How to Make Ferns Last Through the Winter

Ferns are perennials in USDA zones 9 through 11.
Ferns are perennials in USDA zones 9 through 11. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Ferns are available in a wide variety of foliage types and colors, but most typically grow in the shade and are used to accent other plants in the garden. They are also used as potted plants both indoors and outdoors. Ferns are tropical, warm season plants; some stay green in the winter and others die back to the ground. If you want to keep the fern green during the winter, you must move it indoors.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Plant pot
  • Sterile potting soil
  • Grow light (optional)
  • Water

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Dig up the fern from the ground before the first frost occurs in your area in the late fall or early winter. Insert the shovel into the ground at the outer edges of the frond tips, well away from the roots. Dig around the fern in a circle and then lift it out of the ground.

Fill a wide plant container one-third full of sterile potting soil. Set the roots of the fern into the container and hold back the fronds with one hand while you add more soil around the roots. Continue adding soil until it reaches the base of the fronds, but no higher.

Place the potted fern in an indoor location that maintains a temperature of at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit and has bright sunlight but not direct sun. A room with windows is ideal, however, you can also place it in a basement or shed with grow lights positioned 6 to 12 inches above it. Leave the lights on for 12 hours per day, which simulates natural sun rays.

Water the soil in the fern pot once per week just until the top 1 inch of soil is damp. Allow the soil to dry out completely in between waterings. The fern is not actively growing in winter and does not need much water to survive.

Stop fertilizing the fern once you move it indoors. Resume the regular fertilization again in the spring once you transplant it back outdoors.

Tips & Warnings

  • The fern can be transplanted back outdoors once the threat of frost passes in the spring.
  • Even under ideal conditions, the fern will lose some of its leaves in the winter. Simply sweep them up periodically and dispose of them.


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