Fall Fern Maintenance

Fern in garden

Ferns native to our area are winter-hardy but will benefit from a bit of attention in the fall. Here are three tips to keep your ferns happy and healthy.
 
Don’t cut back fern fronds in the fall. Some ferns remain attractive through fall and winter. Marginal Wood Fern stays green well into late fall and Christmas Fern stays green until spring. The delicate fronds of Sensitive Fern disappear with the first frost but their fertile fronds, covered in bead-like clusters, remain standing through the winter.
 
Provide a protective layer of leaves. Fronds that brown and fall to the ground act as an insulating cover through the winter. A 10-12 cm layer of dry leaves (4-5 cm layer if wet) will ensure your ferns are adequately protected from winter temperatures. The following spring, the leaves will decompose, becoming rich organic matter that will improve the quality of your soil and provide the nutrients your ferns require.
 
Plan to divide next year. Clump-forming ferns, such as Christmas Fern and Marginal Wood Fern, can become over-crowded and benefit from being divided every 3-5 years in spring or fall. Since the snow is upon us, now is a good time to consider which ferns need dividing and plan to do it next spring.

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