Fern That was Overwintered

How to Overwinter Ferns

By Erin Huffstetler | 03/13/2019 | 16 Comments

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This year, we won’t have to buy any hanging baskets for the front porch because we successfully overwintered last year’s ferns.

Closeup of Overwintered Fern

Here’s how our Boston ferns looked when we moved them outside last week. Don’t they look good?

And the best part is that it was really easy to do.

In the past we’ve tried overwintering our ferns by bringing them indoors and placing them near a window, but that was always a huge fail. No amount of watering or misting seemed to compensate for our hot, dry indoor air, and we just spent the winter sweeping up little leaflets, until the fronds were bare.

Well, it turns out, we were making things much harder than we needed to.

Because the winning strategy was to place our ferns in the basement, and water them once a month, until it was warm enough to put them back outside again.

That’s it.

You don’t have to provide your ferns with a light source (even a dark spot is okay), and you don’t have to give them any special care. Because they’ll simply go dormant for the winter.

Just find a spot in your basement or garage that doesn’t get below 45 degrees, and your ferns should overwinter beautifully.

Some experts recommend trimming the long-hanging fronds before you bring ferns indoors, but that isn’t necessary with this method.

I do, however, recommend that you spray them down with an organic insecticide before you bring them inside. This will ensure you aren’t bringing in any pests.

From past experience, I can tell you that your ferns won’t survive the winter if you forget to water them once a month, so be sure to set a reminder for yourself.

When the outdoor temperature rises to match the temperature of your basement or garage (wherever you’re storing your ferns), you can safely bring them outside again. They’ll need some time to re-acclimate to the sunlight, so start by placing them in a partly-sunny spot for a few hours, and increase their sun exposure over time.

Front Porch With Overwintered Ferns

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  1. I hang my ferns in the garage. It’s not heated. And they are back bout 10 feet from the doors. When the weather permits I hang outside in the sun.

  2. What happens if I cut them back to a few inches? I have done the basement thing before but they always shed and make a mess. I don’t have a finished basement etc, so it is just normal basement temp. no freezing etc.

  3. I have never tried to overwinter my ferns but this year I have a unfinished basement and I’m going to try it. I’m going to cut them back to approximately 2-3″ as I’ve known of other ppl to do and try that method. Hopefully in the spring they grow back to normal and are as big and beautiful and they have been this year. Good luck to all of you beginners to this kind of thing.

  4. I wish I’d researched this dormancy method sooner. My ferns may be too far gone as we’ve already had frost. There are still green shoots in the middle of the plant. I’m going to trim all off the dead frons and see if the remaining plant will survive the winter in my basement. Wish me luck!

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