Should You Move Houseplants Outdoors in Summer?

Houseplants move easily outdoors, but should they? If you have a lot of houseplants, you may not want to move all of them outside. Learn which plants you should move and which ones to keep inside with grower Jerad Bryant.

A close-up of various lush green houseplants in white pots, arranged neatly on an outdoor table.

Contents

Each year I face the dilemma of moving my houseplants outside or leaving them inside for the summer. Whether or not I choose to depends on the specific plant and what it prefers. 

Houseplants come in all shapes and sizes, and they originate from all over the world. They also prefer to grow in conditions that match their place of origin. Worldwide, their ecosystems vary from tropical jungles to high Sierra deserts.

Summers also vary depending on where you live. A Los Angeles summer is dry, hot, and sunny, whereas a summer in New Orleans is humid, wet, and warm. No matter how your summer is, these indoor plants love the natural conditions found outdoors and will thrive outside with the proper care.

After a little research, an informed decision on moving houseplants outside or not is an easy task. The hard part is finding a spot for all those plants in the yard! 

The Short Answer

Yes, you should move some of your houseplants outdoors in the summer! This does not mean you must move all of them outside, though, as they’ll happily live indoors when they’re in a cozy spot. Some thrive outside more than others do, so read on to learn which ones you should move.

The Long Answer

Moving houseplants outside, depending on how many you have, is a large endeavor. Certain plants prefer sunny summers, while others like living in shady areas. By selecting the best plants to move outside and leaving a few indoors, you set all of them up for growing success. 

How Do You Transition Houseplants From Inside to Outside?

A close-up of a spider plant with long, slender leaves, hanging in a white pot, with lush greenery in the garden in the blurred background.
Gradually acclimate plants outdoors by placing them in partial shade.

When plants grow indoors, they become acclimated to the mild conditions found in our homes. Our living spaces lack wind, radical temperature swings, and intermittent rainfall. They have windows that protect plants from harsh sunlight. 

Our homes also offer protection from frost. When winter arrives, snow and ice kill most frost-sensitive perennials. Transitioning plants indoors for the winter protects them, but it also makes them more sensitive to frost once spring arrives. Only move them outdoors once the danger of freezing temperatures has passed, after your last average frost date. 

Allow your plants a temporary acclimation period, and they’ll grow used to the natural environmental forces found outside. Do this by finding a partial shade spot with protection outdoors, like a porch, awning, or stoop. Water whenever their soil dries out, and leave them under protection for a week or two.

After two weeks, your plants will have acclimated properly. Move them to locations that match their growing preferences. Understory perennials appreciate shady, moist locations, and tropicals, cacti, and meadow plants generally prefer full sun. 

The Verdict

Give plants a transition period of one to two weeks outdoors after your last average frost date. During the transition period, they appreciate:

  • Partial shade
  • Regular water
  • Frost protection
  • Harsh wind protection

What Houseplants Should You Move Outdoors?

A close-up of a white butterfly plant, featuring delicate, green leaves with distinctive white markings, resembling the elegant wings of a butterfly.
Move fruiting plants outside after the last frost for better yields.

All plants originate from the outdoors! This means you can reliably move any houseplant into the yard, no matter its type. The best rule of thumb is to place your houseplant in an area outdoors that matches its native conditions

Where summers are hot and dry, almost any plant can have a summer vacation outdoors with irrigation. Cacti, tropical plants, and open forest plants are good options. For example, plumeria, desert rose, and specialty cacti love summering outdoors with full sun after a transition period.

Other plants like spider plants, ZZ plants, and snake plants grow in forest understories. They thrive where sunlight pokes through the tree canopy and where moisture is consistent. Although they might be drought tolerant indoors, they are more susceptible to the elements outdoors in their pots. Aim to have their soil moist but not soggy and situate them where there is dappled shade. Other examples of plants that thrive with similar care are:

  • Ferns
  • Syngoniums
  • Calatheas
  • Dark-leaved vines
  • Peperomias

Fruiting plants like avocados, citrus trees, and perennial peppers should always summer outside. They require the energy from direct sunrays to produce a proper crop. 

After the last frost date in your area, transition fruiting plants outdoors for two weeks in dappled shade. Then, place them where they’ll receive six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Water their soil once it dries on the top, and ensure they never go bone dry in their pots. Fertilize these plants in the early spring so they have all the nutrients they need to grow a bountiful crop.

The Verdict

You should move any houseplant you’d like to move. Because all plant species originally grow outside, they appreciate the natural conditions found in backyards and front porches. This does not mean you have to summer your houseplants outdoors unless they are fruiting plants. Citrus, avocado, and similar trees require full sun in the summer and will continuously decline if kept indoors year-round.

What Houseplants Should I Keep Inside?

A close-up of potted Monstera deliciosa plant, showcasing large, glossy green leaves with unique splits and holes, thriving in white pots against a backdrop of earthy brown bricks and a nearby glass.
Summer sunlight and warmth boost houseplant growth.

When happy, houseplants fill in the spaces they occupy in our homes. This means that sometimes, they grow too large to handle easily. Except for fruit trees, most houseplants summer indoors without issue. 

Some plant genera that are content with summers indoors or outdoors are:

  • Chlorophytum
  • Pothos
  • Philodendron
  • Monstera
  • Epipremnum
  • Peperomia
  • Calathea
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Pachira
  • Syngonium
  • Dracaena
  • Rhaphidophora

This list is a good starting point and shows that most plant species thrive both indoors and outdoors during the summer. Except for perennial plants that produce fruit, houseplants will happily grow anywhere under optimal growing conditions. If you have an especially big houseplant happily growing indoors, like a monstera growing up a staircase, you might be better off leaving it inside for the summer season. 

Consider moving them outdoors if they grow lackluster inside. Our houses are sometimes too dark for them to survive. Under the elements, warm temperatures and sunlight boost these plants’ growth so that they have more energy to survive the winter indoors. Be sure to give them a proper transition period, then place them in an area that matches their native habitat.

The Verdict

If a plant grows successfully indoors, you do not have to move it outside when the weather warms. The best types to keep inside are ones that are large and overgrown and ones that have grown inside for many years already. Moving plants like these may be difficult as they are often heavy and huge. Consider taking stock of your collection and determine which ones will benefit most from a summer outdoors.

Will My Houseplants Get Pests Outdoors?

A close-up of Monstera Adansonii leaves against a cemented wall backdrop, showcasing its iconic fenestrations and vibrant green color.
Weak plants struggle to fend off infections and pests.

Indoors, plants have protection from common pests and diseases found in the natural world. Although infestations can occur, they are not as common indoors, and they are easily manageable with little effect on the ecosystem. 

Outdoors tender houseplants offer delicious leaves and flowers for the insects, birds, and wildlife that live there. They may attract pests like aphids, thrips, and spider mites outside. Additionally, infections like powdery mildew are more likely to occur outdoors. 

Infections and pests target weak plants that struggle to fend off attacks. One first step towards plant resilience is ensuring they are well-fed, watered, and repotted when necessary. 

Reinforce plant defenses by placing them in a preferable location in the yard. Place full sun cacti and tropical plants where they’ll receive direct sunlight, and move understory plants under dappled shade. 

If your happy plants are in a good spot and still receive pests and diseases, look to organic pest and disease control methods. Avoid using harsh chemicals outside, as they have significant impacts on the surrounding ecosystem.

Organic Pest and Disease Control Methods

A close-up of a small palm tree houseplant's lush, green leaves, being gently watered by a hand holding a green plastic spray bottle, set against a warm, brown wooden floor.
Spray water daily to reduce aphids and spider mites.

A simple organic plant soap mixed with water will do the trick for most infestations and infections. Apply in increments of seven to ten days on the infected plant in a protected area away from flowers outside. Follow the instructions on the bottle, and remember to dilute. This ensures that bees and pollinators won’t be harmed by the soap application.

After a week or two of spraying, the pests should disappear. Another low-impact way to remove pests, especially aphids, is to spray your plants with a strong stream of water. This effectively knocks the pests off, and when repeated daily, it can effectively reduce pest populations. 

The Verdict

Your houseplants may get pests or diseases outside during the summertime. Avoid infections and infestations by situating plants in areas of the yard that match their native growing conditions. Additionally, ensure your plants are healthy by checking to see if they need fertilizer, repotting, or water before moving them outside. Treat severe infections and infestations with organic pesticides and fungicides.

How Do You Move Houseplants Back Indoors?

A close-up of a 'Philodendron Mamei' houseplant, large green leaves with silver patterns, potted in a white pot, with other houseplants in the background.
Provide less water and fertilizer during winter.

If only summer lasted forever! Sadly, it does not, and frost and freezes that arrive in fall and winter threaten houseplants outside. Prepare to transition them indoors before the first frost date in your area. In my area, the winter cold arrives seemingly out of nowhere, and so paying attention to the local forecast helps me know when to move them. 

Before moving your houseplants indoors, ensure they do not have any diseases or pests. Move spiders and other good creatures safely off the plants and let them wander outside. Then, prune any dying or withering foliage. 

After prepping your plants, give them a hosing off! A strong stream of water removes pests, dust, and spores from your plants. They will look revitalized and refreshed after their shower. 

Finally, prepare a cozy spot indoors. If you added to the collection over the summer, your house may be packed already! Find room for each plant in areas that contain the conditions they appreciate. 

If your house is too packed, consider finding a small greenhouse for hardy houseplants to grow throughout the winter outside. In USDA garden zones one through five, this may not work, although in zones six and above, hardy cacti can be kept outside in a greenhouse for the winter. Water them sparingly when their soil dries, and open the greenhouse in the spring once warm weather arrives. 

All other houseplants appreciate less water and fertilizer in the wintertime than in the summertime. Ensure they receive irrigation when their soil dries, and hold off on fertilizing them until springtime. Then, in the summer, you can choose to move them back outside if you wish.

The Verdict

Moving houseplants back indoors is as easy as one, two, three. First, remove pests, diseases, and dead foliage. Second, spray them with a strong stream of water. Third, find accommodating spots indoors. Repeat the process each year before your first average frost date in the fall.

Final Thoughts

Think of moving your houseplants outdoors as giving them a summer vacation. They’ll drink fresh water, dance with the breeze, and bask under the sun’s rays. With a little transition period and the right location, most any houseplant thrives outdoors in summer. 

Select which ones you think would best grow outside, and leave a few indoors so that your home still has plants. A sudden lack of greenery can make the house look bare, so I select a few spider and snake plants for summering indoors each year. 

Finally, experiment a bit and have fun with the big move! You’ll quickly discover which plants grow best outside. The only way to know is to try moving a few houseplants!

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