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Fall Fern Care – How To Divide Overgrown Ferns & Save For Next Year!

Autumn is just around the corner, and that means it’s time to divide your overgrown ferns and create even more gorgeous plants to use again next year.

Not only can you overwinter your ferns indoors to grow bright and beautiful again next year, but you can also split and transplant ones that have simply grown too big for their containers. That means additional ferns to plant and grow – all for free!

Let’s face it, buying new ferns every spring can get pretty expensive. Especially when you need more than just one to brighten up a porch or patio. But it really is possible to never have to buy again. All by simply dividing to create new plants, and then saving your ferns indoors over the winter.

dividing overgrown ferns
By late summer, many ferns have simply grown too large for their containers. Not only are these large plants hard to overwinter, the overcrowded roots can begin to cause the plant to fail.

Ferns In Late Summer & Fall – How To Divide Overgrown Ferns

It doesn’t take long for a fern to grow to enormous size. Especially if it is growing in a nice, shady location, and has a good supply of consistent water as well.

In fact, with proper care, most ferns usually outgrow their containers in a single growing season. By late summer or early fall, the roots have all but filled whatever vessel they are growing in.

And the foliage? Well, in some cases it can grow to nearly three feet in diameter or more! Unfortunately, when that happens, many gardeners think it is the end of the line for the monstrous plants.

how to split overgrown ferns
Large ferns like this hanging fern are perfect for dividing into new plants. Late summer or early fall is an ideal time for splitting plants, as it allows enough time for new growth to begin before the plants need to be brought indoors.

But it’s actually the perfect time to spring into action. By simply removing the fern from its container, cutting it back, and splitting its roots in smaller sections, you can create a slew of new plants.

Plants that can easily be overwintered to fill your home with gorgeous greenery again next spring, summer and fall. And here’s how to do it with ease:

How To Divide Overgrown Ferns

Ferns can actually be divided at any point of the growing season. But by dividing in early fall, you allow time for new roots to establish before bringing them indoors.

This has two big advantages. First, it sets the stage for the plants to come back quickly in the spring with strong, early growth. But even more, it allows for a much more manageable set of plants to overwinter inside. Otherwise, it can be hard to find space for those massively overgrown ferns!

The Simple Steps To Dividing & Replanting Overgrown Ferns

The hardest part of dividing a fern can be dealing with all of the foliage. And the easiest way to combat that is by removing it before your ever start dividing!

Using a sharp pair of hedge trimmers, shear the fern’s fronds back to around two inches from the base of the plant. It is usually much easier to while the plant is in the container or pot.

small potted plants
Smaller fern divisions will create smaller first year ferns for the next growing season. These can be perfect for small table top pots on porches and patios.

Don’t worry, this will not kill the plant, although it will appear to be quite woody and bare when you cut it back. Next, remove the fern and root ball and place it on the ground, turning it over so that the bottom of the root ball is facing up.

Using a sharp shovel or knife, divide the fern’s root ball into equal sections. For most ferns that were growing in standard 8″ to 12″ pots, you can divide the root ball into four equal quarters.

This create four new plants that will be large enough to fill out an equal or larger size pot the following year. If you are trying to create larger plants, you can divide in half. And for smaller pots the following year, simply divide into 6 or even 8 sections.

Transplanting – How To Divide Overgrown Ferns

Now it is time to transplant your divisions into their new pots. One thing to remember is that ferns will do better if the pot they are going into is cozy but not overly spacious.

Select pots that are roughly 1/3 to 1/2 larger than the root ball for best results. When ferns have too much space to roam, they will not keep their root ball in a tight formation. This can lead to plants drying out too quickly and poor root establishment.

For re-potting ferns, we like to use 12″ to 14″ pots. They are large enough to handle a year or two of growth, but not so big that the ferns have too much soil area at first. Product Link : 14″ self watering indoor / outdoor pots

Choosing Your Potting Soil – How To Divide Overgrown Ferns

When transplanting, use a high quality potting soil that is light and well draining. Fill the bottom of your planter with the potting soil mix, and then sit the root ball cutting in the middle of the container.

Next, fill in around the side of the root ball with more potting mix. As you do lightly pack the soil with your hands to firm it into the root ball.

Finish by filling the remainder of the container with potting soil, being sure to keep the surface of the fern’s cutting equal to the top of the soil level in the container.

how to divide ferns
Standard potting soil is the perfect choice for re-potting ferns. Ferns do not require additional fertilizers beyond good soil.

After Transplant Care – How To Divide Overgrown Ferns

One big advantage to dividing your plants in late summer or early fall is you can keep them outside for a bit to help them become established in their new home.

Keep plants watered as you would with your full grown ferns. Depending on the weather and the temperatures, it will usually take about 2 to 3 weeks to see new growth coming up from the roots and old foliage.

As the weather begins to turn cooler, it is important to keep your ferns out of danger from the cold. That means when the threat of a frost or freeze is near, it’s time to bring them indoors for overwintering.

To overwinter your fern, select a cool room or area with indirect lighting. Basements with casement or basement windows are one of the best locations of all to overwinter ferns. When overwintering, less is more when it comes to watering.

Water only when the soil has dried out completely. Ferns will grow through the winter months, but in a very slow and limited fashion.

Take your ferns outside in the early spring when temperatures warm to spur regrowth. By dividing in the fall and overwintering, your ferns will be ready to grow fast!

Once spring temperatures begin to warm, take your ferns outside to spur growth. Be sure to protect them or bring them back indoors when there is a threat of frost or freeze.

You will be amazed at how quickly your ferns begin to fill out – and even happier to have ready to go plants without having to spend a dime! Here is to dividing and overwintering your overgrown ferns, and to saving on your gardening budget too. Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.

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