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The Return of The Fern

By Mandy Whatley Owens

web posted October 23, 2017
GARDENING In South Carolina, Boston Ferns proudly hang from many front porches. Sadly, so many people toss them out in the fall thinking that because they have no access to a greenhouse, they cannot keep them year after year. Well, you can!  Not only can you keep them, but you can multiply them too.  Follow along as I show you a few simple steps that work for me

I have found that the best time to cut back ferns is by Halloween, or the first of November.  If you wait too late, the fern will not have time to grow back out and will not be lush enough to kick off the Spring season (Master's Week).

The fern will look nice, full, and green when we start, but it is in the beginning stages of dying back. You will cut the fern like cutting hair. Grab a hand full along the sides and top and clip away, leaving about 6 to 10 inches worth of green still on the fern. Major haircut! 

I would also suggest repotting your fern into a bigger pot.  At least one size bigger each year.  If you decide to multiply your fern, you can cut the root ball of the plant into sections with a knife, and pot up each section dividing the fern into other hanging baskets or pots.

Once, your ferns have been repotted, you can give them a small dosage of liquid fertilizer.  Do not use granular fertilizer.  I use Miracle grow liquid fertilizer, at half the rate suggested, throughout the winter.  From November to February, I fertilize every 3-4 weeks.  In February, I pick back up with the regular suggested dosage. 

Lightly fertilizing your fern throughout the winter helps keep a strong root system and enables your plant to create beautiful foliage in the spring and summer. Some will suggest that fertilizing in the winter is nonsense.  Well, just because it's winter, you wouldn't stop taking vitamins and medicines, would you?  Plants have more in common with humans than many think!

Now, without a greenhouse, where should you put your ferns?  Any bathroom, laundry room, or Florida room where the plant can get some filtered sunlight from a window, is ideal.  Be careful not to place them too close to an air/heat vent, as this can harm the fern, causing burns to the foliage. 

Ferns love tropical type climates and moist roots.  Once a week, water the fern well.  Also mist the foliage daily with a spray bottle.  By misting the fern everyday, while it is in the filtered sunlight, we are creating a Greenhouse effect, so your plant will feel right at home and it will reward you with beautiful, lush foliage this spring and summer.

Not having to replace your ferns each year will help you save some money that can be spent on other garden projects!  Your multiplied plants can save you even more money if you need, say, a handy gift for a housewarming, etc.

Next Week
With all this winterizing and cutting back, I am sure you have piles of dead clippings, and cuttings.  And with all the leaves dropping, what is the most earth-friendly way to get rid of this, without burning?  Swing by Mandy's Friendly Garden next week for the answer!

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