grass in summer forestFerns come back every year as they are perennial and are hardy enough to withstand winter.

However, some people see lifeless ferns in the spring and are prompted to ask “do ferns come back every year?”

Read this article as we answer that question as well as discuss ways to help your ferns to come back next year.

Do Ferns Come Back Every Year?

💥 Yes, ferns will come back next year, your ferns returning the next year when you are growing suitable fern varieties for your USDA hardiness zone. As long as everything is just right with your fern, you should notice that the plant will continue to grow if it is evergreen.


How to Overwinter Ferns 

Overwintering ferns is very easy because ferns are hardy, so they do not need a lot of attention just like other plants.

Overwintering the plants is just a way for you to make sure that they will surely come back next year. However, the ferns still have a high chance of returning next year whether you overwinter them or not as they are growing in the right conditions.

– Overwintering Potted Ferns

The easiest ferns to overwinter are the ferns indoors. All you need to overwinter your potted fern is to take it indoors. If you are growing potted deciduous ferns, taking them indoors will prevent them from falling or wilting their leaves in winter. If the ferns are evergreen, they will continue to grow indoors but at a slower rate.

You want to make sure that your indoor potted ferns have access to sunlight and humidity indoors. They just need four to six hours of indirect sunlight or about six to eight hours of grow lights daily to keep growing. You should also mist the ferns with water droplets regularly so that you can increase the humidity.

– Cut Them Back to Them Grow Indoors

For ferns growing outdoors on the ground, you can cut them back. If you like, you can plant the cut fronds indoors and they will continue growing. As for the remaining parts of the ferns outside, they will come back next year. When cutting your ferns, you can cut whatever shapes and sizes that you please.

While cutting the ferns, concentrate more on the outer, weaker, and paler fronds. You can leave the middle and small fronds so that you can easily identify the location of your ferns. If you are growing evergreen ferns, you also want to keep them clean.

– Remove Pests and Unwanted Parts of the Fern Plants

One very important reason why you should cut back your outdoor ferns even if they will come back next year is that the deciduous ones will have wilted or fallen leaves.

Asides from spoiling the look of their surroundings, these leaves can also host pests throughout the winter. You want to keep the place clean and pest-free so that your plants can grow well next year.

You can throw the cut parts of the fern plants into your compost bin as you intend to fill it up for spring. As for pests, you do not want them to overwinter in your garden, so you should remove them immediately when you see them. Pests that stay in your garden till spring can attack your spring plants.

– Watering the Ferns

You do not really need to water your outdoor evergreen ferns in winter. As long as the soil does not go completely dry, your ferns will do just fine as the snow can act as a source of moisture.

However, if you are growing ferns at a place that can go completely dry, you should try to keep the soil consistently moist. Do this for both deciduous and evergreen ferns.

As for the ferns that are still growing indoors, you want to make sure that they have enough water.

While you do not want their potting mix to become oversaturated with water, you want it to stay moist. If you like, you can use a spray bottle to mist water droplets on their fronds regularly.

– Do Not Fertilize the Ferns

For your outdoor ferns, they should do just fine without extra nutrients in winter. Deciduous plants need no nutrients at all as they should be in dormancy in winter. Regularly fertilizing them in winter can kill them in spring because the nutrients can become too much for them.

As for evergreen or indoor ferns, they still do not need extra nutrients in winter. Even though they are not in their dormancy stage, their growth rate is very slow in winter, so they can make sure of whatever they can find in the substrate no matter how nutrient-depleted the substrate is. However, you can help them by growing them in a nutrient-rich substrate.

– Check Your Ferns for Growth in Mid-Spring

What happens if after overwintering your ferns, you cannot see any sign of growth in spring? While you can get worried, you just need to wait for a little while longer as ferns will come back. However, if you still cannot find any sign of growth in your ferns after waiting till mid-spring, you should check the ferns if they are still alive.

Furthermore, you only need to identify the specific location of a single head and then brush off the soil to reveal its roots. A fern plant that is still alive has fresh roots and the dead ones have wilted roots. If you can still find fresh roots, you just need to wait for the ferns to grow. However, if your ferns are confirmed dead, you need to look for the cause.

The major reason why your ferns may not return the next year is if you are growing a variety that is not suitable for your USDA hardiness zone and region. This is why you must learn the growth requirements of ferns before you start growing them.

– USDA Hardiness Zone Requirements

There are over 20,000 varieties of ferns that you can grow in the United States. You just need to make sure that the variety you choose is suitable for your region. As long as you are living in regions in USDA hardiness zones 2-10, there is a variety for you.

Take note that your fern may not come back the next year if you are growing it outside of its preferred zone.

Some common types of ferns and their suitable USDA hardiness zones are:

  • Boston fern: Zones 9-11
  • Maidenhair fern: Zones 10-11
  • Japanese painted fern: Zones 5-8
  • Marginal wood fern: Zones 3-8
  • Holly fern: Zones 6-11
  • Western sword fern: Zone 6b
  • Japanese tassel fern: Zones 5-8
  • Lady fern: Zone 4

Only grow a variety that is suitable for your region.

– Humidity Requirements

Ferns love high humidity, so you want to keep the evergreen or indoor plants in a room or environment with 50-70 percent humidity. As long as the place is not arid, your ferns should do just fine. If you like, you can get your ferns a humidifier so that you do not need to mist them by yourself.

– Light Requirements

Just like other plants, ferns need sunlight to grow. However, ferns do not grow under direct sunlight. They prefer growing under shade or a canopy such as a tree. For your ferns growing indoors, you want to keep them close to a window or grow them using a grow light.

-Recommended Substrate for Ferns

Well, ferns are not picky when it comes to their substrate if the aim is to overwinter the ferns properly so that they come back.

Even though they grow best in nutrient-rich soil, you can grow your ferns in very strange substrates including tree bark and concrete. Just remember that they need a source of nutrients to grow, so keep their substrate nutritious and they should do just fine.


Will ferns come back after a freeze?

Ferns can generally survive freezing temperatures and often bounce back after a freeze, especially if their roots are well-established.

Can my potted ferns survive outdoors?

While some ferns can tolerate outdoor conditions, it’s crucial to consider the specific species and local climate. Some potted ferns may not withstand extreme temperatures or exposure to harsh elements.

Can ferns be planted in the ground?

Yes, ferns can be planted in the ground, provided the soil and environmental conditions are suitable for their specific needs.


Ferns in NatureNow you know everything that you should about your ferns coming back the next year.

Please do not forget about the following:

  • Deciduous ferns will drop their leaves and look dead in winter while evergreen ferns will continue growing. Both types of ferns come back every year.
  • Before growing any fern, you want to know its growth requirements, especially its preferred USDA hardiness zones.
  • To guarantee that your ferns will come back next year, you can cut them back and grow the cut fronds indoors.
  • You do not need to water and fertilize your ferns in winter. Only water those that grow at a place that can go completely dry.
  • To check if your ferns are still alive, wait until mid-spring and then inspect their roots if they are fresh or wilted.

You can now overwinter your ferns like a pro, right? Do stick to the tips in this article.

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