Acclimating Houseplants Outside for Summer (How to Do It and Reasons For & Against It)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been acclimating some of my houseplants to the great outdoors for summer.

Why is it worth the effort to transition some houseplants to live outside for part of the year?

Is it something you would like to consider for your houseplants?

Let’s explore some benefits and drawbacks of taking houseplants outside & how to safely acclimate a houseplant to live outdoors!

Table of Contents

Why You Should Absolutely Take Your Houseplants Outdoors for Summer!

Blooming Old Lady Cactus, Mammillaria hahniana ‘Superba’

Here are some reasons I enjoy taking some of my houseplants outside for the summer:

  • Plants that thrive in high light explode with growth and vigor outdoors
    • Succulents, Cacti, and Fruiting Trees are my favorites to put outside because they use (and sometimes need) the extra light and heat to grow, bloom, and fruit
  • Plants that have been stagnant indoors will often wake up once they are receiving more warmth and light outdoors
  • Plants that are battling pest infestations indoors can often be much more easily dealt with outdoors
    • This is my favorite way to deal with pests because it is the most effective and laziest way to do it. Haha.
    • Mother Nature knows what to do and is way more effective and consistent than I am!
  • Plants that are having other health issues, like root disease, can be much more easily rehabbed outdoors
  • Propagating plants in the warmth and natural sunlight is impressively fast and easy outside

Why You Should NOT Take Houseplants Outdoors for Summer

Dwarf Banana Tree, Musa acuminata ‘Super Dwarf Cavendish’ – It’s a little thirsty, but so beautiful!

Despite all of the benefits, it isn’t always worth transitioning plants outdoors. Here are some of the reasons I don’t always take my plants out:

  • Pest-free plants can develop pests outdoors and if I’m not super careful I can accidentally bring them inside at the end of the season
  • The plants have to be watered much more frequently outdoors because they are getting a lot more light and heat, so they will suffer if I’m not on top of my watering game
  • If I really love the exact way a plant looks right at this moment, I may not be willing to take it outside because once it is outside things can happen.
    • Bugs or animals can visit and damage the plant.
    • Birds can poop on it.
    • Winds can knock it over.
    • And more
  • The great outdoors is a wonderful place for plants, but it doesn’t guarantee museum-quality foliage and plants.

My banana tree pictured above is one plant that would THRIVE outside for summer, but I can’t bring myself to take it out.

It’s leaves rip so easily and I just love those leaves. I’ve been clearing away any plants around it to ensure those gorgeous leaves are protected.

They aren’t perfect indoors, granted, but they are quite gorgeous and I don’t want to chance it outside. It’s staying inside with me. 🙂

Bonus Reason to NOT Take Plants Outside: Every plant that goes outside frees up plant space inside that wasn’t there before.

The houseplant lover and collector has to work very hard to NOT fill that space with another plant (heaven forbid a new plant) because when the warmth ends and it’s time to bring all of the outside houseplants back in, they will need that space again.

Let’s see if I actually take my own advice and keep the space open this year. 🙂

How to Acclimate a Houseplant to Live Outdoors

Brazilian Rain Tree
Brazilian Rain Tree – Gave it a huge trim and am reshaping it using bonsai wire. I’m letting it recover and thrive outdoors.

Once I’ve decided to take a plant outside for the summer, it’s time to begin acclimating.

To acclimate a plant outside I follow one of two methods:

For either method to work, I wait for the daytime lows to be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees Celsius.

If it goes slightly lower, many plants will be okay. However, I don’t like to take chances. I drag the plants in when it drops below 47 or 48 degrees.

The garage or deep shade method: My new favorite method (because it requires very little work) is to keep my garage open all day and place the plant outside in the garage, far from the open door.

Then I slowly move it toward the open door over a period of several days.

Once it is happily living at the edge of the opened garage for a few days, then I move it out of the garage in the shade and it is officially outside.

If I want to transition to more sun, I transition from bright shade outside into more sun in the same manner.

The traditional method: Previous to my garage method, I would take plants outside in the shade for an increasing amount of time over a week.

30 minutes outside on day 1. 1 hour on day 2. 1 hour on day 3. 2 hours on day 4. 4 hours on day 5. 4 hours on day 6. 6 hours on day 7. 8 hours on day 8. 10 hours on day 9. And then outside all day on day 10.

It’s an annoying process. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Lugging the plants outside and inside. Setting timers to bring them in. It’s not so fun. And if I forget to bring them in or cannot bring them in for some reason, they often suffer majorly.

But seeing the plants thrive once they are outside and acclimated is so worth it.

Do you have to acclimate?

Not always, no.

I have just thrown plants outdoors in full shade without proper acclimation. Some do really well with it. Some burn or wilt pretty badly. Burnt and damaged foliage will not recover, unfortunately. If the plant is too badly damaged and burnt, the plant may not make it.

It is important to weigh the benefits and risks of skipping acclimation. Some people consider putting the plant in full shade as a way of acclimating plants. That may work, but I’m not sure.

I don’t have any truly all-day shady spots at my house except for my garage. So I can’t say whether it does or doesn’t work!

Well, that’s it for this week. Short and sweet! Do you take your plants out for the summer? How do you do it? What plants get to bask in the summer sun and heat? Share in the comments below!

Happy Growing!


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