Don't let cold winters stop you from growing the plants that you love. You can grow plants that need warm temperatures year-round if you bring them indoors during the winter and put them in front of a sunny window. The plants listed below won't survive winter outdoors, but they'll thrive inside - and beautify your home all winter long - as long as you make sure they get enough indirect light, a bit of water, and some TLC.
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) is an easy-care succulent commonly grown as a houseplant that also does well outdoors. It can only stay outdoors all year in Zones 9 and higher, but it can be moved outdoors during the warmer months in other areas. It needs bright, indirect light indoors. Outdoors, aloe plants need at least eight hours of bright light daily. It's very important to acclimate them before exposing to direct sun.
Crotons (Codaeum variegatum) are gorgeous multicolored tropical plants that look great indoors and outdoors - if the temperature is warm enough. This tropical beauty is hardy only in USDA Zone 9 and higher, so it can only survive winter outside in very warm areas. That's okay, though - you can grow it regardless of your planting zone if you're willing to bring it indoors. They need full sun outdoors and bright indirect light indoors.
Hoyas (hoya carnosa) are vining tropical plants that need to be brought in for winter everywhere other than USDA Zone 9 or higher. They're usually grown in hanging baskets or on trellises. If you plan to use a hoya as an indoor/outdoor plant, it'll be much easier to deal with moving a basket around than a trellised plant (but it can be done). They need bright, dappled or indirect light indoors and out. They do not do well in direct sun.
Wish you could grow lemons in your climate? With a Meyer lemon (Citrus × meyeri) tree and a sunny indoor spot for the winter, you absolutely can. You can actually grow Meyer lemon indoors all the time, but it'll do best if you put it outside in full sun in the summer and bring it inside for winter, unless you're in Zone 8 or higher. Bring it in when temps start dropping below 50° F and put it in bright indirect sunlight. It'll produce fruit indoors.
Olive trees (Olea europaea) are a perfect indoor/outdoor plant. Unlike small trees that do great inside all the time, olive trees actually need to go outside to soak up some unfiltered sunlight when the temperatures are in the 80s (F). The rest of the time, they really need to be inside. Unlike Meyer lemons, olive trees won't fruit when primarily grown indoors, even if you purchase a variety that fruits when grown outdoors in USDA Zone 10 or higher.
Ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata) work well as indoor/outdoor plants. You can grow these sizeable succulents fully indoors. However, they love sunlight and warmth, so they also do great outside in summer. These plants are only hardy in USDA Zone 9 and above, so there aren't many places they can survive outdoors during the winter. Whether inside or outside, they will take all the light they can get - even direct sun.
Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) is a perennial herb that's hardy in USDA Zone 7 and higher. If you live in a colder area, you can keep it going by bringing it indoors for the winter. It needs at least six hours of bright, indirect sunlight daily. Even where rosemary is hardy, it'll die back outdoors in the winter. If you bring it in for winter, you'll be able to enjoy fresh rosemary all year. It's a great addition to any indoor herb garden.
Snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata) make great indoor/outdoor plants. They thrive indoors in just about any level of light, but they don't have to stay inside all year. Snake plants do great outdoors in warm weather, as long as they don't get too much direct sun. They're hardy only in USDA Zone 10 and higher, so they need to be brought inside during the winter in most places.
Key Tips: Bringing Indoor/Outdoor Plants in for Winter
Plants that you bring in for the winter won't grow as much as they do during the summer - some might not even grow at all. That's okay, though - they'll still brighten up your home until they can return to the great outdoors. Follow the tips below for the best results.
- With the short winter days, even your sunniest window may not provide enough light. You may need to supplement natural light with grow lights.
- Grow indoor/outdoor plants in containers rather than planting them in-ground so it's easy to move them in and out as needed.
- Keep large plant containers on rolling caddies so it'll be as easy as possible to move them back and forth from inside to outside.
- Indoor/outdoor plants won't need as much water when they're indoors during the winter as when they're outside during the warmer months.
- Prepare your indoor outdoor plants to come in for the winter by moving them into areas that get less and less natural light for a few weeks.
Transitioning Indoor Outdoor Plants for Summer
When it's time for your indoor/outdoor plants to go outside for the summer, you should make the change gradually. Start by putting them outside in warmer temperatures for a few hours per day, in less sun than they need for optimal growth. Then, gradually increase their time outdoors and light exposure until they're ready to be outside in the amount of sunlight they need throughout the summer season. Taking the time to acclimate your plants from indoors to outdoors will help keep them as healthy - and gorgeous - as possible.