Gardening through the seasons
The houseplants you can move outdoors for the summer
Michael Perry, aka Mr Plant Geek, shares top tips on which plants you can pop on your patio during the warmer months.
You may relish your indoor plants greening up your space, but many of them can be placed outdoors on your patio or window ledge during summer, where they will thrive and add colour and architecture to the scene. Top horticulturist Michael Perry, aka Mr Plant Geek, reckons indoor plants can become the highlight of your outdoor space during the sunny season, if used in the right way. "You can be really creative with houseplants outside, not just moving them outside but repurposing them and perhaps even buying some houseplants in summer to mix into your existing displays," says Perry.
Like the sound of that? Here are Perry's top tips...
1. What plants where?
Many foliage plants are ideal to place outside in the summer, says Perry. "If anyone's got a large yucca, a schefflera, or even a spider plant, they will all go outside." Indoor begonias look great outside in the summer too. Varieties such as Begonia fuchsioides can be used as summer climbers, while some new Begonia Rex have been bred for outdoor growing as well.
You can also extend that selection to things like dracaenas, or any of the more common houseplants which are not too fussy about conditions in the summer. "They will appreciate being outside in the summer because some homes can get a little bit too warm. Put them on a slightly shady patio and you'll give them a little summer holiday outdoors," Perry advises. "It's not just about moving them outside, but using them as part of a patio pot scheme or even in bedding. It is possible to use houseplants as outdoor specimens within a planting scheme."
2. When can I put them outside?
"I wouldn't follow the rule of last frost, I would wait until it really warms up and becomes summer. Mid to late-June is the best time," says Perry. "You might have to harden them off a little bit, but you'll probably find that your house has warmed up by that point anyway and will be a similar temperature to the temperature outside. "I'd take them back in from mid-August, before it starts to feel autumnal."
3. What conditions will they need?
"You're going to try to emulate the conditions you need to give them inside. If you have a plant which needs indirect light and prefers being away from a window in the house, it may need a little bit more shade on the patio, otherwise it will be scorched. If you have a cactus or a succulent, you'll be able to put those outside in full sun."
4. How do you get the best effect visually outside?
If you have an eye-catching houseplant such as a yucca, use it with a group of potted patio plants in a jigsaw effect, moving things around which look better at different times, he suggests. Put a taller yucca at the back of the display.
"You could be more adventurous and include houseplants in borders. If you're looking to use spider plants, for example, use them as part of your bedding scheme," Perry suggests. "Begonia Rex need a slightly more shaded area, but because they have really beautiful foliage they go well with red flowers. Maybe mix them with fuchsias, so you have two shade-loving patio plants which work together. An upright fuchsia with a bottom foil of Begonia Rex would look good."
5. What about compost?
Use a soil-based compost to repot your houseplants in summer, going just one pot size up at a time, and give them a feed every three to four weeks. Use a foliar fertiliser for green foliage plants or a potash fertiliser for flowering plants. But don't feed cacti and do let them dry out between watering.
6. How much water?
You may need to water your houseplant a little more regularly once it goes outside - and never assume rainfall will provide sufficient water for it. "Rainwater often just gets caught on the canopy of foliage and doesn't get down into the container where it's needed," says Perry. "It's better to water a houseplant from below, so it can take up the water that it needs. Ideally place a saucer underneath the pot."
7. What if things go wrong?
If your houseplant is looking a bit forlorn outside, it may be because it's too hot, particularly if you've put it in direct sunlight. It may be drying out, if you're assuming rainfall has watered the plant, and if it is in full sun there's a risk of scorch. Go for a little shade wherever possible.
Michael Perry will be at BBC Gardeners' World Live on Friday June 14. For tickets and information, visit bbcgardenersworldlive.com