Problems With Ferns

wendy.chappell added on April 18, 2015 | Answered

I planted 3 ferns in May 2014 in a north-facing border under the shade of a holly tree. They haven't grown in size much and recently the leaves have started to turn rusty brown and it looks as if something might be eating them, as in some cases, only the central 'spine' remains. Nearby plants (Veronica, masterwork) haven't been affected. Can they be saved or should I dig them up?

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Certified GKH Gardening Expert
Answered on April 18, 2015

What type of fern is this?

There are a few possible scenarios.

Ferns will die back (frond leaves will drop, turn brown) when it gets cold in winter, but they will begin to grow again in spring. Check under the old growth and see if there is a little fiddlehead emerging.

Rusty-brown leaves can be indicative of rust. I recommend that you review the following article and make a judgment on whether that is indeed the case:

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