The Q&A Archives: Leafless Ferns

Question: When I moved into my new home, I found several Fern growing in various shaded areas of my yard. They must have been planted by previous owners. I'm guessing the ferns are perennials. I have observed them this past summer and sometimes the large leaves have gotten broken or too heavy so I snipped them away. A few days later new Fern leaves grew back. I went on vacation for about two weeks in August and when I returned all my ferns except one (transplanted in a large pot)had brown dead leaves and no fresh new ones. Now there are only several brown stems left poking from the ground and no more leaves. What happened? Have the Ferns completely died? If not, how can I revive them back to health?

Answer: Based on your description it sounds like your ferns suffered some heat and drought stress and went dormant a little early. In the fall most ferns normally turn brown and appear to be dead much as you describe, and then revive the following spring. If it is very dry in your garden you might make sure they receive some water once a week or so until the ground freezes. They should come back next spring.

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