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Desert Gardening: Using Houseplants Outdoors in the Southwest

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

With their bold foliage, penchant for growing in shady situations and ready availability, houseplants brought outdoors enhance a patio.

Collection of indoor plants outdoors on brown shelf

By Scott Calhoun

When it comes to growing plants outdoors, I’ve got a genuinely green thumb. If it is remotely known to work in our climate, I can grow it. However, when it comes to growing houseplants, I confess that for the longest time I was close to inept. I could walk past an indoor plant a dozen times without noticing that it needs (insert any of the following here): water, more light, fertilizer.

I started to appreciate indoor plants when I brought them outdoors. In southern Arizona and most low-desert climates, you can grow a whole host of houseplants outside for three-quarters of the year. Once I saw them as outdoor plants, I started taking care of them, and magically they began to thrive.

The best use of most houseplants outdoors, with a few exceptions, is beneath deep-shady patios. The Agave, Kalanchoe, Euphorbia and Tradescantia species pictured above favor a moderate amount of shade in desert gardens.

Kalanchoe orgyalis ‘Copper Spoon’ in blue pot

The Kalanchoe orgyalis ‘Copper Spoon’ pictured sports pretty feltlike-covered leaves. The new leaves are tinged with a copper color.

A ‘Crimson Star’ Adenium with red flowers

Another great plant for outdoor spaces, one of the few that handle full summer sun, is the Adenium. These oleander relatives burst into full bloom in the heat. They are best brought indoors in the winter months. The example, ‘Crimson Star’, has glorious red blooms.

Sonoran rock fig growing in a container

With their showy leaves, figs (Ficus spp.) are some of the best species for patios. What are your favorite indoor plants to bring outdoors?