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Plant Answer Line Question
My wood ferns (now about 4 feet in diameter)have fronds which are now partially brown. Can I prune all the 'old' fronds off and let the new ones take over without damaging the plant? When should I do this?
Sources are divided on when and whether to prune wood ferns (Dryopteris). Some consider Dryopteris "self-cleaning," meaning that the old fronds will eventually disintegrate on their own (Gardening with Woodland Plants by Karan Junker; Timber Press, 2007). If you are inclined to tidy up the look of your plants, they can be pruned of their old fronds after new growth begins in the spring (be careful not to cut the new fronds), or according to other sources, in late February or early March before new growth starts. Rainyside Gardeners and Great Plant Picks, two Pacific Northwest resources, offer more information. Rainyside advocates pruning once there is new growth, and Great Plant Picks advocates pruning before new growth begins.
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April 11 2017 13:50:16