I have a sweetfern shrub that is not flourishing. I have had it about 5 years, transplanted twice due to moves but has seemed to take these in it’s stride. It is in it’s final spot now, (planted spring 2016), seemed happy last summer but is not flourishing now. The leaves are a sickly yellow green, some basal leaf loss, some new growing tips but all that yellowish cast. It is in full sun in a well drained rock garden spot. Our soil is allkaline, so I am careful only to water with rain water and I have given it a small amount of acidifying fertiliser, as well as a couple of handfuls of well rotted manure . What am I doing wrong? Any way to save it? I was thinking of trimming it back but there is no new growth near the stem so I don’t think that will work.


Thank you for writing in about your sweet-fern.

Sweet-fern is low maintenance, with unusual green leaves turning brown in the fall and persisting most of the winter.  The shrub is used for erosion control and naturalizing, due to its tolerance of adverse conditions. It is adaptable to poor, infertile soil and is also drought, salt, and heat resistant. The plant may be difficult to transplant and does not do well in clay soils.

There don’t seem to be any serious disease or pest problems.

I am wondering if perhaps, the plant is unhappy because of the latest transplant and possible over fertilization and over watering. We have experienced a lot of rainfall this year and you have watered in addition to the rainfall.

Here are a few sites which you may find helpful.



Good luck with your sweet fern.