Houseplants are never completely safe

Q. When would be the best time to take houseplants outside for the summer? I know that they seem to do better than being in the house.

— K. D. of Collinsville

Trying to pick an exact date is hard to do as each spring brings its own weather pattern. I usually recommend May 15 as the danger of frosts are long past, but some of our houseplants have an origin in the tropics and are very sensitive to temperatures below 55 degrees. Even using this date, be prepared if the tempetures are expected to drop lower that 55 to move the plants back inside.

When you first take the plants outside, make sure that they receive just about a half morning of sunlight. Make sure they do not receive any afternoon sunlight as it will be too strong and the leaves will sunburn. Sunburned plants will turn white or yellow and later turn brown. An all-day northern exposure usually works best for all leafy houseplants.

Be alert to days of high wind because the leaves will lose moisture quicker. You will have mist and water them a little more to help the leaves recover.

Sincw houseplants grow faster when they are outside, you will have to be ready to either water more often or give more water to the plants as the temperatures go up as welwater more often, especially as temperatures rise. You can cut down on this watering if you sink clay pots into the soil.

Chrck your outside houseplants at least once a week for insects and diseases outbreaks. Sometimes it will be easier and more beneficial to the plant to just trim off damaged leaves.

Wen you find a insects, identify them before applying an insecticide. An insecticidal soap seems to work best.

If there are any abrupt changes in the weather, watch your vacationing outside plants a little closer for problems as well.

With any hanging baskets, check for birds’ nests. Birds — especially wrens, flycatchers and song sparrows — seem to adapt very well to the protection that leaves and foliage give the offspring.

Q. I have five peony plants that were given to me that have never bloomed for four years. What could be wrong with them? I am starting to think about getting rid of them?

— R. P. of Columbia

There can be several reasons peonies do not bloom, but the major one is that the peonies are planted too deeply. Dig down carefully to see how deep the buds or “eyes” are below the surface. They should be only 1 to 2 inches below the soil level. Another cause is fertilizing with too much nitrogen. This would be true for many plants. Too much nitrogen keeps the leaf and stem growth going and prevents floral buds from forming. Planting them in too shady of a spot is also a problem.

Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to

Do it now

FLOWERING ANNUALS: Pinch them back to encourage them to grow fuller for the rest of the year.

DEADHEAD: Remove faded flowers to keep your annual flowers blooming.