House Plants Outdoors?

Sometimes it is tempting to drag your houseplants outside for the summer.  You think that the sun will be good for them or the rain will make them happy.  I would not recommend it.  There are a few reasons why this may do more harm than good. 

The most important reason houseplants may be damaged outside is that the leaves that have grown inside have just the right amount of chlorophyll, waxy outer layer and toughness to live inside your house.  The leaves grown inside are usually large, soft and not too covered with outer wax.  They have set up the proper amount of chlorophyll or other pigments to protect themselves from UV rays in the house.  They have not been subjected to wind and drying.

If you move them outside, those leaves do not have much chance against UV rays and lots of sun.  They are not robust enough to withstand the tossing wind and elements.  Most of the existing leaves will be damaged or fall off.  Then the plant will have to force out new growth.  That new growth is acclimated to outside conditions and will do well for the short term during summer.  Of course it usually takes about two months or more to go through the loss of the old leaves, being bare and messed up, and then growing some new sprouts of properly conditioned leaves.  About that time, some bug or pest will find them and start messing them up again.  If the leaves do survive to this point, you might think, wow, my plants are looking like they are coming back nicely. Not so fast.  Now the summer dwindles down into early autumn and you have to bring them back inside before frost. 

Once inside again, they have the same acclimation problem in reverse.  Those leaves that have been conditioned outside to receive increased amounts of lights will not be happy inside.  Some species of plants like a Weeping Fig, will even drop most of their leaves on the floor in response to a changed environment.  The existing leaves cannot deal with the low levels of light inside, so they think they will go dormant and wait for spring.  They have to sprout out more leaves that are used to the inside shade. 

So, the best thing to do is to leave them in their normal positions inside the house.  Just keep them as houseplants.  They will do better if they do not have to go through all that leaf damage and shedding.  No outdoor pests will get on them and travel back inside with them in the fall.  The watering will be more even and the temperatures will keep them nice all year round.

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