Ferns diseased?

Asked June 17, 2017, 12:56 PM EDT

See photos attached. My ferns have sometimes done this before and came back the next year, but this seems more extensive and earlier than before. The die-off seems to go from the base out, and they flatten. They grow under a canopy of evergreens, with plenty of open air around them. They get late afternoon sun. Do you know what might be causing this, whether I should do anything about it, and whether it will affect other plants? Sharon Harrington

Hennepin County Minnesota ferns diagnosis of plant problems home horticulture

1 Response

Thank you for the question. Hardy perennial ferns such as yours rarely suffer from disease or insect pests so the problem that first comes to mind is that they are suffering from a lack of moisture. They look dried up. Plants growing under mature landscape trees can suffer from lack of moisture simply because the trees have so many roots that out compete the smaller plants for moisture and nutrients. You will need to intentionally water these ferns weekly or even more often if we don't get a hard rain that filters through the tree canopy to the ground. The boughs of the evergreen act like an umbrella, shading the ground from all but the hardest of rains. Soak the soil so that it is wet 5-6 inches down.
The ferns may have suffered earlier than other years due to our recent stretch of hot, dry weather.

Thank you for contacting Extension.