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Fern flourished through mild winter.

What should I do about fern whose foliage has not died down as normal?

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My glorious fern patch usually dies down over winter and I leave the dead and dying foliage lying on the main plant base and surrounding earth to act as frost protection and ground cover. This one has at last begun to die back...

This seems to have worked well for years, then once any risk of further frosts seems unlikely I carefully tidy up the whole area removing the whole (usually sodden) mass and am delighted by how quickly the little coils of new shoots spring up to greet the Spring. 

This year, however, I am in a bit of a quandary. After such a relatively mild, wet winter another of my ferns has come through virtually unscathed in fact seems to have loved the experience.

these three photos are all of the same plant...



 The quandary is:

  1. Should I just leave it untouched this year?
  2. Should I just wait until it does die down (ie also will it die down but just later?) and then hope new growth will replace the old?
  3. Should I cut off all last year's leaves (even if they still look healthy around the same time of year that they would normally have been a sodden mess)? 

I can't remember ever having to worry about this before.



Good question Birdy, one of mine looks pristine.

I think I'll leave it. It's what happens in nature so it won't do the plant any harm. If it looks a mess later I can always prune some out and know better next time.



Mine are exactly the same and I was pondering on the same thing - my instinct is to cut them back now - I wonder what others think?


I'd be inclined to do the same as nut. I'd just take out anything dead and see what happens. I only have one fern at present, which I transplanted from beneath the shed last summer. Not looked at it recently though.

Nice to 'see' you again Birdy. Hope you've been ok  


Thank you Nut, Dove and Fairygirl for your prompt response. 

As you say, Nut, 'leaving it' is what happens in nature. My only concern there is that the existing foliage might grow too high. 

I think I too would instinctively cut out anything that has died off but most of it looks healthy. in which respect, doesn't the process of natural die back allow nutrients to return to the 'parent plant'? I wouldn't want to cut off this process, if possible to avoid it.

Fairygirl, thank you for your kind greeting. Yes I am OK but rather been hibernating in among two or three new non-gardening (ie indoor)projects.

Although the winter has been mild for plants I can't say we've had any days when I have felt like going out into the garden myself. It's been just too wet or windy including, for me at least, too cold. I envy the healthy outdoor types their hardiness.



Birdy - I think for most people - it's not been much of a winter for getting out and about in the garden or anywhere else really! Here's hoping we get some decent weather and the ground starts drying out. 


A couple of mine have died back and couple haven't and I had already decided to let them do their own thing and see what happens in the spring as they are pretty tough plants.


Thanks Forester and Fg 


I always remove all brown fronds as they can get in the way of emerging ones in early spring. They can also deflect water away from the rhizome. I use an old pair of scissors.


Thank you blairs 


I meant thread scissors, those small ones with sharp points.

Duncan Blackwell

My ferns are right at the back of the garden and I've never once touched them, thing is, they get bigger every year and seem to love the neglect


Yes, blairs, I've a pair of pointy scissors that certainly worked better than secateurs last year. The foliage has amazing tensile strength even when wet and semi rotten (could be worth the design experts researching for some new application) but strangely hasn't enough bulk for secateurs to be effective; luckily it is very easily cut through with sharp scissors.

Thank you Duncan for your reassurance on the fern remaining healthy on its own. You're right, of course;  my only concern is that it stands in front of my window overlooking the back garden where It is already beginning to block the view. That said, it is a beautiful plant and certainly looks happy at the moment - what more can a gardener wish for? 


I use scissors a lot in the garden for snipping things too. 

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