How do you split up large Kimberly Queen ferns? I saved mine from last summer and put them in a greenhouse. I want to separate them and grow more ferns. Mine are huge, but the extended cold we had made them look bad, so I cut them back and want to separate them so they will be pretty this spring and summer. I also have Petticoat ferns and a Macho fern that I want to do the same thing with. I hate to buy new ferns every year. Can you advise me of what to do?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Alice: Dividing larger ferns is a great way to rejuvenate them and is also an economical way to create more plants. It is an easy process but can also be quite messy, so you may choose to do this in the garden when the temperatures warm up or lay a sheet of plastic down in the greenhouse for quick cleanup. The benefit to doing this earlier is that the ferns will have time to fill out in their new containers and will be ready to place in the garden in the spring. It is fine that you cut back the foliage; otherwise you would have been sweeping the greenhouse for many months since they have a tendency to drop their foliage during the winter months. So when you are ready, remove the ferns from their containers and lay them down with the roots closest to you. Take a sharp pair of gardening scissors and literally cut through the roots until you have separated the plant into two parts. If your ferns are really large and you want to divide them more than once, go ahead but you will want to visually make your cuts before you actually start dividing. This way you will have equal parts. Another option is to again remove the ferns from their containers and lay them on the ground and then use a sharp spade to divide them. You do not have to be nice about this process, you cannot hurt the plants. After you have divided them, pot them up in containers that are adequate for their new size using a nutrient-rich potting medium. Water them and give them a half dose of either slow-release or liquid fertilizer. Keep the soil consistently moist at this stage. It will take them a while to fill out into their new containers but the effort is well worth it.