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MOVING PLANTS TO GREAT OUTDOORS INVOLVES PREPARATION, PRECAUTION [BYLINE] BY JEANNE PALAMUSO

Are you one of those gardeners who places your indoor greenery outside every summer? Or do you prefer to keep your plants inside throughout the year?

Vacationing plants outside is simply a matter of personal choice. However, the procedure itself is not always so simple.

Moving from the protective interior of the home to the great outdoors could produce shock in plants if done too abruptly.

The sunlight that streams in through your windows does not have the same intensity as the direct sunlight found outdoors; window glass diminishes the intensity of the sun's rays by at least 25 percent. So it's a good idea to place your plants in shade or partial shade. Under eaves, under a tree or an outdoor porch or patio are all good sites.

When you place your plants outdoors, their watering schedules probably will change. The increased light and summer breezes will dry out the plants much faster and you will have to water more often.

Check your plants, too, after a particularly heavy rainfall to be sure that they are not sitting in a pool of water. This collection of water could cause root rot.

It's generally not a good idea to take your houseplants out of their pots and place them directly in the soil. If you do, when you bring them in for the winter, you also may bring in all sorts of garden pests.

It's best to be selective about what plants will be moved outside. Not all plants appreciate the great outdoors. Ferns and palms, for example, are sunburned very easily. With too much outdoor light some plants develop pale, bleached-looking leaves -- for example, the African violet.

A general guide is to look at the structure of the leaves. Plants with very thin leaves are best left indoors.

Many houseplants, though, will thrive outdoors. Colors will deepen to a rich intensity on some foliage plants, especially with coleus and crotons. Some plants, including the asparagus sprengeri, Swedish ivy or wandering Jew will reach spectacular fullness, and others may even be encouraged to bloom. Gardenias and hibiscus, for example, usually respond to outdoor living not only by growing shiny green leaves but by producing lovely blossoms.

As a precautionary measure, if you are placing plants on upper porches or balconies, make sure they are properly weighted down. Strong summer winds and sudden thunderstorms can knock these plants from their perches -- a dangerous situation to plants and people.

If you suspect your plants are lightweights, double-pot them, placing sand or stones at the bottom of the outer pot.

One final thought: It's sad to say, but one of the major drawbacks to moving plants outdoors may come not from Mother Nature but from people, in the form of plant thievery.

This gardener had the misfortune of losing a prized plant off the front porch last summer (only to have it returned this year through a bizarre set of circumstances).

As a last precaution, if you would rather not risk having a favorite plant spirited away in the night, bring it in every evening or make it theft-proof with a bicycle lock and chain.

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