By Scott Calhoun
With its balmy, frost-free nights, summer is a great time to free your captive houseplants that have gathered dust and languished in corners all winter. Give them a vacation, put them outside, and watch them flourish.
In general, many indoor plants prefer low light, so take care where you put them. Covered patios often provide the type of indirect light some houseplant species prefer. Below are a few of my favorite patio stars—mostly indoor plants that make summer cameo appearances on the patio—although you can keep a few of these outdoors year-round in largely frost-free microclimates. A couple of the plants below also enjoy full sun.
Plants in the Sansevieria genus, also known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue, are vertical growers that come in a variety of colors and shapes. Tall, variegated varieties, such as the white-striped ‘Bantel’s Sensation’ pictured above, are excellent in dim patio corners, where height and drama are needed. Low-growing varieties, such as the plant pictured right, are handsome in wide, dish-type pots. Because it grows from rhizomes, snake plant eventually spreads and fills up a pot.
Known for its clusters of fragrant white flowers, Madagascar palm (Pachypodium lamerei) is not a true palm but rather a stem succulent with a thorny trunk. It resembles a cross between a cactus and palm. It’s tall—reaching 6 feet indoors and even taller outside. Madagascar palm takes nearly full sun in the desert but also appreciates the filtered shade of desert trees. Indoors it rarely blooms, but once outside it puts on a fragrant spring display, sometimes reblooming with summer rains. Use it in a pot singly, or at the back of a group of pots. It’s dramatic and bold.
For a powerful-big summer flower show, try desert rose (Adenium spp.). This oleander relative from Africa thrives in sun, heat and humidity. This one takes full sun. It grows from a bulbous base often purposely left exposed when potting. Plants can range from small tabletop bonsai specimens to hulking 6-footers. Blooms come in colors from white to pink to red, with numerous flower shapes and color combinations. The variety pictured right is the stunning red hybrid ‘Crimson Star’.
Other bold plants (some houseplants) for summer patio pots you usually can find at Lowe’s stores in our region include:
- Dwarf Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus ‘Peter Pan’)
- Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
- Lemon Drops Fortnight lily (Dietes Lemon Drop)
- Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata)
- Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii)
- Split-leaf Philodendron (Philodendron selloum)
- Schefflera (Shefflera amate)