Starting Plants Indoors Then Moving Outdoors

Growing marijuana outdoors is a relatively easy and cheap thing to do, but you should consider some things before starting. In this article, we’ll be considering the process of germinating your seeds and starting the initial growth of your plants indoors before eventually moving them outdoors.

Starting your plants off indoors is an excellent way to ensure that they have a strong foundation of growth before facing the less predictable and less consistent elements outdoors. So, even if you aspire to be an outdoor grower, it is often a good idea to start growing indoors. I’ll share more about the process as well as some tips on doing it effectively.

Do You Need to Move Indoor Cannabis Plants Outside?

Some growers who intend to grow outdoors are hesitant to commit to starting their plants indoors first. Why should you do anything indoors if your plants grow perfectly fine outdoors? While you certainly could start your plants outdoors right off the bat, and doing so will probably go okay (it’s called “weed” for a reason; this is a persistent and resilient plant!), you’ll still be better off yield-wise if you start indoors from the beginning. 

There are several reasons why this is the case. For starters, anyone who lives in a place with a grow season on the short side — for example, an area with colder winters — will benefit from this technique.

Indoor cannabis plants
Start cannabis plants indoors if you’re in an area with colder winters

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Some growers prefer to grow their plants indoors through the germination, seedling stage, and entire vegetative stage rather than moving them outdoors while they are still young. This process works well for photosensitive plants. Growers that do this provide a strong foundation of growth indoors, giving the plants round-the-clock sunshine (from artificial light) and then sending them outdoors for the natural seasonal sunlight changes that induce the flowering phase

Other growers enjoy starting indoors and then moving plants outdoors to get the best of both worlds, so to speak. The positive aspects of growing indoors (having a perfect grow environment totally under your control) are combined with the positives of growing outdoors (natural sunlight is the best for plants. This gives you more growth space when the plants are getting too big. Moving plants from indoors to outdoors can help you get the most out of your grow season.

The Best Time to Move Cannabis Plants Outdoors

If you are sold on the concept of starting your plants indoors and then moving them outdoors, you might now be wondering when to put plants outside. Different growers choose to do this at different times. Here we will cover some of the possibilities, which depend on your main goals. 

Know when to move marijuana plants outdoors
Know the ideal time to move marijuana plants outdoors

It is a good idea to figure out your plan in advance; otherwise, you might decide too last-minute to make the proper preparations and not maximize the situation.

One of the tricks for moving your plants from the indoor grow environment to the great outdoors is timing the lighting correctly. You’re going to want to know how many daylight hours are currently occurring outdoors and make the transition gradual and gentle for your plants. This prevents them from encountering too much stress from a sudden major change. Ideally, you should wait until at least mid-March. This will help ensure enough daylight to prevent your plants from suddenly entering the flowering phase before it’s their time. In the Southern Hemisphere, this should be mid-September at the earliest.

If your goal is to give your plants a healthy vegetative phase outdoors and buy them extra time by starting them indoors, then the mid-March rule of thumb is your best bet. This helps in colder climates because you can begin the indoor part of growing your plants however early you want, regardless of the temperatures and sunlight outside at the time.

Then again, if your goal is to induce flowering by moving your plants outside, the timing will look very different. Wait until mid-June if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere and mid-December in the Southern. The key is to make sure you’re waiting for daylight hours to shorten enough for photosensitive plants to naturally react to the lighting change by entering the flowering phase. My outdoor grow calendar can help you time the move perfectly. 

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Some growers throw timing to the wind and keep switching from indoor to outdoor areas for their plants, simply because different settings suit their needs at different times. These needs can vary from security reasons — for example, sometimes the plants happen to be noticed by someone and need to be removed, so they are brought indoors — to environmental reasons. As long as this is done safely without compromising the plants’ health, it is entirely feasible. 

How to Safely Move Your Cannabis Plants Outdoors

The first thing you will want to consider when switching from indoor to outdoor grow environments is your plants’ safety and health. A sudden change of temperature, humidity, and lighting can all cause environmental stress on your plants. Even if they survive the ordeal, this can be a setback in their overall growth — and that is something that affects their final yield, which likely is your ultimate main concern. 

If you aren’t careful, there could be some disappointing consequences to stressing your plants by unsafely moving them outdoors. Stressed plants can have a variety of adverse reactions, such as entering the flowering phase too soon. They could grow abnormally or even suffer from hermaphroditism, which does not help marijuana. Their growth could be slowed down, as well, ultimately leading to a significantly reduced yield at the end of the growing season. In short, it’s in your best interest to proceed with caution. 

How to safely move cannabis plants outdoors
Exercise caution when moving cannabis plants outdoors

Luckily, there are a few precautionary measures you can take to ensure this does not happen. First of all, consider whether the temperatures outside are safe for your plants to grow without damage. If you can, pay close attention and gradually mimic the outdoor environment. That way, the change isn’t much of a shock to your plants. Only do this if the outdoor environment is warm enough and the hours of daylight aren’t too short, of course. 

Lighting is often the main thing you will need to think about. Suppose you are planning on moving plants from indoors to outdoors on the later side of the season to instill your plants’ flowering phase. In that case, you shouldn’t go from a full-on lighting schedule (whether that means 24/7 or 18 hours on, 6 hours off) straight to a more seasonally appropriate one, which likely will have 12 hours of darkness. 

lighting schedule for marijuana plants
Introduce new lighting schedule gradually

The best thing to do is introduce the new lighting schedule gradually. This takes a bit of foresight and planning. Sometimes you’ll need to make changes up to two weeks in advance. Slowly change the lighting hours a little bit each day for a week or two before you plan to move them outdoors. By the end of this period, the lighting schedule should be close to the natural one outside. Then, moving them outdoors will naturally induce the flowering phase rather than shocking them into it.

Moving Your Plants Outdoors to Continue Vegetation

If you’re moving your plants outdoors so they can keep vegetating, you’re probably already giving your plants plenty of hours of light while they’re growing indoors. Meanwhile, since it’s likely early summer or late spring when you decide to bring out your plants, the hours of daylight are not going to be the highest possible yet. Instead, they will be shorter than whatever you’re exposing your plants to indoors. Therefore, you’re going to have to get your plants used to the outdoor lighting time before sending the plants outside. 

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Gradually reduce the hours of “daylight” in your daily lighting schedule for the indoor setup. After about one or two weeks, make sure you have reduced it enough to be similar to the outdoor timing. To do this properly, you’re going to need to know what the timing is outside (and what it will be in two weeks), and then you can divide up the hours’ difference between the number of days from now until the point when you move the plants outdoors.

Moving Your Plants Outdoors to Flower

If you plan to move your plants outdoors to flower, you probably are growing photoperiod plants rather than autoflowers. This means that they need a certain amount of uninterrupted darkness to spur them into the flowering phase. This is between 10 and 12 hours of darkness — and it must be uninterrupted, meaning no light exposure at all during that time — per night, every night. 

Therefore, start by checking your local natural daylight hours. If the daylight hours have gone down to 14 hours or less, you are safe to start preparing your plants for the big move. Prepare them at least a week in advance by giving them 10-12 hours of uninterrupted darkness. Don’t worry if they already start flowering before you have moved them. 

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Once the light periods match (the same number of hours of daylight and nighttime both indoors and outdoors), you can safely move them outdoors. Make absolutely sure the number of hours of daylight is not higher outside than they are inside, or else your plants will get confused and might switch back to the vegetative stage.

Moving Your Plants Outdoors For a Brief Period

If you need to place your plants outdoors for a short time, such as when cleaning your grow room or adjusting it in some other way, you can. The key is to avoid shocking them with the sudden infusion of direct sunlight, which will always be stronger than a lamp in a grow room.

If you will keep them out for a few days, start them out in some shade — not full shade, but also not full direct sunlight. Give them small amounts of direct sunlight to start with, such as a few hours per day, and then increase it slowly from there. Keep an eye out for any heat stress that would tell you it’s getting to be too much.

Move plants outdoors for a brief period
Move plants outdoors for a brief period

Moving Cannabis Plants From Indoors to Outdoors – Key Takeaways

This article covered some of the main points for moving your plants outdoors when necessary. The most important thing to remember:

You absolutely must decide when to put plants outside in advance, so you can plan ahead and gradually change the timing of light exposure.  

Do not shock your plants with a massive change in the environment. This also includes things like temperature, but the most important thing to pay attention to is the lighting. Before moving your plants outdoors, gradually get them accustomed to what lighting schedule they can expect in the outdoor world.

Get your plants accustomed to the lighting they can expect outdoors
Get your plants accustomed to the lighting they can expect outdoors

Health issues caused by a sudden environmental change:

  • Hermaphroditism
  • Reverting back to the vegetative phase
  • Prematurely entering the flowering phase
  • Stunted growth 

Even when you move your plants from vegetating indoors to flowering outdoors, a sudden change in lighting is not a good idea. Gradual, gentle changes are key. Reduce the number of lighting hours by just a few minutes every day until it fits the outdoor environment.

Key takeaway - reduce number of lighting hours everyday
Reduce number of lighting hours everyday until it’s similar to outdoors

After you put your plants outdoors, keep a close eye on them, particularly during the first few days. They will tell you if they are struggling with the environment around them, whether it is curled leaves (too much direct sunlight) or other plant stress symptoms.

Moving your plants outdoors at a strategic point (or points) can be very useful when properly done. If it is approached willy-nilly, without much forethought, then you can expect to be disappointed with the result.

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FAQ About Moving Plants from Indoors To Outdoors

Will my plants grow outside? 

Many marijuana strains do well when grown outdoors. If you plan to move your plants outside, find a strain that grows well in your geographic location and climate zone. Use the seed finder on to find the best options for your specific climate.

Will autoflowering plants grow outdoors?

Yes, autoflowering plants are great because they have a shorter growing season overall, which means that they do well even in colder climates with a shorter, chillier summer season. Many growers pick autos to go from germination to harvest within a short span of summer months.

Can the plants remain in a pot? 

Many growers grow their plants in pots, whether they have an outdoor setup or an indoor one. You can choose different mediums to put into the pot, and these containers can be easily moved to suit your plans. Learn more about growing outdoors in this article

Have you ever moved your indoor plants outdoors? Please share your experience or write down your questions in the comments!

Happy growing!


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