I have some local hardy ferns in pots and I don’t know if I should bring them in for the winter or leave them outdoors to winterize naturally.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Amy in Tennessee: The term hardy is thrown around in the plant world and sometimes does not have the same meaning from one gardener to the next. So, to make sure we are on the same page in terms of the definition, hardy plants are just that, meaning they can survive in the garden year-round. There are hundreds of hardy ferns in your zone, and there are many ferns sold in garden centers during the warmer months that are considered tropicals for us but in warmer zones are considered hardy. The two most common are the Boston and Kimberly Queen fern. If in fact the fern you are growing in your container is hardy then it would be happiest growing in the garden. Perennials can certainly survive in containers from year to year, especially if we have a mild winter, but they are more subject to winter injury and more exposed to the elements since they do not have protection of the soil around them. If you choose to leave your shade-loving fern in the container just make sure to add some mulch to the top of the soil and maybe even around the container to help protect it. It is getting to be a bit late to put perennials in the garden but the weather has been pretty mild so far this fall, so if you want to put it in the garden, go ahead and dig your hole and remember to add a thin layer of mulch.