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How to Grow Bracken Ferns

By Melissa Lewis ; Updated September 21, 2017

Bracken ferns are hardy ferns that can tolerate most sun and shade conditions, but prefer partial shade. They are prevalent out in the wild in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 11 and are often the first plant to appear after a forest fire. There are several varieties of bracken ferns that tolerate different climate conditions, including Southern, Western and Eastern Brackens. Bracken ferns are dangerous for livestock to eat in large quantities, so do not plant near grazing animals.

Select an area of your garden or yard that is isolated because bracken ferns will absorb and use much of the water and nutrients needed by other plants and flowers. Keep ferns at least several feet away from other plants, flowers and even grasses. Plant bracken ferns under trees where grass and other plants cannot survive.

Prepare the soil. Bracken ferns like well draining, acidic soil, so add some compost or sand to your soil, if necessary.

Dig a hole that is as deep, but two times a wide as the rhizome (plant root). Place the rhizome in the center of the hole and spread out the roots. Cover the rhizome and fill the hole with the soil removed. Water it in.

Keep bracken ferns watered until they are established. However, they should not need supplemental waterings unless drought conditions exist.

Control bracken ferns by keeping them mowed or clipped back when they become overgrown. In addition, dig up entire plants as they multiply and grow larger. Be sure to get the whole rhizome, which can be several feet long.


Things You Will Need

  • Compost or sand
  • Water
  • Trowel

About the Author


Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.