We are moving to Benton, Kentucky, the end of September. I have been in Florida for 30 years and am used to growing orchids and everything tropical. I have a huge staghorn fern that I would love to bring; will it live through winter outside? Also, do they grow orchids there, inside, outside? What kinds of plants that flower are similar that grow in Kentucky? What would be a good resource book for me?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Lori: I hope that your move to Kentucky will be a joyful one. Gardening in Kentucky will be an adjustment and quite different from what you are used to in Florida. Most plants that you consider hardy will be grown here as annuals/tropicals or house plants. I was just talking with my sister about my staghorn fern that she admired hanging from a very large maple tree. I told her that it will not survive our winter temperatures, but they are very easy to over-winter indoors. The most common species can handle temperatures as low as 30 degrees F but only for short periods. Mine survived indoors this past winter with no electricity for nine days and temperatures dipping into the low 30s. Its survival made me love it even more. You should not think twice about bringing yours with you. It will have to come indoors for the winter, but will be a nice reminder of Florida. As for the orchids, I assume that you are referring to Phalaenopsis or other tropical orchids, which are house plants here. There are hardy orchids that belong to the Bletilla genus that we can grow in our shade gardens. The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is a wonderful source of information. Each state/county has horticulture/agriculture agents that are available for home gardeners. You can visit the Marshall County Web site at: http://ces.ca.uky.edu/marshall/. Kentucky Gardener’s Guide written by Denny Mckeown would be a great read for you, as well as anything written by Dr. Tom Barnes such as Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky.