By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
Many home gardeners buy Boston ferns in spring and use them as outdoor decorations until cold temperatures arrive. Often the ferns are discarded, but some are so lush and beautiful that the gardener can’t bring one’s self to toss them. Relax; throwing them out isn’t necessary and is really wasteful considering the process for overwintering Boston ferns is not overly complicated. Read on to learn more about winter care for Boston fern.
Winter care for Boston fern starts with finding the right location for overwintering Boston ferns. The plant needs cool nighttime temps and lots of bright, indirect light like that from a south window not blocked by trees or buildings. Daytime temperatures should not be over 75 F. (24 C.). High humidity is necessary to keep the Boston fern as a houseplant.
Overwintering Boston ferns in a hot, dry home environment usually causes lots of mess and frustration for the gardener. If you don’t have the right conditions indoors for overwintering Boston ferns, allow them to go dormant and store in a garage, basement or outdoor building where temperatures don’t go below 55 F. (13 C.).
Winter care for Boston fern in dormancy does not include providing light; a dark place is fine for the plant in a sleeping stage. The plant should still be thoroughly watered, but only limited moisture is needed for the dormant Boston fern—like once monthly.
Those in subtropical zones without frost and freezing temperatures can learn how to overwinter a Boston fern outdoors. In USDA Hardiness Zones 8b-11, it’s possible to provide outdoor winter care for Boston fern.
Whether you’ll be providing winter care for Boston ferns as houseplants or allowing them to go dormant and live in a sheltered location, there are a few things to do to get the plant ready for its winter location.
Now that you’ve learned what to do with Boston ferns in winter, you may want to save money by trying this process for keeping the ferns through the winter. We’ve answered the question, can Boston ferns stay outdoors in winter. Overwintered plants resume growth in early spring and should be lush and full again in the second year.
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Read more about Boston Ferns
Boston ferns are ornamental plants characterized by frilly fronds draping gracefully down their sides. A Boston fern grows well in areas where there are lots of water and sunshine. If exposed to low humidity areas for long, it may wither and die. When the heater is on in winter, the indoor humidity drops and, left to their own devices, your ferns won't be happy.
To keep your plants in perfect condition even during the coldest days of winter, store them in the areas of your house rays of sunlight stream through the most. If your house is heated by electric devices, the heat may not be healthy for the plant. You may need to place your plants in areas not covered by the heater.
A tip from o ur expert gardening adviser, Kathy Bosin: "A cold or unused room in your home is the best place to overwinter Boston ferns. If you can turn the heat off in the room, that's even better."
Mimic the conditions in tropical areas. Boston ferns love the moisture that vaporizes into air. Unfortunately, heating your house during the winter keeps the air warm but dry, so you need to provide the humidity either by hand or with the use of a humidifier. Misting is a good practice during the summer, but it is almost useless during the winter. More effective is running an electric humidifier to ensure your ferns enjoy 40 to 50 percent humidity at all times. Also, consider getting a hygrometer so that you can measure the exact levels of humidity inside your home.
Kathy adds: "You can place your ferns in the shower a couple of times during the winter to give them a thorough soaking, and to clean the foliage."
The general rule to water and feed your ferns regularly and generously each time you tend to them does not apply during wintertime. Right before the first frost, water your Boston ferns and take them inside. When the soil becomes dry, it is time to water them again. Otherwise, leave them as is in the sunlight or in a humidified garage. Do some more watering each time you see a new frond spring out. Do not, under any circumstances, fertilize your ferns during the winter.
Kathy recommends you check your Boston ferns carefully for spider mites in winter.
Remember the three basic necessities of a Boston fern—location, humidity, and water—and you'll get to enjoy the fresh company of these plants whatever the weather.
Though water is extremely vital for Boston Fern, you must never overdo it. At the same time, you must also ensure that it is not under-watered. It would be better to water the plant when the soil becomes damp.
It would not be right to allow the soil to dry out completely. During summer, it might mean watering twice a week or even once daily, when the weather is really hot and dry.
Ensure that the Boston fern plant is watered thoroughly. The water should be of room temperature. Never use cold water because it will cause what is referred to as root-shock and could lead to rotting of the roots. T
his will most certainly cause irretrievable damage to the Boston fern plant. If you can provide a humid environment, then the watering will certainly have a much better impact.
You must water the plant when you find that the soil is getting damp or has the risk of turning dry. During summer, daily watering might be required.
In winter, the soil tends to turn dry quite fast, and therefore you must be careful to avoid such a situation. At the same time, Boston fern cannot withstand stagnant water and it will wither and rot if the watering is done in excess.
You must ensure that the plant stays hydrated at all points of time. During the rainy season, care should be taken to ensure that the water runs off and does not remain stagnant. This is important for those who grow this plant outdoors.
Boston fern is known to grow indoors as a houseplant. It thrives outdoors as well in warm humid climates of USDA zones 9-11. This type of fern when grown outdoors requires adequate moisture
Frost kills Boston fern completely leaving it looking dead but in spring it grows back again. Boston fern thrives in partial to full shade or filtered light. This makes the plant a good choice for damp or shady areas and provides a spark of bright color when it grows.
Boston fern prefers rich organic soils. Use compost, mulch, or finely chopped bark to enrich your soil for better fern growth.
These ferns are perfect for the front porch. They thrive in areas that have indirect sunlight. The morning sun is ideal but full afternoon sun can burn off the fronds.
Boston ferns thrive in the subtropical areas of Florida. They make an attractive mid-height ground cover with dapples shade.
I recently had to be gone for a while and the person caring for my plants didn't water them enough. I have several brown/dead leaves on my fern. Do I pluck them off? Or allow them to fall of naturally? It is a rather large fern, and does not seem to be happy in its current placement, so I am also moving it. But I am moving it to a corner near a window, so how often should the plant be turned to allow it to get adequate light all the way around?
You can trim them off just below where the brown area is, if you want. But if it is more visually appealing for you to remove the whole frond, you can do that too.