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Use Containers of Houseplants Outdoors

By Doug Jimerson and Karen Weir-Jimerson

Year-round color! That’s what you get when you fill planters with an eye-popping mix of houseplants to decorate your porch or patio for summer. Often thought of as indoor plants, species such as diffenbachia, snake plant (Sansevieria), pothos, peace lily (Spathiphyllum), and philodendron thrive outdoors because they love summer heat and humidity. And best of all, when chilly fall temperatures threaten, you can move these colorful pots indoors and enjoy them inside your home all winter. 

Here are a few fabulous container combinations we designed for different light conditions -- inside and out. But there are thousands of gorgeous arrangements you can create with foliage plants. Visit your local home-improvement center, mass merchandiser, or garden center and mix and match your favorites. 

Sunrise Serenade
Wake up to this stunning combination of Kimberly queen fern, anthurium, and green-and-white diffenbachia. All three plants thrive with morning sun on an east-facing porch or terrace. This handsome trio tolerates a bit of neglect and won’t faint if you forget to water once in a while. Remove the anthurium flowers as they fade to encourage new waves of rosy bloom. 

Bring-Indoors-for-Winter Tip:
Set in an east-facing window. 

Tropical Holiday
Cool, moist conditions won’t put a damper on this trio of gorgeous plants, which thrives in bright light and enjoys slightly moist soil. This combo is ideal for any porch or screened room that’s protected from midday sun. The peace lily’s white flowers create a tropical sensation with the colorful foliage of the pothos and red aglaonema.

Bring-Indoors-for-Winter Tip:
Set in a west-facing window.

Northern Lights
Brighten dim corners of your porch, patio, or deck with three of our favorite low-maintenance, shade-loving plants. Snake plant, which is sold in variegated and all-green varieties, makes a bold statement in the back of this large pot, while a dwarf snake plant provides plenty of fill-in color. Variegated philodendron offers texture and beauty as it trails over the pot’s edge. All three tolerate neglect and do just fine without you if you take a short summer vacation. 

Bring-Indoors-for-Winter Tip:
Set in a north-facing window.

Tips for Container Success
Creating a colorful container using foliage plants is as easy as planting annual or perennial flowers in pots. Here are some tips to get you started using houseplants in outdoor containers.

SELECT a container that has drainage holes. These holes let excess water escape from the pot. Most foliage plants don’t like sitting in wet soil -- it can cause their roots to rot.
  • CHOOSE plants with similar light requirements for your containers. Happily, most foliage plants do best in bright, indirect light, but some species are more tolerant of dark conditions (especially snake plant, aglaonema, and pothos), while others love the sun. 

  • MIX a thriller (tall dramatic plant), with a filler (bushy mid-level plant), and a spiller (a vining plant to trail over the pot’s edge) to give your containers a professionally designed look. Coordinating colors can also help; for example, a red pot with a red aglaonema looks sharp.

  • FEED your plants every couple of weeks in summer with a dilute solution of liquid houseplant food. Read the fertilizer label and cut the recommended dosage to accommodate weekly watering. Stop feeding your plants when you move them inside in the fall.

Other container stories: 
Get Tips for Keeping Your Houseplants Alive Over Winter!
Discover More Tips and Tricks with Our Free Idea Book!

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