I have some beautiful ferns hanging on my front porch. I would like to know how to care for them and try to keep them alive during the winter months. Can I bring them inside?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Billy: Over-wintering our tropical ferns indoors is a great way to be more economically savvy when it comes to the summer garden. The one downfall to keeping them indoors is that they will likely drop a lot of their fronds, thus more maintenance on your part in terms of cleaning up after them. I have found that if you can put them in a space that is not well lived in and has good filtered light, it is not such an eyesore. You can put a piece of plastic under them and let the foliage drop without having to pick it up on a regular basis. Another option is to cut back all the foliage when you bring them inside. This solves the high-maintenance problem but again it does not look great, so keeping it in a room or basement that still provides light but not a main living space may be a good idea. A simple shop light will do if you do not have a good window to put them in. Either way, these ferns do not like to completely dry out so watch your moisture levels. This will depend on the temperature and humidity of your home, but watering every seven to 10 days should be sufficient. You will want to cut back on your fertilizing during the winter months, but after your frost-free date passes, take your ferns back outdoors, give them a dose of your favorite fertilizer, water well, and watch them grow. Keep in mind that it will likely take a few weeks for them to put on new growth so they will not look like the ones being sold in the garden centers next spring. Sometimes I think it is a toss-up between the upkeep of the plants over the winter and/or tossing them and buying new in the spring.