Stretching a Client's Plant Budget With Ferns


For a couple clients I do their small window boxes and planters and, with the budgets they give me, I find ways to stretch the dollar. One way I do is through dividing my own plants or purchased plants that I find at the garden centers. I have been doing this for many years and find that it is rewarding for me to see the look on their faces when I fill their yard with beautiful things.
The most divided plant I do for most are Boston Ferns and Kimberly Ferns. These are 2 ferns that can be divided easily and fill up an empty pot. Plus Kimberly ferns get tall and can take some neglect during the summer. They grow fast and can tolerate morning sun and a bit of noon day sun here in zone 7 as long as they are well watered. Boston Ferns love the shade of an overhang on a porch or in a mighty Oak. They do not like to dry out but can be brought back from wilt.
I overwinter my Kimberly ferns and each year I have to man handle with the help of my brut of a husband to get them out of the humongous pots they are in. They grow tight in a pot which makes for some sweating and cussing to get them out. The Kimberly Ferns survived being in the garage despite the coldest temps on record for us here in VA. The looked sad and lost fronds but they survived which allows me to hack off parts of the original plant for clients.
Unlike my precious Japanese Painted Fern (or any other plant I may have in my gardens where I am gentle and treat them like my children)-I use a sharpened tool, shovel, or knife to cut the ferns. I find that both Boston and Kimberly have wire like tendrils and fronds that connect each other on top of the soil making it too much to try and pull apart. So I resort to a sharp knife on the Bostons while I sharpen my tool on the grinder to slice through the Kimberly.
I buy and divide every hanging fern. So instead of buying 2 ferns I buy one a split. This goes for most perennials and some annuals. That is why I scour the rows of plants to find the ones that look like there are 2 or more plants in the pot. I am all about saving and all about stretching my dollar. I hope this tutorial helps you stretch your gardening dollar.
Boston Fern on sale at Lowe's for $6. Need 3 for a client and so I purchased 2. But confession: these were on the clearance rack for $3 because they were not looking so good.
Start spreading the fronds apart. they are wiry and thick but you will need to pull the fronds apart and you will start to see separate plants and the original plant in the middle
Where you see a division, take out your sharp knife and cut straight through. Ferns do not have real deep roots and pulling them apart is too much work
My super sharp yard sale knife. Nice slice and 2nd plant
But wait...I see another plant after further inspection so I slice that one off too. 3 for the price of 1!
The original plant is intact and a bit larger and then there are 2 more that will go in a 6" pot for now until they start growing (which only takes about a month of fertilizing)
Potted up and ready to go. Just saved $12 and within the month these plants will all be filling in the pots with regular fertilizing and watering.
This is one of 4 Kimberly ferns and 1 of 2 in these large ceramic pots. It took us about 15 minutes of cussing, laughing, and tugging to get them out
kimberly ferns along with other ferns, do not have deep roots. They send out roots that will reach the bottom of the pot but the bulk of the roots are at the top 4-6" of the pot just under the fronds. I have to fill the bottom foot of these pots because they are about 3' or more high. I tried using plastic jugs and was not impressed so going back to rocks and broken bricks.
My handy dandy sharp tool. Took me a few minutes of pushing with my foot to get through the top of the roots. I worked my way up slicing the roots at the bottom and kept pushing the plant apart until it became very difficult and I had to sharpen the tool again. I then was able to slice through the top of the plant. This fern I made 1 large plant to put back in my humongous pot and 2 medium plants which I will use at a client's home. Savings: $36 for 2 plants at Lowe's.

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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

3 of 5 questions
  • Paula Dirck
    on Jul 20, 2016

    What is the right light to grow a boston fern in ? How much water and how often should I water. ?

  • Lynn Arnes Crist
    on Jul 14, 2019

    Will Boston ferns winter over in a zone 5 if I put them into a heated 45-50 degree garage? If so, does it bother them for the door to be open and closed while getting the car into and out of the garage

    • Virginia Preston
      on Sep 10, 2019

      I put my in the basement, it is heated some. They do okay. Some times it works, not always.

  • WENDY
    on Sep 14, 2019

    So are these ground plantable in VA without having to dig them up during the winter

Join the conversation

2 of 28 comments
  • Karena Stetson
    on Jul 22, 2019

    I have an endless supply of ferns. (Literally endless-I can’t seem to get rid of them. I’ve dug up a countless amount and they keep springing up everywhere overnight. Some foolish person who had no idea of what they were planting, planted them. Please please please come help yourself. I’m tired of digging and filling holes.

  • Donna
    on Sep 28, 2019

    Try soaking your Kimberly fern before attempting to divide. I tried this method on my last one and it worked much better then dry. I use an old butcher knife to cut thru the fern. It's still a job, but gives me a lot of divisions. Also I use styrofoam egg cartons in the bottom of my big planters as filler with the soil. Helps keep the pot weight down and more manageable.

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