how durable are ferns?

Asked September 29, 2019, 11:44 AM EDT

Hi there, We have some ferns growing around our front porch that we like a lot. However, we're planning to have some rotting porch boards replaced and the workers will need to be standing and walking where the ferns grow. (The work will probably last 1-2 weeks.) The plants will no doubt be trampled for this year, but I'm wondering if they'll be damaged so much that they won't come back next spring. Some (but not all) of the plants have a mound/base that sticks out of the ground and I'm sure those will be flattened. I'm attaching a couple photos; the plants don't look great right now but we really don't want to kill them off! Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!

Ramsey County Minnesota ferns

3 Responses

Thanks for the question.

Having gone through similar construction experiences, my suggestion is that prior to the work on your porch you transplant your ferns to another location. Workers tromping around will not be good for them. The best time to transplant ferns is in the spring though it can also be done in the fall. You could now do one of two things:

1). Move the ferns to a temporary location and then when the porch work is done, move the ferns back to their original location. This would be mean two movements for your poor ferns and after moving them back, they may not have sufficient time to prepare for winter dormancy.

2). Move the ferns to another location for the winter. Then next spring if you wish, move them back to their porch location. We would suggest this as it will minimize the shock to the ferns. Prior to transplantation, prune the ferns back to about half their current height. Remove any brown fronds that may be present. In moving, try to get as much of the root ball as possible. Once they are in their new location, water regularly until the ground freezes. Putting two or three inches of wood mulch around the ferns right after moving them would be advisable.

See the following for further information on these and other points:

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/foliage/ferns/transplanting-ferns.htm

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/transplant-outdoor-ferns-38320.html

https://www.doityourself.com/stry/how-to-transplant-mature-ferns

Good Luck!!

Thanks for the advice, Steve! We'll be sure to move them this weekend so they're not trampled. Really appreciate your willingness to help and share your expertise.

Glad to have helped.

Ferns are rather tough so I expect that all will go well. You may be surprised at the extent of their root system so try to get as much of it as possible. When you dig a hole for their new home, the hole should have a diameter about a foot wider than the diameter of the root ball. That way you will have about six inches of space (to be backfilled with dirt) around the root ball.

Good Luck!!