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. 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 plants inside when it starts to get chilly outdoors and don't worry when the fronds start to turn yellow and brown and start shedding.


Watering Boston Ferns In Winter

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.

Caring For Boston Ferns in the Spring

When spring really hits and the threat of frost is gone, 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!

Trimming Dormant Boston Ferns

The plants will get scraggly over the winter.  The old dead fronds turn brown and brittle and need trimming. The new growth will seem determined to grow but those old fern fronds are blocking the light and taking up valuable root space in the basket.


The solution? You've got to shear those ferns and cut away all the old, dead growth. Get those old fronds out of the way and new fronds will grow lush and high, dripping out of the edges, waving in the wind.

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Author Chris Link - Published 10-16-2021