Ferns look so beautiful in pots on porches in the summertime, but sometimes they can start to look a little sad after they’ve been out for a month or two. Here’s how to actually keep a fern alive.
I have a lot of plants that fall into the same category as ferns for me and that is plants that I previously thought must be really easy to keep alive because everyone has them and they’re just so classic. Also in this category? Hydrangeas. They’re definitely at the top of that list, but I learned how to care for those quite successfully, so after awhile I started to feel confident in trying to grow ferns again after several bad experiences in my earlier gardening days. Basil is another one of those deceptively tricky plants for me, along with mint. I spent quite a few years looking on enviously when I saw people with ferns in pots on their porch, but for so long, I just knew that it wasn’t worth the risk for me because they’d be sad looking within a month and no one wants a sad-looking plant on their porch for those few precious months of summer. Luckily, I can now enjoy ferns to my heart’s content, so I thought I’d pass that joy along in case there’s anyone else out there who’d found ferns difficult to keep alive despite their undying love for them. 🙂 Here’s how to actually keep a fern alive!
Buy Them Early in the Season
The earlier ferns at the garden centre are always a little lusher looking. As time goes by, newer shipments seem to look a little scragglier and neglected. If you’re fern-challenged, you want to give yourself a good start, not have to nurse a sad plant back to health.
Give Them Shade and Filtered Sun
They do like a little light, but not too much. A covered porch or shaded area that gets late afternoon sun seems to work best for me. My best fern spot on the front porch gets sun starting from about 4pm on and is in the shade the rest of the day. My side porch gets mid afternoon sun and then returns to shade later in the day and I’ve not had as much success with ferns in that spot. The mid afternoon sun is still just a bit too strong.
Keep on Top of Your Watering
I have only ever had success with ferns when I water them daily. I’ve heard some people say 1-2 times per week, but I’ve never had that work as a fern-challenged person. Water a little bit every day and make sure you give the leaves a little bit of a shower as well. Good drainage is important, but the pot that the fern comes in from the garden centre should be just fine. I just plunk mine into a larger, prettier planter.
Feed Your Fern Every Two Weeks
During the growing season, I find ferns to be big eaters and I like to keep mine on the same feeding schedule as my hydrangeas, which is every two weeks-ish. I just use an all-purpose water soluble plant food and follow the package directions and I get lots of fresh new fronds happily popping up. It’s such a rush to finally learn how to keep a fern alive and actually see it thriving after watching so many ferns shrivel up and die over and over again through the years.
This fern that I have here on my porch this year had a tag that said that it was a Boston Fern when I bought it at the garden centre, but I’m actually pretty sure it’s a Kimberly Queen based on its upright growth pattern. I usually prefer Boston Ferns, but this one has really grown on me this year. 🙂
Pictured above: All-weather Adirondack chairs | Indestructible doormat | Door hardware | Similar all-weather coffee table | All-weather square planters | Round black tray | Pillows by Hurlingham House on Etsy
Do you have any tried and true tips for keeping your ferns alive and happy or have your struggled with ferns like I have?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.