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  • Writer's pictureKassi Kuppinger

Indoor Plants vs Outdoor Plants: What are the Differences?

Here at Bath Garden Center and Nursery in Fort Collins, Colorado, plants are our specialty! Whether that's indoor plants, outdoor plants, flowers, trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals... you name it! And while we love all plants equally no matter how prickly, not all plants are created equally. So, to help you understand plants, their needs, and how to take care of them successfully, we are going to talk about the differences between indoor plants and outdoor plants and how to care for them!

Indoor Plants vs Outdoor Plants

Indoor vs Outdoor Plants Similarities

Indoor plants vs outdoor plants are similar in the sense that they all require light, water, and nutrients to grow to their fullest potential. They all have similar components such as roots, leaves, stems, flowers, and the like. However, aside from the fact that all plants are a part of the plant family, house plants vs outdoor plants have more differences than they have similarities.

Indoor vs Outdoor Plants Differences

The biggest difference between indoor and outdoor plants is the region they are native to and their hardiness. A plant will naturally grow where the environment suits it most, and that plant will not survive in conditions that are less than ideal. Outdoor plants are suited to the environment we live in, while indoor plants are not and thus must be kept indoors and given special care.

Indoor Plants are Native to Tropical Areas

Indoor plants are primarily plants that are native to tropical regions, which is why indoor plants are often referred to as "tropical plants" or "tropical houseplants". Many houseplants that we keep in our homes are native to places such as Central and South America, parts of Africa, South and East Asia, some parts of Europe, and other places located on or near the Earth's equator. Such areas have temperate and humid environments that are ideal for these tropical beauties. Such plants are strictly indoor plants because they cannot survive in our arid climate.

Tropical Areas

Outdoor Plants are Suited to Our Environment

Plants considered to be outdoor plants can vary from place to place. A philodendron is considered an outdoor plant in parts of Southern America where it is a native plant, but considered an indoor plant here in Colorado where it will not grow well outdoors. Every area has slightly different conditions that allow some plants to grow and not others. Even within the United States, certain outdoor plants may grow well in California, but not in Montana. This is why outdoor plants have a hardiness rating. A certain plant may be rated for hardiness zone 3, meaning it will grow well in areas that are more arid, cold, and dry, while plants that are rated for hardiness zone 8 will grow well in more warm and humid environments. Here in Northern Colorado, our hardiness zone is somewhere between zone 5-6. Learn more about hardiness zones and find out what zone you are in today!

Outdoor Plants

Indoor Plant Care Tips

How you care for indoor vs outdoor plants is quite similar, however, there are some differences you should be aware of that can determine your success in growing tropical houseplants indoors.

Don't Overwater

Many houseplants tend to be very sensitive to overwatering. Since houseplants are most commonly planted in pots and planters, this contained area makes it easy to overwater, since excess water can't easily or quickly escape, especially if you consistently add too much water to the soil. Every houseplant is different, but a good general rule of thumb is to wait to water your plants again until the top 1-2 inches of soil has had a chance to dry out.

Fertilize Your Houseplants

Your indoor houseplants also grow in the same soil, and this soil does not have organic materials decomposing into the top layer of soil as there would be in their natural environments. This leads to the soil being drained of all its nutrients since the roots of your plant cannot reach outside of the confines of its pot to find additional nutrients. Because of this, fertilizing is necessary to keep your plants healthy! Be sure to find the right fertilizer for your specific type of plant, and always follow the labeled instructions to avoid causing damage to your plants!

Re-Pot Them Regularly

While fertilizing does help revitalize your soil, every couple of years it is best to refresh the soil entirely. This will introduce more nutrients, give you a chance to assess if your plant has outgrown its pot and needs a bigger one, will avoid mineral build-ups in your soil, and the like. For more information on when and how to repot your houseplants, check out this blog or watch our tutorial video on our YouTube channel! Not repotting your indoor houseplants can lead to stunted growth, declining health, and eventually the death of the plant, so this is a very important aspect of owning houseplants that you won't want to overlook!


Be Aware of Pests

You might think that because your plant is growing indoors there is no need to worry about bugs and pests ailing your plants. Sadly, this is far from true. Some of the most common houseplant pests include spider mites, scale, mealy bugs, aphids, and fungus gnats. These pests love to suck the life right out of your plants, and many of them are so small you might not even notice they are there until it is too late. If you are struggling with houseplant pests or want to learn more about how to avoid houseplant pests, check out our Pests & Disease playlist on our Youtube channel! You can also shop for products to help with pest control on your indoor plants.

Outdoor Plant Care Tips

If you are interested in growing plants outdoors, whether that be in your flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, landscaping, or lawn, there are a few things that you should take into consideration before planting that can greatly affect the success of your plants.

Plant in Quality Soil

Many people may not think about this aspect of planting and think that dirt is dirt, but the reality is that your plants will be as healthy as the soil they are planted in. Our Colorado soil tends to be dense and clay-heavy, which is not conducive to growing much. Be sure to amend your soil before planting or replace your soil with a quality topsoil so that your plants will be able to grow strong and healthy. Learn more about creating healthy soil today, and shop soils and soil amendments on our website!

Water Them a Lot During Their First Year of Growth

Immediately after planting any new tree, shrub, or perennial, they will require more water than normal. This is because, in the first year after planting, they are working to establish their root system. Once their roots are established, they are able to focus on supporting the growth of the rest of the plant. Watering slowly for long periods of time is recommended, as this will encourage deep and strong roots to grow. Watering fast for a short period of time just causes the water to spread out over the surface of the soil, encouraging wide and shallow roots, which will not make for a healthy plant. Learn more about how to care for new plantings in our Tree & Shrub Planting Guide!

Water Them a Lot

Winter Watering

This is something that is often overlooked with caring for outdoor plants. Winters in Colorado can be dry and cold, and this can cause irreparable damage to the roots of your plants if you aren't careful. If there is no snow on the ground or if there has not been any sort of precipitation in over a month, it is highly recommended to water your plants. This will ensure that they have the moisture they need to survive the long, cold winter! If you want to learn more about winter watering, check out our blog on The Importance of Winter Watering.

Choose the Right Plant for the Right Spot

Just because a plant might be suited for your area in terms of hardiness zone does not mean that any plant can be planted in any location. Planting a shrub that requires shade in a sunny spot will not end up going well, and vice versa. Pay attention to the needs of the plant to make sure that you are getting a plant that is well suited to the area you intend to plant it in. This is one of the most important, if not the most important outdoor plant care tip to keep in mind!

What Are the Difference Between Houseplants and Outdoor Plants?

If you still have questions regarding the differences between indoor and outdoor plants, or if you want to know more about indoor plant care tips or outdoor plant care tips, let us know! As we said, plants are our passion and we are happy to help you in any way we can. If you want to shop around for some plants, you can also use our Plant Finder to get an idea of what might grow well in your space. We also have tons of other resources available on our website and on our YouTube channel, so check it all out! Happy planting everyone!

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