80404thumbThey were not always houseplants. They came from somewhere else. Most came from shady tropical forests, which is why they have such big dark green leaves, and are so tolerant of shady home interiors. They are pretty good sports about tolerating the domestic lifestyles that we subject them to, but they would really prefer to be thousands of miles away, growing wild back home.

Home interiors lack the sort of weather that the natural environments of houseplants get. The majority of houseplants would prefer rain, humidity, occasional breezes and perhaps more warmth. Some succulents may not miss the rain, but might crave heat and more sunlight. Regardless of what houseplants want, that can not get all of it in the comfort of our homes. They want to get out!

Unfortunately, that is not an option. Plants that have adapted to the relative darkness and protection from (shortwave or SUV) ultraviolet light in the home would roast if suddenly exposed to direct sunlight. (Windows block SUV light.) They would get battered by wind and damaged or killed by frost in winter. Those that become outdoor plants should be transitioned slowly and methodically.

However, there are a few times a year when the weather is not expected to get too cold, hot or windy, when houseplants can come out to the garden to get very lightly rinsed with a hose. Taking them out immediately prior to a light rain is even better. Rain is gentler and more sustained than a brief and coarse hose rinsing. Both techniques rinse away dust and residue from insect activity.

Rinsing does not eliminate mite, scale or mealybug infestations, but temporarily eliminates the residue from such infestations, and somewhat disrupts their activity. Mites prefer dusty plants to clean ones. While plant are outside, it would be a good time for any necessary repotting, or to apply horticultural oil to control mites or scale. Mineral deposits can also be scrubbed from saucers and the bottoms of pots. If hosed during sunny weather, houseplants should be shaded by a larger tree or awning.


25 thoughts on “Houseplants Might Enjoy Some Weather

  1. My sister-in-law burned the heck out of a beautiful ficus thinking it wanted that sunshine immediately – then gave it to me to bring back to life from third degree burns. I gave it a year and called it a day. Call me shallow. Hard to have patience when the spring comes, but you must or you’ll pay.

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  2. Those house plant-types are tender! When I place my bougainvilla out from their winter spot in the garage, if I’m careless and choose sunny, rather than cloudy, days–foliage is fried! They recover, but still look a bit sad.

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    1. I can not think of an advantage to starting it indoors. They are so easy to propagate. I almost never grow them from cuttings, but rather from root suckers. They are not grafted, so the suckers (or watersprouts) are genetically identical. Cuttings work well too. They get stuck while bare through winter. The last time I did it, I took several cuttings, expecting that half would not root. (I do not pamper them.) If they are just now foliating, and the leaves are very small, it would still be possible to take cuttings now. You just do not want to do it after the leaves have expanded. The cuttings will bleed, so be careful to not get the sap on anything. Alternatively, if there are any limbs that are close to the ground, you could layer them. You simply dig out a small trench below the stem, scrape some bark off of the underside of the stem, and bury the scraped section of stem. You might want to put a rock or a brick over it so that it does not pull itself out. Also, you could apply some rooting hormone to the spot where the bark is scraped off. If you just leave it buried through the year, you can pull up a rooted new plant when bare next autumn, cut it from the parent tree, and plant it where you like.


      1. It has always been very common in Santa Cruz County. Although I think that it is silly that it is illegal, those who use it should be more respectful of those of us who do not. I get so grossed out be they aroma, and it is so common in Santa Cruz. However, people get citations for smoking tobacco. It makes no sense.

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  3. Mealy bug and scale insect are what a dread on overwintering plants. Scale on my citrus and orchids and mealy bug getting in all the crevices of my succulents. I can’t wait to get them all outside.

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