Ferns – How to Plant Bare Root Ferns

Ferns grow mostly in lightly shaded to fully shaded areas. They prefer moist, rich humus soil with a slightly acid pH (5.3 to 5.5 pH range). Sphagnum peat moss is good to add to the soil for holding moisture and will add some acid to the soil as it decomposes.

The hole should not only be large enough to hold the frond, but allowing at least an inch or two from the top of the frond to the top of the hole. The smaller ferns, such as Maidenhair, can be planted about 18 to 24 inches apart. Ostrich, Christmas and Royal Ferns grow larger and should be planted no closer than 24 inches apart.

Top with a good layer of mulch (shredded bark mulch, aged compost or aged manure mix) or a light layer of straw for added moisture and to keep the ground cool. Water as needed to keep the soil moist.

As the ground warms in late spring, the fronds will begin sprouting.

Which end of the tuber is up? Sometimes the tip is visible on the top portion and other times there will be root hairs extending from the bottom. If in doubt, the tuber can be planted in a sideways position.

Cutting the fall die back to the ground and applying a fresh layer of mulch will help to protect the fern tubers from popping out of the ground over winter freeze/thaw cycles as well as from squirrels or other critters digging them up for winter food.

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