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Evergreen ferns - spring haircut

Hi - I am sure there was a thread on this last year but I foolishly can't find it (maybe @Dovefromabove provided the advice?)

I have several Polystichum and a Polypodium. All have survived well but are looking a bit sad. Would welcome advice:
Cut off all the existing fronds regardless of state?
How far down?



  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,121
    No idea what mine is as was a cutting from a gardening friend but I just cut out any dead or dying stems back to the base in spring.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • B3B3 Posts: 25,194
    I cut most of them off in mid spring. I only leave the ones that still look fresh. I wouldn't cut anything off until the new buds are looking 'hooky'. The old leaves protect the new buds from frost.
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,807
    edited February 2021
    I remove all old fronds carefully in spring when the new ‘croziers’ begin to unfurl (or look ‘hooky’ as @B3 says). I say remove them carefully so I don’t damage the new growth. 😊 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Many thanks - I'll keep an eye out for the new fronds.
  • PalustrisPalustris Posts: 4,100
    According to the Fern expert who wrote the most recent book on ferns, one should remove old fronds 1 for 1 with new ones. So one new frond, one old one removed.
  • Obviously depends precisely what ferns we have. I reckon I've got Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), and another similar one but with slightly more divided leaves (they come up as 'weeds' in the carnivorous plants). By this time of year, old fronds are half-brown, many broken, dangling in the pond - I've already cut them all off, in preparation for the new ones emerging. Much easier when you don't have to worry about accidentally cutting the new ones, and you couldn't really do '1 for 1' with this type of fern - new ones emerging pretty much all at once.
  • But how do you actually get rid of a fern?

    O.K. 34 years ago we moved in. The fern was scrappy so I dug it up and moed it to a shadier position where it prospered. It's nothing special but I'm sick of the sight of it now and can see interesting possibilities for the bed.

    Do I just attack it with shears, spade and mattock or has someone got any nifty, easier ways of getting it out of the ground? (other than bribing a family member to do it).
  • Most ferns come out quite easily. They have quite shallow roots. We removed some very large ones by just levering them up with a garden fork. If I remember rightly we had to go round the edges a few times but they then began to break up
     If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
    East facing, top of a hill clay-loam, cultivated for centuries (7 years by me). Birmingham
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