Group of wild ferns growing wildly

Ferns are a popular plant choice for both indoor and outdoor gardens due to their lush, green foliage and ability to thrive in a variety of environments.

While ferns are generally low-maintenance plants, they do require regular pruning to maintain their healthy growth and appearance. One question that many fern owners have is: what time of year is the best time to cut back ferns?

The answer to this question can vary depending on the type of fern and the specific growing conditions it is subjected to. In general, however, the best time to cut back ferns is in the late winter or early spring. This is because ferns are dormant during the winter months and are less likely to be damaged by pruning at this time.

Here are some additional tips for pruning ferns at different times of the year:

Spring Pruning

If you live in an area with mild winters, you may be able to prune your ferns in the spring. Spring is generally a good time to prune ferns because they are just starting to come out of their dormant period and are beginning to put on new growth.

To prune your ferns in the spring, start by removing any dead or damaged fronds. Then, cut back any fronds that are looking tired or yellowing. You can also remove any fronds that are crossing over or rubbing against each other, as this can cause damage to the plant.

Finally, consider thinning out the fern by removing some of the older fronds to allow new growth to come through. Be sure to use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to make clean cuts, and avoid cutting back more than a third of the plant at one time to prevent stressing the fern.

Pruning back ferns on a woodland path
Pruning back ferns on a woodland path

Summer Pruning

In general, it is not necessary to prune ferns during the summer months. However, if you notice any fronds that are damaged or diseased, you can remove these as needed to help prevent the spread of any problems to the rest of the plant.

It is also a good idea to remove any spent flower stalks during the summer to encourage the plant to focus its energy on producing new growth rather than seeds.

Failure to cut back ferns means they can spread and consume a huge area
Failure to cut back ferns means they can spread and consume a huge area

Fall Pruning

Like summer, fall is generally not a good time to prune ferns. This is because ferns are starting to go into their dormant period and may not have the energy to put on new growth.

However, if you live in an area with a mild climate and your fern is still actively growing in the fall, you can gently trim back any fronds that are damaged or diseased. Be sure to use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to make clean cuts, and avoid cutting back more than a third of the plant at one time to prevent stressing the fern.

Garden trail cleared of overgrown ferns
Garden trail cleared of overgrown ferns

Winter Pruning

As mentioned earlier, the late winter or early spring is generally the best time to prune ferns. During the winter months, ferns are dormant and are less likely to be damaged by pruning.

To prune your ferns in the winter, start by removing any dead or damaged fronds. Then, cut back any fronds that are looking tired or yellowing. You can also remove any fronds that are crossing over or rubbing against each other, as this can cause damage to the plant.

Ferns do not die back completely in winter and remain relatively flexible
Ferns do not die back completely in winter and remain relatively flexible

In conclusion

Finally, consider thinning out the fern by removing some of the older fronds to allow new growth to come through. Be sure to use clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears to make clean cuts, and avoid cutting back more than a third of the plant at one time to prevent stressing the fern.

Regardless of when you decide to prune your ferns, always be sure to use clean tools and inspect them for any signs of damage or disease before proceeding with your pruning. This will help ensure that your ferns stay healthy and look their best.