Should You Put Indoor Plants in the Rain?


Indoor Plant in window sill while it's raining outside

Indoor plants require water, so why not put your houseplants in the rain? To you, it sounds like a practically foolproof idea. Yes, you have to worry about waterlogging, so you wouldn’t keep your houseplants outside all night. A few hours in the rain won’t hurt, though, right?

Should you put indoor plants in the rain? Yes! You should put your houseplants in the rain from time to time. The higher oxygen content in rainwater can even help your houseplants from becoming waterlogged. However, be weary of the windy weather and lower temperatures that can come with rain, as these are not good for your houseplants!

Considering moving your indoor plants outside for a while? I’d encourage you to keep reading, as I’m going to do my best to cover all the dos and don’ts for letting your houseplant get watered the natural way.  

The rain can be greatly beneficial, but it can also cause damage to your houseplants if you’re not careful. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know just how much is too much and when to move your houseplants back indoors.

Why It’s Okay to Put Indoor Plants in the Rain

If there’s one thing you’ve taken away from reading this blog, we hope it’s this: it’s never good to overwater your plants. Your indoor plants need oxygen, just like we people do. Plants can make their own oxygen through photosynthesis, which they then use for respiration. 

When you give your houseplant too much tap water from your kitchen, you’re cutting off its oxygen supply. As the roots of the plant get too much water and not enough oxygen, they’re susceptible to developing root rot. This condition, which is caused by overwatering, can lead to the death of your houseplant. 

Bearing all that in mind, you might think that it’s a bad idea to ever put your houseplant outside in the rain. After all, while you can control how much water you give your indoor plant, you cannot control the rain. Your plant would get too much water too quickly and begin drowning. By the time you bring your poor houseplant back inside, the soil would be soaked and the conditions ideal for root rot to begin.

Right?

Fascinatingly, that’s not exactly true. You see, there’s a difference between tap water and rainwater. The latter has much more oxygen. As your houseplants get a nice soak from the rain, then, they’re not just getting doused in water. They’re receiving oxygen as well. Even if your indoor plant’s soil was already wet when you put it out in the rain, it shouldn’t get waterlogged. 

This doesn’t mean waterlogging can’t ever occur if you keep your houseplant in the rain for too long. However, an afternoon spent soaking up an outdoor shower shouldn’t cause the adverse effects in your plant you were expecting. In fact, the rainwater is good for your houseplant in several ways. 

The Benefits of Leaving Indoor Plants in the Rain

If you’ve never given your indoor plants some time out of the house or office, here’s why you should treat them to the next rain shower that comes to your neighborhood. 

Cleans Dust and Dirt

Houseplants get dusty and dirty with time, as you’re likely familiar with. While you can always use a spray bottle filled with water and a lot of precaution to clean the leaves, this is a daunting task for beginner indoor gardeners. Luckily, the rain can take care of the job for you, cleaning the leaves until they’re fresh, bright, and lovely again. 

Allows for Easier Photosynthesis

The rainwater can get even deeper than surface level when you give your houseplant some time outside. It reaches your plant’s respiratory pores, also known as stomata. The stomata are found within the leaves. Healthy and clean stomata allow for the houseplant to absorb more nutrients and carbon dioxide that’s then used for photosynthesis. All this promotes plant growth. 

Clears Away Tap Water Minerals and Salts

When you water your houseplant, you probably use good, old-fashioned tap water to do it, right? There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but there are minerals and salts in tap water that aren’t wonderful for your houseplant long-term. That’s especially true if the water is hard where you live. 

Hard water just means yours has more magnesium and calcium in it. Again, it’s not something you really notice, especially as it doesn’t cause us people any adverse effects. What happens to your houseplant if it gets too much hard water? The hard tap water creates a calcium carbonate and soil layer within the pot. This can prevent water from getting to the roots, which can of course spell bad news for your houseplant.

One of the best ways to reverse this effect is to put your houseplant out in the rain. Like rainwater has more oxygen than tap water, it’s softer, too. It will clear out the salts and minerals so your houseplant soil is essentially starting from zero. There’s no more buildup prohibiting water from getting to the roots. 

Precautions to Take When Leaving Houseplants in the Rain

We’ve established that rainwater can work wonders on your houseplant. That said, it’s best to use your common sense about when to put your plant outdoors. A light drizzle shouldn’t cause any harm, but what if that drizzle gets heavier?

Rain can be unpredictable, after all, sometimes bringing with it other weather. If your houseplant is outside in the following conditions, it’s a good idea to go outside and get it. 

Wind

A rainy, windy day can be quite unfriendly to your houseplant. Strong, continuous gusts may tip your plant right over, possibly smashing its pot or container if it’s made of glass or another fragile material. 

If your tipped houseplant begins rolling around, its leaves and even stems could get damaged by the lawn or hard concrete surfaces of your backyard. When you bring your poor plant back indoors, it’d be a lot worse for wear. You could try pruning the destroyed leaves or stems, but too much damage could spell the end for your houseplant. 

Since your plant has grown up indoors all its life, it won’t be able to handle much wind. A light breeze is nothing to worry about, and even some occasional gusts should be alright, but continuous, high winds are a no-no. 

Cold Temperatures

Rain can be humid in the spring and summer, but other times of the year, you end up with colder temps. Check your forecast before you decide to leave your houseplant out in the rain. If the temperatures will continue plummeting as the day goes on, then keep your plant indoors and wait for another rainy day.

Most houseplants have very specific temperature requirements, something we’ve talked about extensively on this blog. Once the temps start dropping to even 50 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s too cold for many tropical houseplants. Non-tropical indoor plants can maybe handle temps down to the 40s, but no lower than that. 

For that reason, we never recommend leaving your houseplant out in the rain at night except maybe in the summer. Otherwise, it’s just way too chilly. The tissues of your houseplant can freeze as the water in there solidifies. In extreme cold, the water from the tissue becomes ice crystals that can be very harmful to your houseplant’s health.

Heavy Rain

Depending on the weather, the consistency and heaviness of the rain is not always the same. You could have a light drizzle or a somewhat heavier but consistent rain. These are fine for your houseplant, as we mentioned. It’s when the weather shifts to that heavier, pelting rain that you want to grab an umbrella and go fetch your plant.

Heavy rain could tip your houseplant over if it’s coming down hard enough. Also, the more rain, the more water your houseplant gets. We said earlier than rainwater is less likely to waterlog your indoor plant because it has more oxygen than tap water, but it’s not impossible. 

Thunderstorms

It’s not necessarily that your houseplant is going to get struck by lightning. The chances of that happening are very low, but hey, you never know. Mostly, the riskiness of thunderstorms is due to the weather that comes with a storm, such as heavy rain and high winds. You want to get your indoor plant out of the storm, stat. 

How Long Should You Leave Houseplants in the Rain?

You see some rain on the forecast and you’re ready to put your houseplants outside so they get some of that sweet, sweet rainwater. You’re just not sure how much time they need in the rain. There’s the concern of root rot in the back of your mind, which you want to avoid. How long is appropriate for your houseplant to spend outside?

Most indoor gardeners suggest keeping your houseplant outdoors for the duration of a rain event, so a couple of hours. If the weatherperson is predicting nonstop rain all day, please don’t leave your houseplant outside the entire time. They’ll get way too much water.

As the rain comes to an end, you want to get to your houseplant in before the skies can fully clear and the sun comes out. Too much direct light can scorch and burn the leaves of some houseplants. 

You don’t have to bring your plant back inside right away if you don’t want to (which you probably won’t, since it’ll be all wet). If the outdoor temps aren’t too cold, you can always transport the plant from the lawn to your porch. There, it can dry a little before it returns to its indoor home.

Since your houseplant only spent a few hours, maybe a day tops outdoors, there’s little need to slowly reacclimate it to indoor conditions. That’s really only recommended if you moved your houseplant outdoors for weeks or months at a time. That said, do carefully watch your plant to confirm it’s not experiencing signs of temperature-related trauma from being indoors, then outdoors, and now back. 

If the move has stressed out your indoor plant, you may notice the leaves are wilting or have turned yellow. In some cases, the houseplant can even die outright. Again, this isn’t something you should have to deal with in this case, but it’s good info to know anyway.

Once your houseplant is safely indoors once more, don’t just put it back on its windowsill or wherever its indoor home is. You want to inspect the plant for pests and critters first. A few hours outdoors probably won’t lead to any infestations, but the longer your houseplant spends outside, the greater the chances of them bringing some new friends with them. Look out for aphids, slugs, ants, spiders, and all the usual suspects.

If your houseplant does have a bug problem, don’t wait to address the issue. Quick removal using natural products (no pesticides for your houseplant, please) can prevent the critters from reproducing and laying eggs. Talk about nipping a problem in the bud! 

Once your houseplant gets the all-clear from you, then it’s ready to resume its place in your home and enjoy sunlight through a window (or artificial light) and water from a can. Then, then next time it rains and you think your houseplant needs some TLC, you can move it outside again.  

Related Questions

Which houseplants shouldn’t go out in the rain?

You’re thinking of moving your indoor plant outdoors for a few hours, but you have your reservations. Are there some plants that shouldn’t go outside?

Indeed, there are. Use your best judgment here. If you have an especially fragile and delicate plant, then it’s best to keep it indoors. Also, any houseplant species with a fuzzy leaf texture shouldn’t go outside, such as some African violets. These indoor plants do not thrive in the rain, so sending them outside could cause more harm than good. 

This doesn’t mean these houseplants can never experience the benefits of rainwater. You can always collect some rainwater in a bucket and water these more delicate houseplants from the safety of indoors.  

How do you dry overwatered soil? 

You decided to leave your houseplant out in the rain. This was only supposed to be for a few hours, but admittedly, you forgot your plant was out there for a day or two. The rains were really heavy during that time and your poor houseplant’s soil is definitely waterlogged. 

Is there anything you can do for your indoor plant at this point? As a matter of fact, yes, there is. While there are no guarantees you can save your houseplant, you can always give it your best shot. Here’s what you do:

  • Move your houseplant to a sunny environment. You don’t want to burn the leaves, but light will cause water evaporation, which is what your indoor plant needs right now. An artificial light should work fine for these purposes as well. 
  • If your houseplant has a pot liner, you want to dump this, since it should contain some standing water. If this water is gone, it can’t get into the soil and possibly your houseplant’s roots. 
  • Using your fingertips only, press firmly but softly on the soil. This is almost like squeezing water out of a sponge, only much more gently. Keep repeating this until no more water droplets come out from the bottom of the houseplant’s pot.
  • If your houseplant begins showing symptoms of root rot or seems in otherwise bad shape, it’s time to repot the plant in brand new soil. 

Can you use snow to water your houseplants? 

It may seem like a strange idea to use snow of all things to water your houseplant, at least until you stop to think about it. Snow is just very cold water vapor while rain is a condensed form of water vapor. Thus, the water should still have more oxygen like rainwater would.

You don’t want to just dump snow on your houseplants, as that would freeze and possibly kill them. If not, they’d be severely damaged. Instead, you want to take some snow, transport it to a bucket, and keep it inside the house or apartment. It should melt within a few hours depending on how much snow you brought in. 

If necessary, warm up the melted snow until it’s at least 70 degrees, with 75 degrees more preferable. You don’t want to use very cold water on your houseplants, as it could make the leaves develop spots and could also harm the roots. 

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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