Did You Know? Successfully Transplanting Ferns

Today’s post was inspired by a stroll around the yard last week. I think I was actually helping my daughter, Maddie, to steer her John Deere Gator. She’s 3 and hasn’t quite got the swing of driving yet. Anyway, as we were leaving the backyard and entering the front I looked down under the dogwood and saw a baby lady fern. It was probably 4″ tall and had three or four fronds. Here’s a picture:

transplanting ferns

I was reminded of a few years back when I plucked out one of these baby ladies from the “lawn” and stuck it in my border. It has performed beautifully ever since with no attention. There are winters where I don’t even bother to remove the foliage. Yes, I know that’s lazy.

Here’s a picture of the adult lady fern:

transplanting ferns

Successfully transplanting ferns isn’t hard to accomplish if you keep a few things in mind. Before I go any further, let me put out a disclaimer: I don’t advocate digging up any wildflowers, even ferns, from the wild and planting them in your garden. With that being said, I don’t think that the “lawn” area under my dogwood qualifies. So what should you keep in mind when it comes to transplanting ferns?

  1. TIMING – I’ve successfully transplanted ferns in spring and fall but I wouldn’t recommend doing it in the summer. That takes us to our next point.
  2. WATER – As with most plants, if you transplant them in fall your watering woes decrease dramatically. It usually rains in the fall here in the Mid-Atlantic gardening region so God will take care of the water. Here’s a post that I did on Fall Is For Planting for more info. If you decide to move your ferns in the spring, be prepared to water regularly throughout the first summer. The roots of your transplanted ferns have to establish themselves in their new home and you’ll need to help them along at first.
  3. SOIL – Transplanting ferns is much easier if the soil in their new home is similar to the soil in their old home. Perhaps that’s why my lady ferns have done so well. The 20′ commute from the dogwood to the border means that the soil is virtually the same. If you are getting your ferns from a gardening friend that has awesome soil and your soil is so-so, help the new ferns along by keeping them well-watered and topdressing with compost. I don’t recommend amending the soil in the planting hole. It creates a bath tub effect and can create some negative conditions in the soil. I’ll do a post about that at a later time.


So what do you do if you have ferns that you want to divide and transplant around your garden? Just dig up the whole clump, take a shovel or knife (my choice) to divide them and then plant them. I think a lot of people are intimidated at the thought of dividing perennials but you really shoudn’t be. Most perennials are extremely tough and amazingly resilient. So if you see any baby ferns popping up under your dogwood tree, pluck them out of the “lawn” and plant them in your garden. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results. Have you successfully transplanted ferns in your garden? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!


June 11, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

One thought on “Did You Know? Successfully Transplanting Ferns

  1. My fern is in doors and I am moving. I thought this would b a good time to transplant into a much larger pot. I need the pot that it is in. The pot has a lot of lime coating on it and I am not sure if I could use a house hold cleaner (limeaway) or if this would b unsafe. Is there any special. treatment. I need to do after the move. . Thanks Val

    By the. way. info was very helpful

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