Thursday, May 20, 2010

Putting Them Back Out

Suddenly, it is that time of year again. I'm starting to put my succulent plants outdoors for the summer. Unlike bringing them back in, this is a fairly leisurely process. For one thing, there is less of a sense of urgency. Although this past fall I was good about starting gradually, and not waiting until frost was forecast, that hasn't always been the case. I've had to rush and bring in all 150 in a single session more than once in previous years, due to imminent freezing temps. For another thing, I don't have to check each plant for insects before bringing it out, a bit of necessary drudgery (and occasional source of the willies) in the fall. And lastly, I don't have to worry much about where I'm going to put them, because after they have been acclimated to outdoor sun, I have the whole backyard at my disposal.

That is not to say that moving them out is easy, exactly. Transporting 150 plants, however few at a time, is still quite a task. And it is not like I can just put them out all at once, even if I wanted to. That would take some time, but it would be a one-time task, and I'd be done with it. Why can't I put them all out at once, you ask? Because the one thing my property lacks is shade. Even sun-loving plants grown in south windows need to be introduced to full outdoor sun gradually. And the only suitable shade I have at my disposal is my very small front porch. The area under the maple tree isn't a good place for a lot of small pots. And the yard to north side of the house, which may be available in the future, has been a fenced-in dog run for several years, and will need a bit of attention before it is people-friendly.

Cacti are usually the first out. They have already started their "march" forward, as described below, with a few Echeveria bringing up the rear.

So what do I do? I start by putting a few plants toward the rear of the porch, which faces east, and gets a bit of morning sun. Every couple of days, I move the plants up a bit, where they will get more and more sun as they move forward. As space toward the rear opens up, I add a few more plants. Once the plants get to the very front of the porch, where there is some southern sun as well, they are fully acclimated and can be moved to tables in the full-sun backyard. So for a couple of weeks, I add and move plants every few days until they are all ready for the sun of summer.

Crassula and Aeonium species share the porch table with the Hedera helix varieties for the time being. By early June, the Hederas will have the porch mostly to themselves, with maybe another type of plant or two. Other than the succulents and the ivies, most of my houseplants stay indoors year round. That's why I call them houseplants.

I've always loved succulents, but I never attempted to grow more than a few until I had an outdoor space. Except for my Sanseviera trifasciatia and Haworthia varieties, which live indoors year-round, I guess I think of them more as plants that must spend the Illinois winters indoors, rather than as houseplants in the purest sense. While I appreciate them at all times, (hence the "In Praise of Succulents" series of posts) I truly revel in my succulents during the summer.


CactusMcHarris said...


I had simply no idea that you had so many - that's most excellent news and I won't whinge about putting my 30 or so outside here. Still, if it's phenomenal growth you want, outside's where it's at.

Are many of them exposed to summer rains?

Karen715 said...

Most of them get rained on, and have been fine with it, even when we had a very, very, rainy summer a couple of years back. I think they actually do very well as long as they can dry out between the rains.

Some of them end up under the short overhang just above my back door and windows, so they get somewhat less, depending on how hard it is raining or which direction the wind is blowing.

I'm fine with it, too, as long as they don't get knocked about too much during bad storms. Some times, I've had a heavy rain wash the soil out of a small pot, but that's easily taken care of.

The 150 is probably a slightly low estimate, based on the last time I actually counted them up, more than a year ago. As mentioned in a post from last November I do have 30 aloes though. You might enjoy that post, and this one as well.

Julie said... DO have a lot of suculents!!!!!!!!!!