God Save the Queens! Ferns I Mean!

Grumpians --

A question of singular importance faces many homeowners at this time of year -- should they leave their potted ferns outside to die in the cold or bring them inside to save for next year?

Carol Bryant of West Monroe, Louisiana faces this dilemma. Fortunately for her, she has asked a gardener of all-encompassing knowledge (me). She emails:

"I have three 'Kimberly Queens' that started out in 12 inch pots 2 years ago. Strictly by accident, I must have placed them in the perfect spot and watered them just the right amount, because now they are in 36- inch pots and take up the entire pot.

I want to know if is possible to divide the plants into smaller ones or will that kill them? I’ve been told “yes” and “no” by my friends. Which is it? Can I repot them in bigger pots every year? I keep them in a temporary greenhouse in the winter. Thanks for all your help. Carol"

Answer -- Although many of you upon hearing the name "Kimberly Queens" immediately think of Cross-Dressers Down Under (Kimberly is a town in Australia), this is in fact the name of a carefree fern that's becoming increasingly popular -- 'Kimberly Queen' sword fern. It's related to the ubiqitous Boston fern that apparently by law must be displayed on every front porch in America. But its fronds are darker green, the plant is more upright, and it's easier to grow. It accepts sun or shade and tolerates dry indoor air, so it's a good one to bring inside for the winter.

Carol says she's doing everything right and I'll be a fool to argue. This means keeping the soil moist in summer and letting the soil go slightly dry between waterings in winter. Frequent feeding isn't necessary -- once a month from spring through fall with liquid 20-20-20 is fine. That's pretty much it.

Repot & Divide Now

The Grump sees no problem to dividing and repotting your Queens now. And you can keep repotting them in years to come. The more Queens, the merrier. Don't let plants escape to the garden in the Coastal and Tropical South, however, because they spread by runners and can be invasive. The botanical name, Nephrolepis obliterata, should give you a hint about what might happen to your landscape next.

For more info about 'Kimberly Queen' and 4 other easy ferns for your house, see the following article in Southern Living. I didn't write it, but it's still pretty good. Five Great Ferns to Hang Up

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