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It's time to move plants outdoors

Posted: March 25, 2012 - 12:08am
Mary Jean Newell, at Greenbrier Nursery & Gifts, said it is helpful to keep some of plants in the shade for a while during their transition back outdoors after being in all winter.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Mary Jean Newell, at Greenbrier Nursery & Gifts, said it is helpful to keep some of plants in the shade for a while during their transition back outdoors after being in all winter.

Spring has officially sprung in the Augusta area, and now that temperatures are likely out of the 40s, it’s time to begin the transition of houseplants to the outdoors.

According to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, nighttime temperatures should be in the 50s on a consistent basis before moving houseplants outdoors. If houseplants are put out too early, a late frost might mean they will have to be brought back indoors.

“When you move your plants outdoors, do not put them in direct afternoon sunlight at first,” writes Marty Schronce in a recent Georgia Department of Agriculture publication. “The sunniest window or even a greenhouse do not compare to the amount of sunlight that beams down on a long afternoon. Your plants need to be acclimated to the stronger light or they can become sunburned. A shady location under a tree is a good place to put them first.”

There are a few things to do to get them ready for the transition.

Master gardener Paul James, who made a guest appearance at the Augusta Home and Garden Show, has a few tips of for preparing houseplants for the move outdoors. Among them are to tidy up the plants by trimming away any foliage that appears to have suffered from time spent indoors.

“In the case of plants with brown leaf tips, such as raphia palm, cut the leaves on angles to recreate their natural shape,” he said. “Add 1 to 2 inches of fresh potting mix to each container, because that much tends to decompose in the container during the winter.”

If your plant needs to be transplanted to another pot, now is the time to do that.

Once the plants are moved outdoors, they will likely need more water. Increased air movement outdoors causes the leaves to transpire more and wick water away from terra cotta pots and soil surfaces, writes Schronce. And James suggests soaking the plants from top to bottom, or from foliage to root ball.

“In the home environments, plants rarely get the humidity they need for optimum growth and very often houseplants don’t receive adequate water, or at least consistent watering,” said James.

“Gently hose down your houseplants when you get them outside to remove accumulated dust and to wash away spider mites,” wrote Schronce. “Spider mites can be a problem in the dry atmosphere indoors, but are less of a problem when houseplants are outdoors.”

Choose the location for your houseplants by keeping in mind the amount of sunlight they like. If you have a plant that likes indirect light, you might want to place in an area that receives shade from trees.

Fertilizing the plants every two to three weeks will keep them healthy and vibrant all summer long.

Finally, James notes, “If you put potted patio plants on saucers to prevent stains from forming on surfaces, keep in mind that the water that collects in those saucers creates the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, so get in the habit of draining them right after you water.

“And if you’re wondering whether you should move all your houseplants outside,” concludes James, “the answer is almost always ‘yes’, because they, like me, would much rather be outdoors than in.”

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