The Q&A Archives: Fern division

Question: I bought a very large fern from Home Depot the other day on sale. It was being sold through the home depot garden center. My intention is to divide it into 2 or 3 and plant outside along a shady walk way that has a somewhat narrow strip of soil.

What's the best way to do this? I am unsure what type of fern, it's very large, the leaves are lacy and it's got spores ready to go so I'd like to get it into the ground. It's got lots of fuzzy new yellow-green curled up fronds. However, my other concern is that it also has some type of bug on it - I saw a yellow-green worm milling around on it on the way home in my friend's truck. I picked it and part of the frond it was wiggling around on off and threw out the window. I dont see any other moving parts but the darn wiggling bug looked an awful lot like the little rolled up yellow-green fuzzy baby fronds.

what to do?

Answer: Based on your description, the caterpillar might be Florida fern caterpillar, which can sometimes be found on greenhouse grown ferns. These can be treated with carbaryl(ingredient in Sevin). A symptom of caterpillar damage is finding frass around the plant, and they usually hide at the base or in the tips of the new leaflets. (On the other hand, it could be something that is not actually infesting the fern and just happened to be there.)

Without knowing what kind of fern you have it is difficult to suggest when to divide it. If this is a houseplant type of fern, you could absolutely divide it now.

If it is a hardy garden type of fern, this is the most stressful time of year to divide it. If you do it now, take special care to prepare the soil deeply with ample organic matter and keep the area well mulched with organic mulch. Then water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist but not sopping wet. Also, keep the area well shaded for the next few weeks while they recover and establish. Good luck with your fern!

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