With the onset of warmer temperatures and longer days in the Northern Hemisphere, you might be wondering if it’s safe to move your Pilea outdoors during the summer months?
It’s true, some houseplants can act both as indoor and outdoor decor, depending on the season. A few common examples that come to mind include coleus, caladiums and begonias. But these are outdoor plants that can survive indoors too, rather than indoor plants that thrive out in the elements.
Theoretically, you could move your Pilea outdoors in the warm months. And we’ve seen examples of Pilea plants thriving on porches and outdoor window sills. Practically, Pilea is a prima donna, so if you decide to move it outdoors, everything has to be just right. We only recommend that you move it outdoors if the following conditions are met. And even then, there’s no guarantee that your plant won’t be damaged.
1. There are no significant variations in temperature.
What is the outdoor temperature in your area throughout the summer? Pilea plants prefer temperatures between 60-75 °F, and they top out at about 80°F, so anything above that is too hot for your plant to thrive.
Another factor to pay attention to is the temperature fluctuation between day and night. In some climates, days can be mild and pleasant, while nights get too chilly. Like most houseplants, Pilea likes predictability and a constant temperature, so sudden changes may cause it to go into shock and drop leaves in protest.
When it comes to humidity, in general, Pilea plants don’t require extra moisture. However, if it gets too dry, you might see leaves drooping and becoming crispy and brittle.
2. Your Pilea gets bright indirect light.
This plant likes bright indirect light, where ‘bright’ refers to the intensity of the light and ‘indirect’ refers to the direction of the light. This means it shouldn’t be left in a spot that gets direct sunlight because too much sun will cause leaf damage.
Bright indirect light is found in west-facing and east-facing locations, as long as the spot is sheltered and protected from the elements.
If you notice changes on the surface of your Pilea’s leaves - bleached leaves, curling leaves, crispy brown leaves - that means your plant is getting too much light. The edges of the leaves will become singed and plagued with dark patches. This happens not because of too much light per se, but because of too much heat energy that comes with the light. Think about it this way, if you were to sit in the same spot and get a sunburn, so would your plant.
In this case, you should move it away from direct sun and remove the leaves that are affected. Once a leaf is damaged, it will not turn green again, so gently pinch it off to redirect the plant’s energy back to new growth. Or you can just let it be, and if the damage is too much, the plant will eventually shed the sick leaf.
3. There’s no direct rain falling on your plant.
First of all, heavy rainfall will damage the surface of the leaf and will flatten out the lower, smaller leaves. But most importantly, Pilea plants are sensitive to overwatering. In their natural habitat, Pilea plants do get plenty of rain. But in this scenario, the plant is not trapped in an artificial environment (a plastic pot exposed from all sides). So the water drains and spreads through the soil, something that doesn’t happen in its houseplant state.
If there’s too much moisture around the roots for too long, this may lead to root rot and the death of your plant, and there’s little chance of recovery from root rot. We’ve explained in detail how overwatering affects your plant in this post.
4. There are no drafts.
Pilea plants are sensitive to draft, be it hot or cold. If you decide to move your Pilea to your porch in the summer, try to place it somewhere shielded from wind and drafts. Placing it against a wall or a fence is much better than out in the open.
5. You check it for pests often.
Infestation is a risk you run with every houseplant that you move outdoors, and Pilea is no exception. The potting medium that we use for indoor plants is often sterilized and devoid of any organisms that may harm the plant. But this also means that it doesn’t have the necessary ecosystem to fight the bad guys, should they decide to move in. While there may be enough beneficial plants in your garden soil to fend off invaders, the same can not be said for the potting soil that you give to your houseplants. This means that indoor plants, Pilea included, are more susceptible to infestation.
Pest infestation happens gradually, and it may take days or even weeks before damage to the plant becomes visible. It just seems like it has happened overnight because we’re not in the habit of closely inspecting our houseplants, especially when they’re outdoors. Out of sight, out of mind.
Here are the most common pests that your Pilea may attract and what to look for:
aphids (green, pear-shaped and juicy-looking);
mealybugs (small, white and powdery-looking);
spider mites (they look like minuscule spiders, and the first sign you’ll see is delicate spider-like webs on the underside of the leaves);
whiteflies (powdery, white tiny moths).
Once you’ve moved your Pilea outdoors, you should make it a habit to check it for infestation at least every week. Make sure to look on the surface of leaves, underneath the leaves, along the stem, and where the stem meets the soil.
What should you do if you find pests attacking your Pilea? Here’s a short guide we put together to help you fight these pesky bugs. But do not move the plant back indoors before fixing this issue. Otherwise, you risk infecting your other houseplants.
As a general rule, we don’t recommend you move your Pilea outside in the summer. But, if you’re willing to risk it, you might be rewarded with a healthy growth.