How to OverWinter Boston Ferns



This is what a fern usually looks like at the end of summer....spilling out over the edges, lush and green (sorry for the lighting making it look quite yellow...).  In fact, you might still be able to find one or two on clearance at your local nursery that still have a little oomph to them.   You can grow ferns as a traditional houseplant, but if you don't have the space, yet want to keep the plants for next years hanging baskets, don't fret -- it IS possible!  Simply allow your fern to go into its normal dormancy period and help it go green again this spring!

Here is what the lush green foliage of summer looks like...



The first signs of dormancy start to show on the underside of the fronds.  They will turn brown and wither (like deciduous trees) and eventually will start shedding.  This is OK!  It is normal!  Just make sure you bring those pots indoors before a harsh frost.  Boston Ferns can only survive temperatures down to around 20-40 degrees and can only survive the high end of that range when handing in a pot.  So get those puppies inside when it starts to get chilly outdoors and don't worry when the fronds start to turn yellow and brown and start shedding. 

You will need to water your ferns a bit through the winter, but not too much.  The trick is to keep them in a dormancy state until they are ready to be prepped for springtime.  Water once a week and do it sparingly.  Do not fertilize!

Once the temperatures start to warm up, you can start giving your ferns a little more water, but do not fertilize them yet.




Once spring really hits, you can give your ferns a little weak fertilizer and a good watering.  Do this in a sink or outdoors so the water can soak the roots fully and run out the bottom of the pot.  On a warm day, move the ferns outdoors in the shade (the sun will burn them) for a few hours.  The next day, leave them out a little longer.  By the third day, they should be safe to leave outside!!

Trim any brown or yellow dead growth, continue to water until the plant takes off and hits its stride.  You'll know it is doing well when the green growth is lush and full again!!

(You can use this method with many tender perennials such as geraniums and Gerbera daisies.)

What is growing in your basement or garage this winter???


Comments

Christi said…
I am so excited about this post! I always want to buy ferns, but I'm never willing to make the investment for only one summer. This year, I'll definitely buy some!
quilt happy said…
my ferns are in a inclosed back poech
Andrea said…
Hi Amy, we have a lot of these ferns and other species luxuriantly growing during the rainy season here! They are too much and sometimes considered weeds, so we discard most of them. But i really love them when in clumps like those in your photos. I didn't know they have dormancy, because when dry season starts they just withered and come to life again when the first heavy rains come. I thought they just died for lack of water, dormancy didn't enter my mind.
Christi said…
A question: would I be able to treat Kimberly Queen ferns the same way? Lowe's has them out already, and they are a fantastic price! Too early for them to go outside...
Amy Renea said…
Hi Christi!

I've never grown one before, but I would assume they would do just fine indoors for a month or so! (They will be in lowe's at least that long in your zone, and they typically don't send them out to retailers this early if they can't survive indoors in nice condition). Let me know how it goes!!!
Laura said…
It's so nice to see someone from NR popping up in my first 10 results on a Google search! Do you trim your ferns back when overwintering them?l
Amy Renea said…
That is good to know Laura!! Yay!! Yes, I will trim them, just to ease the mess of dying leaves indoors. It is not necessary though -- only trim down to 3 inches or so from the crown. If they are outside in a milder climate, the leaves can offer some protection to the crown, so go ahead and leave them on if they don't both you aesthetically.
Unknown said…
I have beautiful ferns would like to try keep them this winter an bring back out in spring next year I live in condo have outside closet that I can put them in its has insulation in walls for sprinkler system would that work
Sallie Duncklee said…
In Maine where Winters are very cold and the house is warm and very dry where should I over winter my Boston ferns? Do they need to go through a freezing stage?
Amy Renea said…
Hi Sallie -- They do not need to freeze, but I would leave them outdoors long enough to lose their leaves. Otherwise, those brittle, brown leaves will get all over your home!

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