URBANA, Ill. - Many people choose to move their houseplants outdoors in the summer. However, Rhonda Ferree, a University of Illinois horticulture educator suggests taking that a step further.
“Plants grown traditionally indoors as houseplants have many possible uses in our summer landscapes,” Ferree said. “They work well in hanging baskets, container arrangements, and even planted in the ground.”
Ferree pointed out that because most houseplants are tropical plants, they can also grow outdoors similar to other annual flowers like impatiens and begonias. “Like all plants, be sure to put the right plant in the right place,” she said. “Houseplants are often produced to grow in a home’s lower light levels. Placing those plants directly outdoors in the full sun could cause sunburned leaves. The plant may produce new leaves, but that might take a few weeks to happen.”
A better option is to place low-light loving houseplants in partial shade outdoors. Examples include ferns, philodendrons, pothos (Epipremnum sp.), dieffenbachia, rubber and fig plants (Ficus sp.), arrowhead vine (Syngonium sp.), peperomia, cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior), holiday cactus, hoya, and bromeliads.
Houseplants grown in higher light levels indoors should do fine in a sunnier outdoor location, Ferree said. These include geraniums, coleus, shrimp plant, cacti and succulents, poinsettia, and Easter lily. “These plants might need protection for a few days as they acclimate to brighter conditions. Cheesecloth draped over them for a few days will accomplish the purpose,” she said.
Some houseplants that work well in hanging basket combinations include wandering Jew (Zebrina pendula), Swedish ivy (Plectranthus), spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), prayer plant (Maranta sp.), purple heart (Setcreasea purpurea), and string-of-beads (Senecio rowleyanus).
“Try planting some directly into the soil,” Ferree said. “I do this with my banana, elephant ear, and tropical hibiscus plants each year. The tropical plants that I plant in the ground each summer grow very large and beautiful. I cut them back each fall and move them indoors to overwinter in my basement.”
Other houseplants to try planting in the ground include snake plant and African violet. “These are both easy to propagate from leaf cuttings so produce several in the winter for use outdoors in the summer,” she suggested.
University of Illinois Extension provides more information on houseplants at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/houseplants/. “Tropical Punch” at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/tropicalpunch/ covers using tropical plants outdoors as focal points and accents and includes overwintering instructions.