Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Acclimatizing Indoor Plants for a Summer Outside

Finally—after a notably cold spring, it’s time to shift my sun room plants outdoors. Over the years I’ve noticed that certain plants make the move more easily than others. Some show their displeasure by dropping leaves (the brunfelsia), getting sticky indoors before winter’s end (the Meyer lemon) or simply not thriving outside (the dracaena).
So this month I’m turning to Kenan Rowlett, who sells fabulous and unusual plants as The Artistic Gardener (www.artisticgardener.net). I’ve asked him for suggestions on how to help indoor collections adjust to summer conditions.

Kenan should know. He’s been hooked on horticulture since the age of five when he rooted a rubber tree limb and six months later it grew taller than his Florida house. He studied landscape design at the University of Tennessee and over the years has balanced teaching yoga with purveying plants. Now he sells from his home in Eugene, Oregon.
His back garden features a small pond, beds of artfully arranged containers and two greenhouses—one heated, the other not. Here are his suggestions for making a good indoor/outdoor transition.

Acclimate Your Plants

Kenan advises going slowly. Remember that the light indoors can be 50 to 70 percent less than what the sun offers outside. Even sun-lovers like citrus need time in the shade. Kenan says, “Think in terms of weeks for change, not days.”
Plants must adjust their leaf makeup and chemistry in response to the higher light levels. If you move them too quickly into full sun you risk burning the leaves. Raise the amount of light slowly by shifting plants gradually from shade to sun—keep your hand cart nearby for the bigger ones. During these moves, closely monitor watering needs.

Check out what areas of your garden have the various light conditions you want. The order of intensity is dense shade, dappled shade, morning sun/afternoon shade, and finally, full sun.
Three for the Summer/Winter Shift

Here are some favorite plants Kenan recommends for the winter/summer dance.

  1. Crinum – The two-foot fragrant flowers of both Crinum asiaticum and C. macowanii are stunning. Handle with care as the sap can irritate skin and cause stomach upset if ingested.
  2. Hymenocallis ‘Sulphur Queen’ – This spider lily features broad strappy two-foot long green leaves. Pale yellow scented flowers appear in spring and summer.
  3. Fortunella – A kumquat is one citrus that enjoys a cool greenhouse. Kenan’s puts on a big show of small tasty fruit every other year.