Ferns aren’t difficult to care for in the winter, but it all depends on where you live and the type of fern you have. If you perform your job right, your ferns will make it through the winter and come back stronger and healthier when the weather warms.
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Types of Ferns
Ferns come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Evergreen or deciduous are the most common plant classifications. Each will necessitate winter care that differs significantly from the rest. The care of each variety is also affected by your gardening zone.
Frost-resistant evergreen ferns are found in zones 3 and 4. Others prefer a more temperate climate. Different types of deciduous ferns can thrive in different climates. As a result, knowing your fern’s species and the climate zone it lives in is critical if you want to implement the most effective winter care strategy.
Use the Zone Finder on the LoveToKnow Garden home page to determine your hardiness zone. If you know your zip code, you can find out your zone by typing it into the top-of-the-page box.
Winterizing Ferns Properly
If you live in a climate where evergreen ferns may thrive, they are known as evergreens. In the spring, their green foliage will actually fade away. Zones 3–10 may be suitable for some, while others may not. To add some greenery to bouquets, these ferns are frequently incorporated.
The Christmas fern is an example of an evergreen fern. Zones 5–9 are good for growing it. On the USDA website, you can see more evergreen ferns.
Evergreen ferns can be easily winterized if they are planted in the appropriate zone. Grown in the correct climate, evergreen ferns will provide greenery during the winter months and can be trimmed back in the spring when old fronds look scraggly and new fronds are forming. If irrigation is required to prevent the roots from drying out, water the ground rather than the fronds.
In the winter, deciduous ferns lose their color. As long as the ferns are appropriate for your climate zone, they can withstand the winter. Cut back fronds in the fall when they begin to die back. During the winter months, mulch can be used to keep ferns from freezing to death. In the spring, new fronds will begin to grow.
An example of a deciduous fern is the Western maidenhair. You can see more deciduous ferns at the Hardy Fern Foundation.
More on Winter Fern Care
As an example of an extinct plant, the Western maidenhair is a deciduous one. More deciduous ferns can be found at the Hardy Fern Foundation
Generally speaking, Boston ferns thrive in zones 8 to 11. However, this fern is frequently purchased in the summer for use in hanging pots in cooler regions. Remember that a fern like this won’t survive a tough winter if you buy it.
Ferns, like this one, can be brought indoors, placed in an area with bright light but away from heaters, and watered regularly. When the weather warms up, you should be able to replant your fern outside once again.
There are thousands of different types of ferns in the world, and in the United States alone, there are over 500 different varieties. You can never be sure how to overwinter the specific fern species you have growing on your porch or in a pot on your patio until you try it. There are, of course, many ferns that can only be grown outside in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 through 11, such as the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata). The most important thing to remember while overwintering a fern is to mimic the plant’s preferred outside conditions as precisely as possible in the house.
- Retain only the tallest, straightest stems at the center of the fern after trimming. The young fronds should be cut to a height of 10 inches or less. One-third of the plant can be safely removed.
- Make sure the fern is kept at a temperature of between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit by bringing it indoors. A south-facing window is ideal for ferns that need more light and heat to thrive. To catch any leaves that may fall, place an old sheet or piece of newspaper on the floor beneath the plant.
- Water the fern once every week. Make sure to moisten the soil enough to keep it moist but not saturated. In order to prevent the plant from drying out, mist tropical ferns need to be misted several times every week.
- During the winter, refrain from applying fertilizer. In February or March, begin feeding your plants with an all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer.
- Throughout the winter, remove any browning fronds that appear.
Things You Will Need
- A single sheet or a collection of ancient newspapers.
- Fertilizer that dissolves easily in water.
- Can of water
The Boston fern, for example, does not always overwinter well. In the winter, these plants will be able to survive in the house, although they may not thrive. If you have a plant that is still alive but has lost its luster, don’t worry about it; if you take it back outside, it will recover its previous beauty.
What to Do With Boston Ferns in Winter
The first step in winter care for Boston ferns is to locate an appropriate spot for the plants to overwinter. Warm, indirect light from a south window that isn’t obscured by trees or buildings is ideal for the plant’s growth. Temperatures should not exceed 75 degrees F during the day (24 C.). The Boston fern can only be kept as a houseplant if it has a high level of humidity.
Gardeners who try to keep Boston ferns in a hot, dry home setting over the winter often find themselves in a mess and a lot of aggravation. Keep Boston ferns dormant and put them in a garage, basement or outside building where temperatures don’t fall below 55 degrees F for overwintering (13 C.). Boston ferns in dormancy don’t need light during the winter; a dark environment is sufficient for the plant at this stage of its life cycle.
While the Boston fern still has to be watered regularly, only a small amount of moisture is required for it to go into dormancy.
Can Boston Ferns Stay Outdoors in Winter?
A Boston fern can be overwintered outside in subtropical climates where there is little risk of frost or freezing temperatures. Boston ferns can be wintered outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 8b to 11.