Winterizing Ferns: Tips to Help Your Ferns Survive

Updated May 3, 2022
frost ice crystals on brown fern branch leaves plant

Winterizing ferns isn't complicated, but it does depend on your specific climate and the type of fern you have. Properly done, your ferns will survive the winter to flourish again when warm weather arrives.

Winterizing Ferns Properly

How you winterize your ferns depends on the type of fern you have.

There are many, many types of ferns. Most fall into the categories of being evergreen or deciduous. Each will require slightly different care for the winter months. Your gardening zone is also a factor in the care of either type.

Some evergreen ferns thrive in climates as cold as Zone 3. Others prefer warmer climates. Deciduous ferns are much the same, with different kinds suited to certain zones. Therefore, it is important for you to know what kind of fern you have as well as what zone you are in to determine the best winter care procedure to follow.

If you are unsure of your hardiness zone, try using the USDA Hardiness Zone map, which you can also search by address or city to get the most accurate information.

Evergreen Ferns

Green Fern Leaves

Evergreen ferns are so named because they stay green in the winter as long as they are growing in suitable zones. Their green foliage will actually die back in the spring. Depending on the variety, they may thrive in Zones 3 through 10. Often, these ferns are used in flower arrangements to provide needed greenery.

An example of an evergreen fern is the Christmas fern. It grows well in Zones 5 through 9.

Winterizing evergreen ferns is simply a matter of making sure you have the right fern for your gardening zone. Grown in the correct climate, evergreen ferns will provide greenery during the winter months and can be trimmed back in the spring when old fronds look scraggly and new fronds are forming. Make sure roots are kept moist, watering the ground, not the fronds, if watering is necessary to keep it from drying out.

Deciduous Ferns

Western maidenhair fern

Deciduous ferns do not stay green in the winter. However, if you have chosen ferns suited to your zone, they will still survive the winter just fine. When fronds start dying in the fall, cut them back. You can keep ferns warm with a mulch covering for the winter months. You'll see new fronds forming in the spring.

An example of a deciduous fern is the Western maidenhair fern.

Winterizing Potted Ferns

Woman Holding Potted Plant Against White Background

Frequently, people will get plants not ideal for their particular garden zone. These people end up disappointed when their lovely plant dies in the winter. This is common with ferns, too. Winterizing ferns in this case is a bit different than for ferns in their proper growing zones.

The Boston fern, for example, does best in zones 8 through 11. Yet this fern is commonly purchased in colder zones in the summer for hanging pots. If you purchase a fern like this, realize that it will not survive outside during a harsh winter.

Your best bet is to bring a tender (not frost-hardy) fern inside and grow it as a houseplant during the winter months. Place it near a bright window but away from heaters and keep it moist. A south-facing window is best for optimal light, but an east-facing window will do.

With care, you'll be able to place your fern back outdoors come summer. Your Boston fern may very likely lose quite a few leaves while it adjusts to indoor conditions, but continue feeding it and occasionally misting it (though if you have a humidifier in the room, that's even better!), and it should stay healthy until you can place it outdoors again next spring.

Keep Your Ferns Healthy, Year After Year

Knowing which type of fern you have will help you figure out the best way to winterize it. Whether your fern is in your garden or in a hanging pot or basket, you can overwinter ferns successfully, and enjoy them year after year.

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Winterizing Ferns: Tips to Help Your Ferns Survive