Caring for Boston Ferns in the Winter

A bright green fern shines in the winter sun.

Boston ferns are ornamental plants characterized by frilly fronds draping gracefully down their sides. A Boston fern grows well in areas where there are lots of water and sunshine. If exposed to low humidity areas for long, it may wither and die. When the heater is on in winter, the indoor humidity drops and, left to their own devices, your ferns won't be happy.

1. Find the Best Place for Your Plants

To keep your plants in perfect condition even during the coldest days of winter, store them in the areas of your house rays of sunlight stream through the most. If your house is heated by electric devices, the heat may not be healthy for the plant. You may need to place your plants in areas not covered by the heater.

A tip from our expert gardening adviser, Kathy Bosin: "A cold or unused room in your home is the best place to overwinter Boston ferns. If you can turn the heat off in the room, that's even better."

2. Humidify

Boston fern hanging from a planter

Mimic the conditions in tropical areas. Boston ferns love the moisture that vaporizes into air. Unfortunately, heating your house during the winter keeps the air warm but dry, so you need to provide the humidity either by hand or with the use of a humidifier. Misting is a good practice during the summer, but it is almost useless during the winter. More effective is running an electric humidifier to ensure your ferns enjoy 40 to 50 percent humidity at all times. Also, consider getting a hygrometer so that you can measure the exact levels of humidity inside your home.

Kathy adds: "You can place your ferns in the shower a couple of times during the winter to give them a thorough soaking, and to clean the foliage."

3. Water and Feed Accordingly

The general rule to water and feed your ferns regularly and generously each time you tend to them does not apply during wintertime. Right before the first frost, water your Boston ferns and take them inside. When the soil becomes dry, it is time to water them again. Otherwise, leave them as is in the sunlight or in a humidified garage. Do some more watering each time you see a new frond spring out. Do not, under any circumstances, fertilize your ferns during the winter.

Kathy recommends you check your Boston ferns carefully for spider mites in winter.

Remember the three basic necessities of a Boston fern—location, humidity, and water—and you'll get to enjoy the fresh company of these plants whatever the weather.