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The Classic Southern Porch - Curb Appeal on a Budget

Today’s article is posted by guest blogger Marlis (Joe’s wife).

Boston ferns are a classic look for any Southern porch.  Should you choose to hang your ferns, or display them atop a plant stand, the lush green fronds offer unique interest and Southern grace.  Even with the challenge of limited space, the large and flowing foliage of Boston ferns is visible from the street and boosts curb appeal. 

If you are a do-it-yourself gardener, most of the big box stores put their Boston ferns on sale during April for roughly $10 and some change.  April is a great time to buy inexpensive plants.  You can stretch the dollar now for gardening to the next level.  I usually wait until after April 15th to purchase my ferns so that the likelihood of our last frost in Gastonia has come and gone.



You may not find the “perfectly shaped” fern in DIY shopping.  It may be small in size and asymmetrical – but don’t worry, the fern will be rotated all summer long so that all sides of the plants can get equal hours of sunlight.  The first item on the plan is to repot the fern.  Most all annual plants, whether purchased at a big box store or nursery, are root bound.  Find the container of choice that is several inches in diameter wider and taller than the plastic basket holder that was purchased.  Loosen the roots on the sides and bottom with a sharp edge (box cutter, paring knife, etc).  Use a good quality potting soil – not the soil you see for $2/bag at the front entrance of the grocery store.  Get a lightweight potting mix specially blended for container plants.  By providing a larger base, the fern has room to expand its roots and grow gracefully into a beautiful specimen for the front porch.


Now let’s consider options for planters – so many great choices!  Clay pottery, cement, and ceramic can all be baked in to splendor in a variety of colors and textures.  Because of the delicate and drooping fronds of the ferns, I personally prefer metal.  Budget buster options are available at all garden centers – a simple wire basket on a chain is very elegant.  If you seek more sophistication, invest in some French wrought iron holders that can be used year after year – hanging baskets on chains or floor plant stands.  The decorative wrought iron planters will be found in specialty catalogs such as Horchow, Frontgate, etc.  If selecting metal baskets, then a coconut liner is required.  For convenience simple wire baskets with pre-fitted coconut liners can be purchased at any big box store.  At the Morrison home, I purchase molded 14 inch coconut liners to fit my wrought iron baskets; I find that the molded 14 inch liners can be recycled for use another year with no problem.



After the fern has been repotted, let’s talk about the ideal growing conditions for Boston ferns.  It’s all about location, location, location !!!  Morning sunlight with afternoon shade is the rule, no exceptions.  Depending on the sun position at your home, the ferns may have to go to the “back” porch.  Once the ferns are in the ideal spot, care is very simple – water a small amount daily.  Because the coconut liners are not able to hold moisture, unless it’s rained, water daily.  When temperatures sky rocket to 95 degrees and above in the heat of the summer, water both morning and evening.  Rotate the plants ¼ turn each and every week so that the ferns can grow symmetrically.  Lightly fertilize every 2 weeks and mist if needed during high heat.  Half way through the summer, give the ferns a trim – prune off any dead frond ends and tidy their appearance.

In July the Japanese beetles will arrive - they love the tender foliage of ferns.  Simply mix together liquid Sevin and water according to the label.  Transfer to a spray bottle and spray the fronds. 

For less than $25 each and ½ hour of your time, as a DIY gardener, you have all of the elements (fern, liner, soil/fertilizer) to provide 6 months of graceful beauty for the front porch.  True Southern curb appeal can be simple and inexpensive.

Morrison Lawn & Landscape is ready to take the work off your hands and help you to prepare your landscape for the spring and summer.  If you have interest for us to visit your Gastonia, NC property for a free consultation for lawn service and landscaping needs, contact us today at (704) 813-2545. We currently have a waiting list for future clients and anticipate an opening to our weekly schedule in early June 2015.  Click here to contact us via email.