Garden Guide: Houseplants can make great patio plants

Houseplants do well inside the house, but they do even better on a shady patio during the warmer months. Alex explains how the answer to a houseplant problem could be waiting outside!

Alex Calamia

Sep 20, 2023, 11:29 AM

Updated 214 days ago

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Houseplants are a perfect way to add a little life and style to an indoor space. These plants can tolerate the low humidity and low light levels present in most homes, and they grow slow enough to make great container plants for years - or even decades!
Gardeners looking to extend their living space onto an outdoor patio should consider adding a few of these houseplants too. They'll grow faster and healthier outside during warm summer days and won't produce messy flowers like summer annuals.
Here are a few plants that do well indoors but do great outdoors.

Philodendron

This is the perfect plant for people who love dramatic leaves. Philodendrons naturally grow up trees in the tropics, where humidity is high and light is low, but there are so many species that are adaptable to low humidity also. Philodendron Birkin and Pretty Princess became very trendy during the pandemic. They stay small and have gorgeous leaves.
Pictured here is my Philodendron gloriosum. It's a rare Philodendron that grows slowly and produces huge leaves with a gorgeous glow along the veins. This plant is exceptionally slow as a houseplant; however, it grows relatively fast when it's outside for the summer.
Monstera are another family of plants with gigantic leaves that do well indoors. Monstera deliciosa has become very common as a houseplant. It's sometimes called a "Swiss Cheese Plant" because of the natural holes and splits the leaves develop (it's called fenestrated foliage).

Ficus

If a tree is growing indoors, it is almost certainly part of the Ficus family. The most common houseplant, the "fiddle leaf fig" is also one of the most difficult for new houseplant owners to grow. They'll sometimes drop their leaves when they come home from the plant store because they do not like a change in their environment. They also have high light requirements.
One of the easiest ways to "fix" a struggling Ficus tree is to send it outside during the summer. They are fantastic plants for patios. Some Ficus like "Tineke" pictured here have beautiful splashes of white that would really brighten up a patio outside.

Orchids

These plants naturally grow in humid environments on trees. Although common varieties like the phalaenopsis will do well in the house, taking them outside during the summer will help them grow faster and bloom more often. Orchids are triggered to bloom when temperatures and sunlight levels change. After a summer on a shady patio table, they'll often come inside with blooms that last the entire winter.
Pictured here is a plant called Malaysian Orchid (Medinilla myriantha). It's actually not related to orchids, but it does grow in environments with very little soil. That's because these plants have high light requirements and will drop their leaves when they're introduced to new environments. They require high light to survive, but unfortunately sit in low light for a long time at some plant stores or don't get the light they need inside the house.

Important tip

Plants that are advertised for indoor growing will not be adapted to the bright full sunshine outside. Always start indoor plants in full shade outside and gradually introduce them to part sunshine. Otherwise, the leaves will burn. Some houseplants are more tropical than others, but most can handle brief drops at night below 50F without any harm.
Plants that have spent many years inside the house may struggle outside in the wind. Keep these plants inside if they're healthy. If these older houseplants are beginning to decline in the house, bringing them outside briefly and giving them fresh soil could help revitalize them.
Watch the video below for a longer version of Alex’s garden segment:


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