I have two Kimberly ferns that I have recently cut most of the middle out of because of browning. I think they had gotten too dry. Will they put new foliage back out through the middle part or have I ruined them?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Leah: Kimberly Queen ferns (Nephrolepis obliterate) are considered tropicals for those of us gardening in Kentucky. That being said, we can certainly over-winter them indoors, which is what I am assuming you have done with yours. I would suspect the foliage dieback in the middle is a result of stress and possibly lack of sunlight from the winter months. If the plants were dry it would not just be the middle that would lose its foliage. The good news is that if the rest of the plant looks healthy you have nothing to worry about. You might consider dividing the ferns so that you will have four smaller ones instead of two big ones that do not look so great with no fronds in the center. To divide the ferns, remove them from their container and lay them on their side. Take your fingers or a pair of gardening scissors/pruners and separate the roots all the way up the middle of the plant. Start at the bottom of the soil and work your way up through the foliage, or in your case where the foliage should be. Take a good look at the roots and make sure they are not soft to eliminate any root problems that may have caused the dieback. Repot them in separate containers or in the ground. This will invigorate your ferns and encourage them to put on new growth. At this time you can feed them with either a liquid or slow-release fertilizer and keep them moderately moist. These ferns do not like to completely dry out so watch your moisture levels. It will likely take a few weeks for them to put on new growth so be patient, but they will once again look lush and beautiful.