With a little time and planning, most houseplants can be transitioned to the outdoors, with the exception of tender tropical plants such as African violets and moth orchids (phalaenopsis). Don't forget about your large houseplants as well; a rolling plant stand can be useful in moving your large plants.
Here are some tips for helping your houseplants make a successful transition from inside your home to your yard or patio for spring and summer.
Timing is everything. The last day for an average frost varies widely according to where you live. Check your local climate information for that date and hold off putting your plants outside until a few weeks after it has passed. Then, keep checking your weather forecast for any late cold spells.
If daytime temperatures are warm, but nighttime lows are still cool in your area, you could try setting your indoor plants outside in a shady spot for a few hours each afternoon. Then bring them indoors at night as you slowly transition them to being outdoors round the clock.
Location, location, location. Even if your plant has been near a sunny window inside, you can damage it by placing it too quickly in direct sunlight outdoors. Gradually expose your plant to full sunlight by first placing it in deep shade, such as under a porch or under a tree for a few days and then moving it little by little into the direct sun over the course of several days.
Water regularly. Indoor plants often can get by with a once a week watering regimen. Outdoors, however, the soil will dry out more quickly, so you will need to water more frequently. Pay special attention to plants that are under the cover of a roof or patio and do not get any rainwater.
Wind. Wind and heat can be big stress factors for your vacationing plants. The high wind from a spring or summer storm could knock your plants over, possibly causing severe damage. Whereas a light spring rain can be wonderful for your plants, a heavy downpour can wash soil away and damage tender plants. Be mindful of weather extremes -- including a prolonged heat wave or an unexpected cold snap-- and move your plants under safe cover when necessary.
Fertilize. You will find that your plants will grow more vigorously outdoors, and they will need to be fertilized as a result. Some houseplants that have been moved outdoors may begin to grow roots through the drainage holes in the bottom of their pots. If the pots are sitting directly on the ground, try twisting the pot occasionally to loosen its roots. Consider transplanting the plant to a larger pot.
Be careful not to over-water or over-fertilize, however. You can stress your plants just as much by over-watering and over-feeding them as by not doing enough of either one.
Pests. Outdoors your plant will be subjected to pests that it wasn't exposed to inside your home. Be alert for signs of an infestation that could be harmful to your plant. Many pests can be controlled with simple and thorough spraying with water from a garden hose. Research natural means of controlling other pests and check with your local extension service for ideas and precautions.
After your plants have enjoyed their summer vacation, plan to reverse the process to transition them back to being indoors. Long before the first frost is due in your area, check your plants carefully on the sides and on the bottom of pots for signs of pests. Prune any spent flowers, damaged leaves or stems.
To accommodate for lower light levels indoors, start placing the plant in a shady area for more and more periods of time each day. Gradually reduce the amount of water you give the plants accordingly. If you choose to repot your plant to a larger container, replace the soil with new potting mix.
Finally, keep in mind that vacations aren't necessary for all your plants. If you have a favorite houseplant that is thriving inside your home, you may want to keep it right where it is. For many of your plants, however, a trip outside for the warmer months can be just what they need for a boost.