BOSTON FERNS

Now that we’ve reached our average last frost date (April 15), I’m thinking summer!  Not that my summer is like this, but picture an old metal glider on a covered porch with white gingerbread trim.  And what’s hanging over the railings?  Boston ferns.

It’s a southern thing—we’re hot, hot, hot, but we feel a lot cooler looking at those long green fern fronds.  The popular Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’) is a variety that was indeed discovered in Boston, Massachusetts in 1894.  If you think this plant has been around forever, watch for it in old movies and in older photographs.  I have a photograph of my great-grandmother sitting in a rocking chair on her porch with a Boston fern in a plant stand, circa 1910.

Even if it were not desirable for its own beauty, this graceful pendant tropical fern is a great choice where there is not enough sunlight to keep flowering annual baskets happy, preferring shade to dappled sun.  It tolerates direct morning or late afternoon sun, but too much direct sun will bleach the color out or burn the fronds.  Check frequently for water needs--this species drinks a lot of water--but provide good drainage (ferns do not like wet feet.)  Fertilize every two weeks or so to keep the nice rich color.

You can bring your Boston fern inside for the winter, but they tend to be difficult and messy.  As a houseplant, the Boston needs very bright indirect light and cooler temperatures (55⁰ to 65⁰F).  You could just cut the plant off at the soil line and let it slowly send up its new fronds over the winter.  This might eliminate some of the messy leaf drop that is the norm inside.  However, most folks just purchase new beautiful plants each spring and toss them at the end of the summer.

A common problem with hanging baskets outside, and especially with ferns, is birds wishing to nest in the pot.  It’s nice to have birds doing their spring thing where you are close enough to enjoy it.  On the other hand, the nesting activity damages part of the plant and it’s hard to bring yourself to water the plant and the nestlings!  You might try taking the plant down and leaving it at ground level when you see a bird trying to nest.  You can hang it back in place when the bird has moved on.  Nature can be cruel!
Posted: 4/22/2015 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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