Bringing Ferns Indoors For Winter – How To Save Ferns For Next Year!

Bringing ferns indoors for the winter is a great way to add a bit of interior texture and color.

It’s also an incredibly easy way to save on the gardening budget next year!

Ferns are a popular choice when decorating outdoor patio’s and back porches in the spring, summer and fall. But replacing them every year can become costly.

bringing ferns indoors
Ferns are a great way to brighten up patio and outdoor living spaces

Unfortunately, popular selections such as Boston ferns are simply not tolerant enough to keep outdoors in cooler climates. Luckily however, they are extremely easy to overwinter with just a little bit of additional care.

Bringing Ferns Indoors For Winter – Simple Steps To Success

When it comes to bringing ferns indoors successfully through the winter months, a few simple tips go a long way.

And if they become too large, you can simply divide to have even more beautiful, lush, green, shade-loving plants for your patio, porch and more.

Here are  the basics for overwintering ferns:

Bring Them In Before A Hard Frost

The first key is to bring plants in before the first hard frost or freeze. Ferns can be tolerant of cool temperatures, but once they freeze out, they are gone for good.

bringing ferns indoors
Like these tender garden plants, ferns cannot handle a hard frost or freeze.

If an unexpected early season frost or freeze is on the horizon, move ferns into a semi-protected place such as a barn or garage to keep from being damaged.

This can buy a bit of extra time until you can truly prepare them for indoor life.

Prune Before Bringing Indoors

Warm, arid summer temps can cause massive growth for ferns. Before bringing indoors, take time to shear back some of the excessive growth.

bringing ferns indoors
Ferns can grow quite large during the summer months. A bit of pruning is usually necessary before bringing ferns indoors.

There is no need for heavy pruning. Simply cut back long stragglers that might make it difficult to place indoors.

Hose Down The Plant – Keep Insects Outside

This is a must-do to keep insects from entering the house!

Before bringing indoors, use a garden hose to thoroughly spray the entire fern. Be sure to hit the underside of the leaves as well to remove any hidden pest hitch-hikers.

bringing ferns indoors
Spray with a steady stream of water to remove insects before bringing ferns indoors.

Let the plant thoroughly dry out before doing one final inspection for pests.

Re-Pot Root Bound Plants

When any potted plant becomes overloaded with roots, it can make watering a touch chore. Ferns are no different.

Inspect the pots of your ferns to see if the roots have filled the entire space. If so, now is the time to re-pot to a larger vessel.

Resist the temptation to give ferns too much new space. Left in too much soil, the ferns can become over-saturated as soil will retain too much moisture.

bringing ferns indoors
When ferns become root bound, they need to be transplanted or divided.

A good rule of thumb is plant to a new pot one-quarter to one-third larger than the previous container. Use a high-quality, light potting soil when re-potting.

There is no need to fertilize at all. Ferns do not require much to perform well. In fact, too many nutrients can cause more issues to ferns than not enough.


Ferns do not need full sun or maximum lighting to survive through the winter months. In fact, too much sun can actually cause a fern more damage than good.

Keep ferns away from southern facing windows. The sun’s heat and rays coming through the glass can actually burn foliage.

bringing ferns indoors
Boston ferns can survive indoors with little care.

Ferns will perform best in moderate, indirect lighting conditions. This can be in a cool basement with indirect lighting from a basement well-widow, or in the corner of a room that receives natural light from a nearby window.

Water only when the soil completely dries out. Ferns suffer more from over-watering than under-watering.

As spring comes back around, take plants out when the threat of frost has passed.

Splitting or Dividing Ferns

Sometimes, ferns simply become too large to re-pot. When this happens, it is time to split the fern into new plants.

This is best done in the spring, so the fern can have a full growing season to re-establish roots.

When splitting a fern, take a sharp knife or cutting tool and divide into sections to create new plants. For most over-sized ferns, quartering the plant works beautifully to create 4 new plants.

One of the best tools to accomplish this and nearly any transplanting task is a Hori-hori. (See: My favorite garden tool – the Hori Hori.)

bringing ferns indoors
Ferns can be grown easily indoors with minimal lighting.

Fern roots are extremely hard and tolerant of this process. As long as the plants are re-planted into a good quality, light potting mix, most will take hold to their new surroundings quickly.

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