Making the Move - From Indoor to Outdoor Gardening
By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin
Angel’s Trumpet ‘Angel’s
|Elephant Ear 'Portora'
|Banana ‘Dwarf Lady Finger’
After a long, cold winter in the northeast, we are anxious to experience spring. We like to start by deciding which plants to bring outside. First, we have to make sure the weather is warm enough. Most of our plants at Logee’s thrive in the tropics so summer is the perfect time to bring them outside. They not only acclimate well to the summer weather, it is also closest to their native growing conditions.
Assess the temperatures outside
Citrus and figs (Ficus) can take brief dips into the 30’s and 40’s but other plants such as papaya or mango definitely need sustained temperatures above 60°F. Most tropical plants can be moved outside when the temperatures reach 60°F.
Advantages of Outdoor Growing
Sun loving plants get more light and warmth outdoors than they can ever get in a south window inside. So if your goal is to put lush, rapid growth on your plant, moving it outside in the summertime creates optimal growing conditions. This active time of growth in the summer, along with the outdoor growing conditions of humidity, heat, sunlight and natural day length gives the plant a chance to experience growth in an outdoor enviroment and makes for a much stronger plant.
This is a condition that happens if your plants are put directly in full sun from an indoor setting. Plants are not used to the high intensity of light and sunshine that the outdoor gives. Direct sunlight burns patches of white or brown on the surface of the tender leaves. It happens quickly, within the first day of bringing the plants outside before the plant has hardened off. Plants do not die from sun scald but just get unsightly leaves. Most plants will simply grow out of the burned leaves.
Preventing Sun Scald
It's best to move your plants outside by hardening them off first. When you initially place the plants outside, put them in a partial shade location with only a few hours of morning sun or afternoon sun for the first few days. Gradually increase the amount of direct sunlight they receive by moving the plants into full sun for a limited time, about 4-5 hours. After several days of this, you can finally move your plants into full sun. The leaf tissue hardens off fairly rapidly so within one to two week's time your once tender indoor plant will now be ready for its summer outdoors.
Many times, large plants or a plant that has gotten leggy throughout the winter needs to be pruned. This is an ideal time to prune the plant before moving it outside.
During this process of moving plants outside, you also want to be aware of the root system. This is a good time to repot if you plan on going up a pot size or simply want to add some fresh soil for better aeration to the root system. We do not recommend root pruning. For over 120 years at Logee’s, we rarely root prune. We think it is unnecessary and makes your plant susceptible to disease and shock. Growing your plant outside makes it stronger because of factors such as wind, heat, direct sunlight and humidity, which doesn’t happen inside. For strong plants, there is nothing better than giving them their optimal growing conditions by summering outside.
Overall, we recommend that you move your tropical plants outside to grow full healthy specimens that will put on lush growth and keep your plants happy all summer long. This growth provides the plant with extra vigor for the upcoming indoor season. Moving plants outside also encourages the natural bloom cycle of the plant.
Disadvantages of Outdoor Growing
Sometimes you will have to deal with insects when you get ready to bring your plants back inside in the fall. The key is to know your plant, know what insects they are susceptible to and then use preventive sprays before you bring them back inside. Neem oil or soapy water is often enough to do the trick. Also, many plants will experience leaf drop when they come back inside in the fall. Just like getting the plants acclimated to the change outside, now they must get ready for the change inside. Leaf drop is most common if you wait until the last minute. As much as you might hate to give in to the coming cool weather, if you move your plants in during early fall and not late fall the shock is not so drastic so leaf drop will be less. Make sure to provide a well-lit location when the plants are grown inside.
Other Growing Tips
Big plants, like Angel’s Trumpets, Elephant Ears or Bananas, are fast growing plants that should be moved outside for the summer months. Usually, these have been grown under low light durning the winter months. When you move these plants outside, prune off any weak or leggy growth, then let them harden off, and grow out for the summer months.
Outdoor landscaping with Indoor Plants
One of our favorite things to do is use indoor plants in their pots on patios or decks or simply as a way to add color and texture to the summer garden. One trick to add potted plants to the garden is to dig a hole and drop the plant in, pot and all, into the hole. This will anchor the plant so it doesn’t tip over in the wind. Remember to manually water the plant and twist the pot once or twice during the season so the roots don’t grow out of the pot and get rooted into the soil. If you forget to do this, the roots will have to be broken at the end of the season and this sometimes shocks the plant.