Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

As spring rolls on and temperatures remain consistently warmer, it’s finally time to bring your plants outdoors again. Over the past month or so I’ve been slowly but surely bringing out my cacti, succulents and tropical oddities. While many plants seem to do just fine in living room, nothing beats the great outdoors. Given the opportunity to breathe the fresh air, plants will almost always benefit and in turn, thrive.

Euphorbia leuconeura (Madagascar Jewel) loves it outside and begins flushing out rather quickly after being place outdoors.

Of course bringing your plants outdoors doesn’t come without it’s dangers, there are a couple things to keep in mind. It’s not as simple as placing the plant from indoors to out, patience and planning should exercised. Much like many of us who get a sunburn on our first day out in the sun, plants also have to adjust to the new intensity of sunlight. Plants taken from the sheltered existence of the home and out into the elements need a bit of time to adjust. Getting impatient will not only damage your plants, but might kill them all together. “Poor little sunburnt cactus…”

Some plants are easier the harden off then others, this Disocactus flagelliformis went right out under the maple tree. It’s home away from home. 

It’s essential that you ease them into their new surroundings, hardening off your plants is a must . The idea being that you bring your plants out into the sun for a couple hours a day, increasing their exposure gradually until finally they can handle a full dose of the outdoors. I’ll openly admit I have tried this back and forth technique, moving a banana tree in and out of my house for a week. After many trips in and out I stepped back in protest, this strategy is back breaking, dedicated and monotanous. Let’s take a simplified approach, and make the move only once.

Some of the plants that on the third stage of the migration, having been deemed ready to live in the cold-frame. 

After temperatures have started to stabilize and remain warmer in the daytime and night, it’s the perfect time to start the migration. A overcast weekend will work even better and the first move should be to a sheltered, shady outdoor position. I place my plants on the side of my house where it’s shady for 3/4ths of the day with minimal direct sunlight . While it seems like this wouldn’t make much of a difference from your indoor setup, sitting in the shade for a while seems to toughen them up a bit. They’ll feel their first rain drops, be blasted with fresh air, and experience real temperatures changes. Most reccomend you leave your plants in a position like this for at least 2 weeks, I often start to bring them out a little sooner. After about a week I go from shade, to partial shade, and shortly after to wherever I want. The stress caused by hardening off your plants seems to vary from specimen to specimen, but the more patience you have, the more successful you’ll be. A summer spent outdoors will give your plants better growth and a better life. They’ll reward your efforts by being overall more healthy, thus living longer, flowering more frequent and being significantly more rot and pest resistant. Let your poor plants out won’t you, it’s a good week to do it. 

Cyphostemma juttae’s first leaves started to emerge this week. Hardening off on the side of the house.

A new addition in the midst of being hardened off, Euphorbia greenwayi.

Hope everyone’s enjoying the garden as much as I am. So much lush spring growth!

5 Responses to Hardening off your plants

  • Niki says:

    Your plants look amazing! May was very rainy but it’s getting better now and warm enough to put my plants outside.

  • Mark and Gaz says:

    Exciting time of the year indeed! We’ve been slowly acclimatising our greenhouse plants to outside conditions in the last few weeks, most of them are out now and looking nice, enjoying the free air and sunshine (or shade in some cases).

  • Candy Suter says:

    Great post. Spring is a difficult time for succulents that have been hibernating. I take them out and put them under my gazebos for a week or so before I put some of them out. If they will be in hours of hot sun like cactus I do it slower.

  • This past week the temperatures in Copenhagen have been mild enough for me to have the living room windows open around the clock (with the heating turned off, of course), and the house plants and seedlings alike seem to really have taken to the free air and the breeze blowing through the apartment from one side of the building to another.

    Sadly, though, we now have colder temperatures forecast for the next fortnight, so I will have to close the windows – but during the day while I’m not here I might as well let them be open so the plants can get used to the great outdoors; I’m convinced the seedlings for the garden will be better off by knowing a bit about what it’s like outside, and the house plants seem to enjoy some fresh air.

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Mr Nat. Gardener, Plant Nerd
Tips and tales about gardening in one of the most mild climates in Canada. Specializing in rare and strange plants from far out destinations, this is the story of an obsessed young gardener in Victoria B.C. Let's create more tropical gardens in the garden city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.