Hardening off plants

I’m not the first to note that, when gardening, patience is a virtue … in fact it is often a necessity.  This is especially true when moving plants from indoors to out.  It is so disheartening to see a house plant that was beautiful through the winter months, sitting out in the sun with burned leaves, particularly when a little bit of patience would have prevented the damage.


So here’s your reminder: once the risk for nighttime temps below 40 degrees F passes, slowly expose houseplants … even those that like full sun … to outdoor direct sunlight.  A covered porch with bright, but not direct, sunlight is perfect for acclimating plant leaves to the increased intensity of outdoor sun.  Alternatively, use an outdoor umbrella to your advantage by placing plants in the umbrella’s shade.  Try keeping plants out of direct sunlight for a few days, then slowly increase direct sun exposure to those that will live in full sun.  After about a week or so, plants should be ready to move to their permanent outdoor spots.  Still, even after a week’s acclimation, plants going to full sun locations are best moved to these spots on cloudy days.  Plants that prefer shadier locations can go to similar spots outdoors once acclimated to outdoor light.


Use similar tactics with flats or pots of purchased plants, especially those purchased from within a greenhouse.  Also, step up the watering to account for your plants’ increased growth.


Yesterday I moved my two rather large hibiscus plants, a pineapple palm, and lemon grass to the shade of an umbrella.  I also moved pots of tomatoes to a shaded shelf in my outdoor mini-greenhouse.  But I’m watching the nighttime temperature forecasts closely to make sure I’m not jumping the warm-weather gun.  If temps fall back to low 40’s, I’ll either cover the plants or move them back inside.



Filed under Gardening, General, Techniques

2 responses to “Hardening off plants

  1. Joene,

    Your post is the perfect reminder that the weather can play tricks on gardeners and make us abandon all sense of reason! The 90 degree weekend temperatures here in Stamford could make you think summer had arrived and that your garden should be in full swing. It can be easy to forget that the danger of a hard frost has not passed yet so caution is especially important.

    I’m glad to hear you used your outdoor umbrella for shade for your houseplants…I took the lazy way out and used it to shade me!

  2. Pingback: Quick notes … « joene’s garden

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