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Indoors - Outdoors, Houseplants That Move

by Sara Pitzer

All types of houseplants once grew outdoors somewhere. Anyone who has traveled from a cold climate to vacation in a tropical area has gaped in awe at tropicals they’ve grown only on windowsills at home: bougainvilla and pittosporum for example, reaching for the tops of fences in the year-round warmth.

The lesson here is that many landscape plants can live outside for the summer and then move inside, no matter where you live. And the advantage of such plants is that when you take them in you can put them in cooler places than you keep the softies -- African violets, for instance.

Your Growise Center likely has a number of plants used for hedges and outdoor landscaping that will move inside if you grow them in containers instead of in the ground.

Here are some possibilities and how to manage them:

*Boxwood. Popular for hedges, boxwood has shiny tough leaves that are attractive as houseplants. Select the smaller plants and grow in light sun outside. When you want to bring the plants in, move them gradually to a less bright area outside and when inside put them in the sunniest place you have. Spray the leaves occasionally to keep them free of dust. And set the pots on trays of damp pebbles for additional humidity.

*Podocarpus. Sometimes called "Chinese Evergreen,’‘ podocarpus comes in an upright and a weeping form. Both are easy to grow but the upright is practically indestructible and will reach great heights. It is easily controlled by pruning. Depending on where you live you’ll find it among the landscaping plants or with the greenhouse plants. Ask your Growise specialist.

*Dwarf Alberta Spruce. This is a hardy outdoor plant that does well in containers outside, even in winter. But it will live inside for three or four weeks at a time if you keep the soil evenly moist and keep the plant in a cool place. Dwarf Albert spruce makes a wonderful small, living Christmas tree.

*Rosemary. In mild climates rosemary is sometimes grown as a low hedge or border plant. Many varieties are hardy. Indoors the plants like good light and humidity and almost any temperature. Some varieties will bloom. Rosemary comes in two forms, upright and prostrate. The upright forms can be pruned into Christmas tree shapes, standards or just shapely plants. The prostrate forms are good for hanging baskets. Rosemary does not like acid soil and does not do well in untreated peat moss. If you use a peat based potting soil, add a generous sprinkling of lime.

*Begonia. Not the fancy angel wings and tuberous begonias but plain old garden-variety bedding begonias make fine houseplants. You can grow them outside in containers all spring and summer, then cut them back to bring into a sunny window, or you can grow them in the ground and clip tips to root about mid-summer, giving you lots of new plants to take inside. 

*Impatiens. Outside impatiens are valued as a shade plant. Inside in a sunny spot or under fluorescent light they’ll continue to flower over the winter. Since impatiens grow fast and tend to get leggy, you’ll have the best results from rooting tips to bring in. You don’t have to do any complicated propagating. Just cut tips, remove any blooms, and stick them in damp potting mix. This is available from your Growise Center. The cuttings will root within days and begin blooming again not long after that.

*Ivy. The same ivies that grow up your brick walls and creep along your rockeries will make wonderful house plants. Two of the best are "Needlepoint" and "Glacier." The easiest way to prepare ivies for inside is to cut off small growing tips in early summer, with a bit of root attached, and insert them in damp potting mix in the pot you will take inside. Leave about two inches between cuttings but fill the pot. You can always pull some out later if it gets too crowded. When growing ivy indoors take the pots to the shower occasionally for a good, hard spray to prevent spidermite. You may also need to use an insecticidal spray. Your Growise specialists can recommend the best choice.

*Geraniums. The same geraniums that brighten your front porch and your garden borders will produce blooms all winter long in a sunny window. The plants will get a bit leggy and the bloom will not be as prolific but it is very cheery growing in with foliage plants in cold weather when nothing much is flowering. Start the geraniums in pots outside, keep them trimmed back to reasonable size and wash them thoroughly before moving inside. The best varieties for using this way are the older bright reds.

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