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Cutting Back Outdoor Evergreen Ferns for the Season

Are your outdoor ferns looking old and tired? I’ll show you how easy it is to cut back your evergreen ferns for a fresh new look and an even healthier plant.

Evergreen ferns are a prevalent outdoor plant in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). They thrive in indirect, bright light. A few hours of morning sun or gently filtered light through the cover of trees is the perfect scenario.

Although evergreen ferns stay green and lush all year round, they do require yearly trimming for the best results.

Cutting back outdoor evergreen ferns for the season

Ferns have fronds, or leaves, which last for only a year or so. The old fronds start to die back and turn brown while the new growth comes in.

Ferns have fronds, rather than leaves, which last for only a year or so.

Cutting off the old growth and dead fronds will refresh the plant and leave you with beautiful new fronds.

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I’m a self-taught hobby gardener, not a Master Gardener. Everything I share with you on my blog is my personal opinion and things that worked for me along the way.

Types of Ferns to Cut Back

  • Deer Fern
  • Boston Fern or Sword Ferns
  • Deer Fern
  • Bracken Fern
  • Lady Fern
  • Oak Fern

Outdoor evergreen ferns should be cut down every year, using sharp pruners

Cutting Back Your Evergreen Outdoor Ferns

When to Cut Back Your Ferns

The end of winter or early spring is the ideal time before the new fronds start to emerge. I try to do my heavy pruning before the new fronds begin to show.

Cutting back outdoor evergreen ferns for the season: new fronds growing in

Once the new fronds start growing, it will be even harder to cut the old growth out of the plant and keep from damaging any new fronds.

Cutting back outdoor evergreen ferns for the season

How to Cut Back Outdoor Ferns

When cutting your garden ferns, use sharp pruning shears. Cut the old fern fronds down to the ground.

Cutting back outdoor evergreen ferns for the season: new fronds growing in

What to Expect After Pruning Your Ferns

Once all of the fern fronds are cut down, tiny “curled fists” or “knuckles” start forming at the base of the fern. Each of those fists will unfurl delicate fronds, creating a fresh new plant for the growing season.

Cutting back outdoor evergreen ferns for the season: new fronds growing in
Cutting back outdoor evergreen ferns for the season: new fronds growing in

There’s only one drawback to cutting your hardy ferns down to the ground every year. These low-maintenance plants will look pretty ugly for a few weeks while the new foliage grows in. But trust me. It will be worth it in the long run!

new curly fern fronds

How Long Does It Take For New Fronds to Grow Back?

It usually takes about 2-4 weeks to grow new fronds after cutting back outdoor evergreen ferns. This time frame can vary depending on the variety of the fern and the climate.

Maintenance Throughout the Year

Cut back any outdoor fern fronds with pest infestation or disease to the base of the plant throughout the year. If the entire plant is unhealthy, cut it back to the ground, so the disease does not spread.

Cutting back outdoor evergreen ferns for the season: new fronds growing in

With the right care and attention, evergreen outdoor ferns can be a beautiful addition to any garden. Trimming them each year will help keep the fronds looking their best and ensure that the plant remains healthy and full of life for many years.

evergreen outdoor fern

I hope these tips have helped. If you have any questions or thoughts on cutting back ferns, be sure to leave me a comment below.

Until next time,

Happy Gardening!


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  1. I have spring bulbs around my ferns so when I cut back the fronds, I have them to enjoy until the new ones grow in, then the bulb foliage gets hidden, a win win. My first year following your blog and I have found it so delightful.

  2. I am so ready to get going on the garden. I am making quite a few tweaks to the garden this spring Kim and I are so excited to be able to grow even more! Thank you for all the tips, so helpful!

  3. I love your posts. Very informative. I have a problem, though, understanding why when I have a subscription, as soon as I open a post and start reading, the entire screen is covered by a request to sign up for your posts! Then immediately an Ad will appear which blocks about a third of the screen, and I have to wait for a countdown before I can get rid of it. Very, very annoying. Anything you can do?

    1. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you letting me know about this. I have to work with both the ad agency and my email subscription company to find a solution. This would totally annoy me as well. I will try to see what I can do to make this a more enjoyable experience.

  4. I do prune mine every year or at least every other year. I did want to mention that we have a lot of deer here and they love the fiddle heads, new growth, so I spray with deer spray while they are growing. Once they reach maturity they aren’t interested.

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