I was given a 3.44-gallon sword fern. It’s huge! Does it have to be repotted/pruned? If so, please tell me what kind of soil and when to prune.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Yolanda: Sword ferns are a great addition to any shade garden. The evergreen fronds provide year-round structure and interest. It is more common that we see ferns in either 1-gallon or quart-size containers in the garden centers. I agree that a 3-gallon fern is quite large. I assume you are planting this new addition in your garden. As a general rule, you should dig the new home for your fern twice as wide and just as deep as the container it is currently growing in. They are low-maintenance and do not require pruning except to remove any dead/broken fronds. It is normal for the older fronds to die back in order to give room for new growth to emerge. Sword ferns belong to a very large genus with more than 100 species. A few of these are native to California. Likely, the most common is the western sword fern (Polystichum munitum). These ferns are upright in growth habit and are coarse in texture. They prefer to grow in moist, loamy soils. Treat as you would any new planting, and if Mother Nature does not provide rainfall it will be necessary for you to hand water for the first few weeks after planting to help the fern establish itself, and then it will be more drought-tolerant.