Should You Put Your Sick Houseplant Outside?

Your poor houseplant is on its last legs. You’ve repotted, fertilized, pruned, watered, treated for insects, and everything else you can think of, but it doesn’t seem to be healthy. 

You’re ready to try anything at this point. It’s time for last-ditch efforts. 

Try this: put it outside. 

I’ve saved plants this way that just wouldn’t pull through any other way! I once saved a fiddle leaf fig who was dying from a bacterial infection by putting it outside. 

Just not sure what to do with a sick houseplant? Sometimes it's as simple as putting it outside! Here's why and how to put your plant outside to heal.

Why putting plants outside can work:

  • Variations in temperature and sunlight can activate plant hormones and ramp up their metabolism.
  • The extra sunlight can jumpstart your plant’s immune system. Plants need energy to overcome sickness, and they get their energy from sunlight.
  • Humidity tends to increase at night, which can also give your plants a boost!
  • Roots dry faster outdoors, which is great news if your plant is recovering from root rot. 
  • If your plant is riddled with insects, putting it outside can expose those insects to natural predators, which can help.
  • UV rays can actually eliminate bacteria. Animals like vultures actually sunbathe specifically to clean themselves, because UV rays from the sun cook off bacteria and leave them nice and clean. This can work for your plants too! 

The Risks:

This method isn’t without risk, however. You can’t control the outdoors like you can control your indoor environment, so this can introduce some wildcards to your plant. Direct sunlight can burn your plant. Temperature can be an issue if it gets too hot or too cold. And for some more sensitive plants, simply being moved can create quite a shock! 

If you have nothing to lose and the plant doesn’t seem to be recovering no matter what you do, give it a chance outside.  If the weather is mild and conditions are favorable, it might get a second lease on life.

Tips for Putting Your Sick HousePlants Outside:

Don’t put it in full sun all day. Especially avoid the hot afternoon sun. Put it in a fairly shady place or at least a spot that’s shielded from the sun’s intense rays. 

Your plant might toughen up over time, but it’s best to start it off gently. Avoid high winds and bring it back inside if extreme temperatures strike. 

Mind the weather. If you live in a moderate climate like San Diego, most plants are happy to take a vacation outside! If you live a very hot, dry, cold, or wet climate, take great care with putting your plants outside. If you’re too hot or too cold, your plant probably is too. 

Watch your plant closely. If it shows signs of sunburn or dehydration, act fast!

Sometimes, a little sunshine and fresh air can work miracles! If you’ve tried everything and you don’t know what else to do, try giving your plant a little vacation outside. It sounds so crazy, but it just might work, right? 

For more houseplant help, check out our other articles!