Ferns Growing Around Roses

Asked June 3, 2017, 11:18 AM EDT

Because of this spring's heavy rainy season, I have new large ferns growing around the base of several of my established rose bushes. I live adjacent to Forest Park. I don't mind the look of them, as they hide the roses' bare stems, but I worry that they will rob the roses of water or other nutrients. Should I dig out the ferns or leave them alone?

Multnomah County Oregon ferns

1 Response

Thanks for your question about ferns near your roses. There are a variety of types of ferns that live in the Pacific Northwest. Some, like the sword fern and the deer fern, are both native to and desired by those in our part of the continent. Others, like the bracken fern, are not only considered undesirable, but tagged as invasive weed by a few governments. I've attached photos of each.

My not knowing which you have probably is irrelevant to you, if you want to get rid of them. They all have rhizomes that are more or less easy to remove. Both bracken fern and sword fern can grow quite large, and block out seeing other plants. The deer fern is quite petite, and can be seen through.

As to their depletion of your garden of water and nutrients for your rose bushes, they probably are in competition, but have you observed any effects on the roses? The bracken fern, especially, can replicate and grow quite large; not so the deer fern. In terms of 'lifestyle,' ferns generally prefer shade, whereas roses need sunlight. Again, the bracken fern will take advantage of any open space, regardless of sun or shade.

So, the answer is really whether (1) you like the ferns there; (2) are your roses exhibiting any detriments as a result of the company; and (3) do you want to pull them up. (If you do, you can probably find a market for the sword ferns and deer ferns, both of which are sold in nurseries.)

Hope this is helpful. Good luck!