October 30, 2019
how to get big healthy ferns

Oh how I love a hanging fern. There’s nothing like a wide front porch here in the south with ferns gently blowing in the wind. I think it’s something that epitomizes that southern living look.

Oh how I love a hanging fern. There’s nothing like a wide front porch here in the south with ferns gently blowing in the wind. I think it’s something that epitomizes that southern living look.

We’ve gone through a lot of trial and error with ours, but now have ferns that would make even my Memie proud. (She always had beautiful ones!) After showing a glimpse of them on instagram stories the other week, I received a lot of questions asking how we care for our ferns.

The truth is, Brandon has a pretty green thumb and has a lot of experience in caring for plants, so I have to give him all of the credit. I asked him to compile some tips, so today he’s sharing what works for us when it comes to growing big, beautiful ferns.



Written by Brandon…

We have three Boston Ferns on our front porch, each about 4′ in diameter. They typically last from March through December in our area. It’s always tempting to buy them the first warm day of the year, but be careful because usually there are a few more temperature dips into the 30s and 40s that will damage or kill your fern. We buy our ferns every spring at a pop up plant nursery in West Ashley, but you can buy them anywhere, just be sure to pick out the healthiest, fullest ones.


1. Repot the ferns into large planters or hanging baskets.

The ferns we buy always come in the plastic hanging baskets. I take them out and plant them in large, coconut lined hanging planters. These are the ones we buy. I like to use big ones because it provides room to grow and spreads out the fronds to give a grander appearance. When moving them over to the new baskets, I break off about half of the soil around the roots before putting it into the new potting soil in the coconut lined basket. Make sure to leave about an inch of space between the top lip of the coconut liner and the soil so that water doesn’t overtop and spill while watering.


2. Fertilize.

Ferns don’t require much fertilizer…once in the spring when I first get them, and again about three months later. I have tried both spike fertilizer and slow release granular fertilizer over the past few years. Both worked fine, but I think the Miracle-Gro slow release had better results. I have read that fertilizers with equal NPK ratios (is 14-14-14) are best for ferns. Here’s a good one.  I may try this next year, but since the Miracle-Gro works well for me and I have a large bag of it, I want to use it all first. The Miracle-Gro is also great because I use it on just about everything other than palms, citrus, and azaleas.



3. Water frequently, but water the right way.

The biggest key to keeping them alive is to water them frequently. While I think it would be ideal to water them every day or every other day, people have an agenda. I try to water mine once every three days, and I water them hard. I water until water is coming of the the bottom of the planter and then I keep watering some more. After I water all of the ferns, I go back through and water them again. I water in the center of the planter, as well as all around the sides and everywhere in between. Aka, do not concentrate the water in one place. Also, the slower the water is applied, the better the absorption rate will be into the soil.

If there’s a long rain in the forecast, I move the ferns out into the yard to be watered naturally. The pH in the rain is typically lower than tap water, which will gives the ferns a nice green up in color. If I go longer than three days without watering (sometimes even sooner in the heat of summer), the ferns tend to wilt and look dry. If I water them at that point, they recover. But if I let it go another day, fronds will start to brown.



4. Cut off any brown fronds.

Speaking of brown fronds, when our ferns get them, I cut them off as close to the base as possible. This cleans up the look of the plant immensely and allows new growth to shine through.



5. Choose the right light.

Ferns survive best when kept somewhere with indirect or filtered light. Ours hang under a covered porch facing east, so they get some direct early morning light and then a lot of indirect light.


6. Rotate occasionally.

Ferns will grow toward the sun, so rotate the plants on the hangers every week or two. This will keep a uniform growth around the planter.

Pro tip: rotate them before you water them…they will be much lighter.

These guys get HEAVY!

7. Don’t toss the metal basket!

If you’ve purchased a hanging basket like ours…. when the ferns die in the winter, keep the hanging basket and order new coconut liners for next year. They are sold separately here.