So I sunburned this Fig…

 

sunburn

My plants are as eager as I am for warm air and bright sun. When the weather got better a few days ago, I brought a bunch of them – including this fine fig – outside. They got a lot of benefit but also sustained some damage in the bright sun. That brown and dry leaf tip wasn’t there before. Plants with new growth that are only used to diffuse winter light in your house need to be acclimated. It’s easy, it’s fast and I’ll tell you how.

With seedlings, you’d typically harden them off. That’s a week-long procedure of gradual exposure. You don’t need to be that tender with your container plants, but eight hours in sunlight on their first day is just too much. Instead, place it in a spot where it’ll get an hour or two of sun. My hack for this? I put them out in the late afternoon in a spot that’s shaded most of the day. In two or three days of dappled light or semi-shade, they’ll be ready for full sun.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that Ohio is mostly cloudy in spring. If you are facing a few days of clouds, put the plants out and they’ll acclimate themselves. If your weather is anything like mine, you’ll have to bring them in on a frost-warned night once or twice, too! Such is spring; I feel like a manager at a big old French orangerie, wheeling my plants in at night. They’re happy to get the extra sun and warmth and I feel like a good plant steward while I do it.

Bonus: plants that drop all their leaves in the winter, like a fig or brugmansia, rip through a lot of nitrogen when they grow their spring leaves. Give ’em a hand with some high-nitrogen fertilizer according to package directions.