The Q&A Archives: Pruning Ferns

Question: We have what looks to be sword ferns in the backyard. The lower leaves are a dark, almost black color. Is it safe to prune these off?

Answer: Regardless of their tender appearance, the sword ferns (Polystichum) native to the Pacific Northwest are tough and hardy plants. You can cut all the foliage down to soil level and the plants will produce new fronds each spring. New fronds are produced from the center of the plant, so you can safely cut down the old and weathered fronds, especially those growing on the outside of the plant, to reduce the size of the plant and to give it a neater appearance.

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