Outdoor ferns


I have a garden area filled with masses of ferns.They are shaded and have damp soil so they grow well.They are quite a sight!Two years ago I lost a few dozen and this year I lost several dozen.
I wondered if we put a thick layer of leaves on this area in the Fall would that protect them? .We might be replicating a ‘forest ‘? That idea came to me when I realised the yard man had not put most
of the leaves in this garden for the past 2 years.
Just a guess.
Thanking you in advance


I am a fern fan, too! There are a couple of things to consider. First, light conditions. You say the ferns were growing well in a damp, shady area … by any chance, a couple of years ago, did a neighbour remove or limb up a tree, causing the area to become less shady and drier?

But the major change you did mention is that there had been leaves added every year until two years ago. I agree that that may be the issue. Ferns are hungry, thirsty, plants. As you suggest, they thrive in the fallen leaves of the forest floor. I think that it is not an issue of the leaves “protecting” the ferns; it is that the plants haven’t enjoyed the nutritional benefit of the leaves composting around them. I would suggest adding a good layer of compost, now, before they become too big to work around. And make sure that this fall, you return to the practice of putting fallen leaves in that area.

If some of the ferns have become quite large, you certainly can divide them to make more plants to fill in the empty areas of the patch.

For more information on growing ferns successfully, you can refer to our Gardening Guide on the topic, here.

Good luck!

Hardy Garden Ferns: A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide