning, and pest checking. There are more critters outside than in your home, so it is recommended to use a neem oil spray to prevent insects from making a home on your plants!

Now your plants should enjoy a brilliant summer in the sun (and indirect sun!). Your little effort will reward you with healthy, vibrant plants that can be enjoyed while you eat alfresco and lounge with your latest novel! You might be wondering what to do with your plants when the days get shorter and the nights cooler. Don't worry; we will help you with the move back inside before it's time to put your bathing suit away for the season!

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