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!


Have a question about this project?

6 questions
  • Beth
    on Jan 31, 2016

    How much fish fertilizer ??

    • @Beth The Alaskan Fish Fertilizer - I use about a couple capfuls for about a gallon of water.

    • Mkr12790834
      on Sep 11, 2017

      Just don't have cats in the neighborhood. After re-potting and adding fish fertilizer to all of her plants, we woke up the next morning only to find all of the plants out of the pots and on the porch; the cats were still looking for the fish. BOY, was Mom angry!
    • Doug Smith
      on Apr 16, 2019

      Once a week I put a little Epsom salt in a bucket of water ( I never measure anything ) and completely submerge the fern. I let it sit in the salty water for about 5 minutes and I have had the most beautiful ferns ever.

  • Paula Dirck
    on Jul 20, 2016

    Growing ferns in the right light?

    • Lisa T
      on Aug 9, 2017

      Ferns should be grown in partial to full shade. I grow mine in full shade, and they thrive. Some off them do get an hour or two of early morning sun, and they do well too. Just be sure to plant them where they won't get any afternoon sun, as this will scorch the frons and cause them to dry up and die. I water mine twice a week during dry periods.
  • 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. ?

    • If you keep Boston Ferns moist you can put them in morning sun or late afternoon sun. I have one that gets morning sun until about noon and as long add I keep it watered it does fine. Bright light but not direct sunlight. Shade too. They are very adaptable

    • I water just about every day in the heat of summer

  • 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.

    • Dee
      on May 27, 2020

      They probably will if they have some light. Just don't forget to water!

    on Sep 14, 2019

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

  • Glenda
    on Mar 30, 2020

    I love flowers especially ferns,I have moved into an apartment now how well would a fern do

    • Dee
      on May 27, 2020

      Boston ferns are easy and beautiful. They add alot to a room

Join the conversation

2 of 31 comments
  • Celeste
    on May 6, 2020

    To fill the bottom of pots (large, or small) I use the "pool noodles' from the Dollar Store. Slice them in half and cut to desired size. The "connectors" can also be sliced to fit. Use a sharp, serrated knife; cut away from you; and wear thick gloves.

  • Betty
    on May 16, 2020

    I placed my Boston ferns on my back porch close to the house and they survived our SC winter. I occasionally watered them and on freezing nights threw an old sheet over them. Trimmed the brown fronds and fertilized them in spring and they are pretty. Plenty big to divide or put in larger pots.

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