I want to keep Kimberly Queen ferns in my basement with grow lights over the winter. What kind of light do I need, how many hours, and how close to the plants?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Margaret: Over-wintering your Kimberly Queen ferns indoors is a great way to keep your tropicals from year to year. This can be done quite easily in the right environment. If your basement has windows, you may not need any additional grow lights. This is especially true if your basement is not heated. Plant growth slows down when temperatures are cooler and in response, less light and water is required. The fern will not likely put on any new growth during the winter months. The idea is to keep the roots alive so it can put on new growth next season. Ferns can be one of the messiest tropicals to bring indoors because they tend to continuously drop their foliage. Placing a drop cloth or a piece of plastic underneath them may not be very aesthetically pleasing, but since you are putting them in the basement that may not be a concern, and it makes for an easy cleanup in the spring. Another option is to cut back the foliage since the root system is the main concern at this time of the year. If you would like to keep your fern as lush as possible, then grow lights would be a good option. As far as grow lights go, there are many options but using a standard fluorescent bulb is sufficient for your purpose. Since these lights do not give off much heat, they can be placed within inches of the actual plant without damaging the foliage. They can be placed as far as 36 inches away from the plant and have the same effect. Keeping the lights on for 8 hours a day should give them what they need. The expense of purchasing grow lights may be more than you would spend on new ferns next season, but if you have other plants and intend on over-wintering them year after year, it would be a good investment. Remember to cut back on watering as well as fertilizer during the winter months.