Pruning ferns in spring

Pruning ferns in spring Green Fingered Blog
All sorts of things need pruning in spring. Magazines, TV programmes and online blogs are full of instructions, but what about ferns? They hardly ever seem to be mentioned. But pruning ferns can reveal hidden delights.


Maybe ferns are overlooked because they're not very showy. They don't offer bright colourful flowers, but they will grow in those difficult shady spots we gardeners often find so difficult to fill.

And while they may not excite you by themselves, they can add a contrast of textures and an architectural foil for other more obvious highlights in the garden.

They are also low maintenance, needing little help to look their best. But in spring you might find they look rather untidy, with fronds turned brown by colder winter temperatures and lying collapsed horizontally on the floor rather than arching gracefully upwards. 


Untidy looking ferns Pruning ferns in spring Green Fingered Blog
This fern looks pretty untidy after winter


Some ferns die back completely. Others are evergreen but even these will tend to make a mess with last years fronds. They can all be cleared up and cut back in the spring until they look more attractive.

I usually start pruning and cutting back most plants around February or March:

See also: 

Time to cut back perennial plants

Cutting back perennials - what do you do with the bits you cut off?




There are various reasons for pruning plants. It can improve flowering, stimulate new growth, or enhance particular characteristics. In the case of ferns, it will instantly improve their appearance, but also reveal the beautiful way that new fronds develop - one of the otherwise hidden joys of spring. 

Cutting off those brown, horizontal and untidy fronds exposes the heart of the fern, which often looks like a clenched fist ready to punch it's way up through the ground. Quite a strange sight really.

Closed fern getting ready to open Pruning ferns in spring Green Fingered Blog
A fern tightly packed ready to get going in spring

When they're ready, ferns will start to slowly unfurl, like the ones in my title picture. Over the course of a couple of weeks they will uncoil themselves in a delightful way. But if they are hidden by the ragged remains of last year's growth you might miss the show.

Removing the brown and horizontal fronds from the untidy looking fern I showed you above revealed the first of this year's growth appearing, like a scorpions tail, from the centre of the plant. 

Slowly unfurling fern frond Pruning ferns in spring Green Fingered Blog
Slowly unfurling fern frond

Whatever you're doing in your garden this week, happy growing.
Paul

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