Learn how to make your hanging fern baskets last longer with a few simple tips that will produce beautiful, big ferns that last all season.
Do you find yourself getting frustrated when your beautiful, and not to mention pricey, ferns start to die within a few short months?
Spring comes and we can’t wait to get our hanging ferns up so we can enjoy them. They look beautiful for a month or two but then, you notice the branches start to brown and soon your hanging ferns start to look ragged, brown, and sad.
I’m sure many of you have been there…which is why you are here. I certainly have. That is until recently when I discovered a little secret for longer lasting, beautiful hanging ferns.
Tips for making your hanging ferns last longer
Start with smaller ferns
This is my #1 tip for having beautiful hanging fern baskets that will last all season long.
We all want those big beautiful hanging ferns that we see in the magazines.
It is also common for us impatient gardeners to want instant gratification.
But I came to realize those big, gorgeous ferns require more care to keep up their appearance and often have to be repotted several times into larger containers. So when I switched to purchasing smaller ferns that had lots of room to grow in its pot, I instantly noticed healthier plants that required less care and lasted MUCH longer.
It was that simple.
However, there are other things you must do to maintain your hanging fern baskets.
There are 3 things to remember when it comes to watering your ferns.
1. Water deep and often
Ferns love water.
A dry fern is a very unhappy fern.
When it comes to watering you can do a few different things. Daily watering tends to work best but if your schedule doesn’t allow for this then plan on watering once every 3 days at a minimum and you will need to SOAK the fern well (water around all sides until water comes out the bottom, water your other plants, and then COME BACK and water AGAIN.
3. Mist the fronds in regions with low humidity
Ferns love humid environments. Here in Missouri, the humidity is all over the place so I find myself misting my ferns more often than not.
2. Soak your fern basket in a 5 gallon bucket of water
This one is optional but works very well if you are having a hard time deep watering your plant. Fill a 5 lb bucket ⅔ of the way with water and then lower the fern basket into the bucket. Allow it to soak for up to 30 minutes.
Caution: these things are HEAVY when you pull them out.
Take your hanging ferns down on windy days
High wind is very hard on hanging fern baskets. We have already discussed the importance of moisture. High wind tends to dry out hanging baskets faster and the wind whips the fronds around causing damage that is hard to recover from.
Remove dying brown fronds
It is inevitable that some brown and unsightly fronds will still occur, even with the best of care. Clip them close to the base, just above soil level. This will allow extra room for good circulation and so that the plant is not expending energy on the brown branches.
Chose hanging ferns with a deeper pot
I have tried a variety of pots over the years and the ones that seem to the best for me are the deeper pots that give the roots a little more room to grow.
Deter birds from nesting in your ferns
I love birds.
I enjoy listening to their songs while I sit on my back porch drinking my morning coffee.
I love to watch them fly and peck around in my yard.
But I do not love bird nests in my ferns.
Once a bird nest forms in my ferns, I quickly notice deterioration. The exact reason is unclear to me as my normal routine doesn’t change. So I have started to deter them from making their nests in the ferns…with much better results.
Fertilize but sparingly
I tend to get a little fertilizer happy and have to make sure I don’t over fertilize my ferns. A slow release fertilizer is the most recommended for ferns but I do add a little water soluble fertilizer into the routine about once every two weeks.
Just remember, less is more.
Signs of too much fertilizer
Watch the fronds carefully after fertilizing and make sure the edges do not begin to brown which could indicate too much fertilizer. If this occurs, flush the plant with extra water.
Signs of too little fertilizer
Hanging fern baskets are so beloved for their vibrant green color. If you notice your ferns are loosing their luster then it is likely due to inadequate nutrients. Fertilize away!
For more information on fertilizing your ferns, click here.
Avoid exposure to cold
Most ferns that are sold in hanging baskets like warmer climates and will NOT do well when exposed to the cold. As tempting as it is to buy the ferns early (guilty, guilty, guilty), it is best to wait until the night time temperatures stay well above 45 degrees…or be prepared to bring your ferns indoors frequently until the weather permits.
Grow your fern in appropriate light
Most ferns are shade lovers, making them the perfect plants for porches and covered decks. Too much light will result in an unhappy plant. Light shade to dappled light are perfect!
Looking for a sun-loving plant for your garden? Check out my Fig Tree post and see why it is my number 1 fruit tree to grow here in Missouri.
Frequently asked questions about hanging fern baskets
There are many reasons why the ferns in your hanging baskets keep dying. Inadequate watering, overcrowded roots that prevent deep watering, windy or cold conditions, wrong lighting, and little critters are just a few of the possible causes.
In general, larger ferns seem to die quicker than smaller ferns if they are not cared for properly. Smaller ferns require less maintenance while larger ferns require more care to continue looking beautiful. Larger ferns often become root bound quicker than smaller ferns making it more difficult to get proper water absorption. This can be resolved by repotting the fern into a larger container or dividing the plant.
You have two choices when your fern outgrows its container: repot into a larger container or divide the ferns and repot.
Ferns typically grow toward light so it’s important to rotate your ferns so that they can grow symmetrically. I like to turn my ferns once a week.
Lots of factors can contribute to the ferns in your hanging baskets turning brown. It is normal for a few branches to turn brown over time. Simply remove these branches at the base when you see them. But if you have lots of branches turning brown then your plant is likely not getting adequate water (due to overcrowded roots or inconsistent watering), getting too much fertilizer, or the lighting is not optimal.
Here are the 12 steps I follow for long lasting hanging fern baskets. The first one is my secret weapon that guarantees I will have beautiful ferns all season long.
1. Buy small ferns (ideally that come in a tall container) or buy a larger fern and repot it in a larger container.
2. Place the fern outdoors once the outside temperatures begin to warm at night (above 45 degrees Fahrenheit) or bring the ferns inside if temperatures fall below 45 degrees.
3. Place the ferns in a location that is shady, receives indirect sunlight, or dappled light like on a porch or covered deck.
4. Make sure the fern receives plenty of water. Daily water is ideal but a minimum of once every 3 days (a deep soak) is a must.
5. Mist the ferns on dry/hot days to maintain a humid environment.
6. Fertilize but do not over fertilize.
7. Take the hanging fern baskets down on windy days to keep them from drying out or becoming damaged.
8. Remove spent and browned branches at the base of the fern as they appear.
9. Rotate the ferns weekly so that they grow symmetrically.
10. Once the fern becomes root bound it is time to divide the plant or repot into a larger hanging basket.
11. Deter birds and other critters from nesting in the ferns.
12. After the season is over, plant the in the ground if the fern is native to your area or bring the fern inside and place in a cool location that receives indirect light for the winter.
Ferns tend to grow toward the sun. If your ferns are in a hanging basket, rotate them weekly so that they will grow symmetrically.
Birds love to build their nests in ferns. Here are a few ways to deter them without harming them:
1. Pluck the nest out as the birds are trying to build in the fern.
2. Add reflective material to the fern like a metallic pinwheel or mirror tape.
3. Place a rubber snake inside the fern.
4. Place wooden sticks in the fern to prevent a good nesting place (not pointy sticks though as we don’t want to hurt the birds).
5. Place dog hair and cayenne pepper in the fern.
Maybe. If the fern is native to your region then it will likely do well being planted in the ground. If it is not native, then it may or may not do well. Places that get very cold in the winter will have less likelihood of their fern surviving the winter without extra care.
If you water your ferns and a majority or the water runs out of the sides/top, it means that water is not getting to roots like it should and your plant will soon start to show signs of deterioration.
When the water runs over the top and sides, it means the plant is likely root bound or there is too much debris on the surface of the soil for the water to get through. Try cleaning out the brown fronds, birds nest, and loose debris sitting on the soil surface. If this does not help, then it is time to replant in a larger pot or divide the fern.
Are you an avid fern lover like myself and have some of your own tips for long lasting fern baskets? I would love to hear from all of you and
How To Grow Big Hanging Fern Baskets That Last All Season Long
- 1 hanging fern basket
- water bottle
- water soluble fertilizer
- Buy small ferns (ideally that come in a tall container) or buy a larger fern and repot it in a larger container.
- Place the fern outdoors once the outside temperatures begin to warm at night (above 45 degrees Fahrenheit) or bring the ferns inside if temperatures fall below 45 degrees.
- Place the ferns in a location that is shady, receives indirect sunlight, or dappled light like on a porch or covered deck.
- Make sure the fern receives plenty of water. Daily water is ideal but a minimum of once every 3 days (a deep soak) is a must.
- Mist the ferns on dry/hot days to maintain a humid environment.
- Fertilize but do not over fertilize.
- Take the hanging fern baskets down on windy days to keep them from drying out or becoming damaged.
- Remove spent and browned branches at the base of the fern as they appear.
- Rotate the ferns weekly so that they grow symmetrically.
- Once the fern becomes root bound it is time to divide the plant or repot into a larger hanging basket.
- Deter birds and other critters from nesting in the ferns.
- After the season is over, plant the in the ground if the fern is native to your area or bring the fern inside and place in a cool location that receives indirect light for the winter.
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