How do you bring a Boston fern inside for winter?

Answered by Frank Schwing

To bring a Boston fern inside for winter, it’s important to follow a few steps to ensure the plant remains healthy and thrives during its dormant period. Here’s a detailed guide:

1. Timing: Plan to bring your Boston fern indoors before the first frost or when temperatures consistently drop below 55°F (13°C). This is usually in late summer or early fall. It’s crucial to allow the plant to dry out before bringing it inside to prevent mold or rot.

2. Preparation: Before moving the fern, give it a good watering to ensure the soil is moist. This will make it easier to remove the plant from its current pot or location. If the fern has outgrown its pot, this is also a good time to consider repotting it into a slightly larger container, using well-draining potting soil.

3. Pruning: Inspect the fern for any dead or damaged fronds. Gently trim these off with clean pruning shears, making sure to leave at least two inches of the frond stem attached to the base of the plant. Pruning helps the fern conserve energy during its dormancy.

4. Acclimatization: Before bringing the fern indoors, it’s advisable to gradually acclimate it to the lower light levels indoors. Start by moving the plant to a shady spot outdoors, such as a covered porch or under a tree, for a week or two. This helps the fern adjust to the reduced sunlight it will receive indoors.

5. Cleaning: While the fern is outdoors, gently hose down the fronds to remove any dust or debris. This will help prevent pests from hitching a ride indoors. You can also wipe the fronds with a damp cloth if needed.

6. Choosing a location: Once the fern is ready to come indoors, select a cool location for it. A basement, garage, or an unheated room are good options. Avoid areas with direct sunlight, as this can scorch the fern’s delicate fronds. The temperature should ideally be between 45°F and 55°F (7°C to 13°C). If the room is too warm, consider using a humidifier to increase humidity levels.

7. Watering: During its dormancy, the Boston fern requires significantly less water. Only water the plant once a month, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Be cautious not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot. Monitor the moisture level by sticking your finger into the soil about an inch or two. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.

8. Monitoring: Check on the fern regularly to ensure it remains healthy. Look for signs of pests or diseases, such as yellowing fronds or brown spots. If you notice any issues, take appropriate action, such as using an organic insecticidal soap for pests or adjusting watering practices if root rot is suspected.

By following these steps, you can successfully bring your Boston fern inside for winter and provide it with the conditions it needs to thrive during its dormant period. Remember to be patient, as the fern may take some time to adjust to its new environment. With proper care, you can enjoy a lush and healthy fern come springtime.