Plants that Shine Indoors and Outdoors

Plants that Shine Indoors and Outdoors

Many plants we consider “outdoor” plants, will do great inside our home. And some house-dwellers will live outside happily, too. By Doug Jimerson
By Doug Jimerson

Although all plants have  evolved in outdoor settings, many tropical plants have been living happily inside our homes for generations.

In fact, it was the Victorians who first popularized using plants as indoor decor. Classic Victorian era house plants include Boston fern, cast iron plant, parlor palm, abutilon or flowering maple, rex begonia, snake plant, and kentia palm. 

Over time, the list of indoor plants has grown longer as plant hunters, such as Costa Farm’s Mike Rimland continue to explore the globe looking for new and exciting introductions that would do well in home conditions.

But in the meantime humans had already started to divide plants up into two groups: indoor and outdoor. Yet in reality, any plant can grow anywhere as long as it gets the right amount of light, water, and temperature.

This means that many plants we currently think of only as “outdoor” plants, will do great inside our home, while others we think of as house-dwellers will live outside happily.

Outdoor Plants for Indoors
Although most people use plants such as impatiens, geraniums, ageratum, dusty miller, wax begonias, and coleus as summer annuals that die off once the first frost hits, these plants can easily be grown on a sunny windowsill to provide indoor color all winter long.

The key to success with these varieties is to take cuttings in the late summer to start new plants for indoor life. Digging up mature plants and bringing them into the house at the end of the season, rarely works. Instead, plan early and start your cuttings in a glass of water, and once they take root, plant them in individual pots for indoor use. 

Keep in mind, though, that most annuals, even the shade-loving ones, will need a very sunny window if you want them to bloom all winter long. Most people don’t realize that even if they have a south-facing window in their home it’s never going to be quite as bright as any outdoor setting. So, the brighter the spot you can find in your home, the more likely your plants will flower. Here are tips for growing tropical plants indoors. 

Other outdoor plants with the ability to grow indoors include species such as: sago palm, tropical hibiscus, mandevilla, cast iron plant, jasmine, asparagus fern, ti plant, bird of paradise, cordyline, and crown of thorns. All of these plants are common landscape plants in frost-free regions, but can do double-duty inside homes in northern climates if they are brought indoors before cold weather arrives. Here are tips for raising Majesty palms indoors.

Indoor Plants for Outdoors
Let’s face it, no plant evolved to live inside our homes. They all have roots in the natural world and have just adapted to living alongside us indoors. Plants considered to be indoor only are actually quite happy living au naturel, especially during the summer when temperatures are reliably warm.

Common indoor plants that can excel outdoors include: 
Snake plant 
ZZ plant 
Ponytail palm 
Chinese evergreen 
Boston fern. 
All grow by leaps and bounds if they are given a summer vacation outdoors.
Here are tips for summering houseplants outdoors. 

Just remember to introduce them to the outside world gradually by placing them in a shady, protected location for at least a week or two before moving them to brighter conditions.

Never take an indoor plant and just drop it on your sunny front porch and walk away. Your plant will, no doubt, suffer from sunburn because it won’t be used to such bright light. 

Tip for Success
 > Whether it’s considered an indoor or an outdoor plant, the best way to keep any plant happy is to know its personal needs.

 > Is it a desert plant that requires lots of sun and minimal moisture?

> Or, is it native to the hot, humid tropics where sunlight is more filtered?

 > Plants we use in and around our homes hail from all corners of the globe and a wide variety of habitats so they all have slightly different needs. Just because you find them sitting side by side at your local garden center is no guarantee they will all live by the same rules.

Do some research first, and you and your indoor and outdoor plants will be a lot happier.

Here's how to move succulents in for the winter.