How to get rid of ferns in garden? [Best ways to kill ferns]

Ferns are often planted to beautify lawns, backyards, and even living spaces. In moderation, these plants are absolutely beautiful but if they are too many and to top it all unwanted, they stick out like a sore thumb. There are several ways in which one can manage intrusive ferns these include home remedies, natural herbicides, and chemicals.

As a gardener, it depends on how you want to treat these plants. This blog takes you through all the options available and the process to get it done. Now let us discuss the best ways to kill ferns in a garden, how to get rid of ferns in a garden.

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What are ferns?

Ferns are non-flower plants that can either be planted indoors or outdoors. There are more than two thousand variants of fern that include climbers, shrubs as well as bigger plants. These plants reproduce by growing spores and hence they are often classified as spore-bearing vascular plants.

They grow in both sunny as well as shady places, this makes the plants that can be planted and cared for. This being said they also multiply quickly and cause havoc in the garden if left unattended. 

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Are ferns considered weeds?

Weeds by definition are plants that grow in unwanted places. They are plants that grow out of turn and hog up all the nutrients from the soil, nutrients that your plants would benefit from.

There is always a question about ferns if they are weeds or not. The answer to this is subjective depending on the variant of fern in your garden and if they are planted by you or are intruding. 

In a nutshell, you can say that fern that is in your garden out of consent are weeds and need to be dealt with. This being said ferns are also known to choke weeds, it is a good idea to plant the fern in crevices as they will not allow weeds to grow saving you a lot of trouble in the long run. 

There are several ways in which intrusive fern can be dealt with. Here are a few tried and tested methods of how to kill fern in your garden.

Before understanding how to kill ferns in your garden, it is important to understand that the fern that is termed as invasive is usually the non-native variants.

Most gardeners treat the invasive fern using glyphosate a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant.

This kills most ferns or at least controls them, but unfortunately, ferns have a big root system and hence often bounce back. This makes it necessary to apply multiple layers of glyphosate.

Now. let us see, how to kill ferns in a garden?

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Best ways to kill ferns in a garden

Before we get into other chemicals that can be used to treat unwanted fern here are a few natural remedies. By using these natural remedies, we can easily get rid of ferns in a garden. So let us see how to kill ferns in your garden.

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How to use boiling water to kill fern?

Water is the most cost-efficient and easy to use, method of getting rid of unwanted fern in your garden. It is also a method in which you are sure of not leaving the soil drenched in poisonous residue after the plants are taken care of.  

How to use

Survey the fern and its size. The amount of water required will depend mainly on the size of the plant. 

Tip: it is advisable to treat fern at the beginning itself to avoid hassles.

For a small to medium plant, you will require about 1 – 2 gallons of water (3.8 – 7.6 litres).

Bring the water to a boil and pour the boiling hot water on the roots and leaves of the fern. 

In a few days, the plant will die a natural death. 

In the case of bigger and more stubborn plants, this process will need to be repeated twice or more to get rid of them completely. 

Caution: Use gloves and be careful while working with hot water to prevent injuries and burns. 

Now, let us see, how to kill ferns in your garden using salt water.

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How to kill fern using saltwater

Salt dissolved in water works as an excellent herbicide. Any salt works fine either table salt or rock salt depending on availability.

How to use

Dilute 1 part of salt to every 8 parts of water. The quantity of water to be used will depend on the size of the plant.

Tip: A small to medium size plant will require about 1 – 2 gallons of water. 

Pour this solution on the roots and leaves of the plant

After a few days, you will be able to get rid of the plant. 

Tip: Do not use this method if you plan to plant a fern or shrub in the same area as it will be detrimental.

How to use vinegar to kill fern?

Vinegar is a strong allrounder used in most home remedies. It is particularly helpful when it comes to dealing with intrusive ferns.

Both white vinegar, as well as industrial vinegar, can be used to deal with fern. The only downside to using vinegar is that it needs to be reapplied often (daily in most cases), unlike other herbicides.

Caution: Industrial grade vinegar might irritate those applying it, wear appropriate gear while working with strong chemicals. 

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How to use

Vinegar is most effective when used directly without diluting 

Take about half to one gallon of vinegar in a spray bottle and spray it over the fern and on its roots. 

In about a day or two, the plant will wither 

Household vinegar contains about 5 percent acetic acid. This burns leaves of plants when sprayed on, this is the reason why it is effective when getting rid of fern. Sunny days are the best days for a vinegar treatment as the heat amplifies the burning power.

While applying vinegar gardeners need to be careful about accidentally spilling it on other plants around the fern, as it may cause them to wilt as well.

As compared to other home remedies like salt vinegar does not alter the basic composition of the soil and hence is considered safer in terms of planting the next round of crop in the same space.

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Would vinegar help kill fern n winter?

Vinegar as effective as it may be is considered as a short-term solution to the fern infestation. When plants are sprayed with vinegar, they will turn brown and wilt in a day or two.

The best part about winter is that it is not a season favorable to fern growth and hence the areas treated with vinegar during winter will stay fern-free all winter.

It is advisable to use vinegar that is stronger and has more acetic acid as compared to the normal 5%. A 10 to 20 percentage of acetic acid will be more effective at keeping fern at bay.

How to kill fern by digging them out?

Another option to get rid of ferns permanently is by decapitating them and digging them out of the ground.

Most of us try to pull, tug at and wrestle with plants when we need to yank them out of the ground.

If the same is done with these plants there are more chances that the spores that help them reproduce will spread all over the garden making the problem ten times worse.

To avoid this, it is important to remove fronds before you dig up the fern. Once the fronds are removed dig deep into the soil till u find the crown or rhizome dig them out along with the roots. This will keep ferns at bay and you will not need to keep treating the soil at regular intervals 

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Best way to get rid of ferns in a garden

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Now, let us see the best ways to get rid of ferns in a garden.

How to kill ferns in a garden depends on the size and breed. There are several home remedies to get rid of these intrusive plants, these include pouring boiling water or adding a salt and water mixture or a vinegar concentrate solution that works almost instantly in summers. This being said, herbicides are the fastest way to get rid of all variants of the fern. 

Fern variants like the ostrich and asparagus are tougher as compared to others and need to be dealt with differently. These need a harsher treatment to get rid of completely.

Most herbicides available in the market come with glyphosate as an active ingredient marked as roundup. These are extremely effective when it comes to dealing with tougher variants. 

Caution: Gardeners need to be careful when treating plants with herbicides as these will kill all plants they come in contact with. 

How to use

As these chemicals are strong it is important to pay attention to weather conditions before you start the treatment. If rains are predicted in the next 24 hours it is advisable to sit it through, as rains may case the herbicides to spread and damage other plants. 

Using these products is simple as all you need to do is spray them on the plants that you would like to get rid of. 

Herbicides with triclopyr as an active ingredient are effective to get rid of ferns as well and would not harm the lawn like other chemicals. 

These herbicides need to be diluted before use. the effect of these or any chemical applied or sprayed over ferns will take at least 24 hours to activate or penetrate the roots.

Hence you need to be patient as results will not be seen as soon as the herbicides or home remedies are sprayed on the plants. 

The best way is to read the instructions on the pack before using herbicides. 

Things to keep in mind while applying or spraying chemical herbicides

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Use eye, skin and lung protection

Herbicides, both natural as well as synthetic have harsh components that may irritate the eyes skin, and respiratory system. Hence, it becomes of utmost important to wear proper gear while working in the garden especially when using herbicides. 

Spray the entire plant

This advice seems a bit redundant but unlike other plants, ferns multiply rather quickly with the help of the spores on their leaves. hence while getting rid of the plant it is important to douse the entire plant in herbicides. This will help eliminate the plant from the roots to the tip. 

Most store-bought herbicides come with specific instructions on how to use them. Most herbicides need to be sprayed but some variants work well when applied to the soil. pay attention to the contents and your garden soil type before using store-bought chemicals. 

Garden soil can be tested using home-bought testing kits available off the internet. If you are someone who does not like using chemicals you could choose home remedies that suit your needs. 

get rid of ferns in my garden
get rid of ferns in my garden

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How to use fern to our advantage in garden?

Ferns are a nuisance in the garden but at the same time in most cases, they prove beneficial to keep away wild animals like deer in particular as they detest the taste and smell of the plant.

So sometimes if the situation demands these plants being there it is ok to have them and contain them in that particular spot so that they do not overpower your garden. 

This can be done easily by building trenches around the plants 


Dig a 2 to 3 feet deep trench around the plants 

After the trench is dug install a rhizome barrier like the ones made to contain a bamboo crop.

Extend the barrier to about 2 to 3 inches above the ground and fill back the soil. 

Here are a few questions that gardeners ask on a regular basis

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Can Roundup kill ferns?

Roundup which is more commonly known as Glyphosate is an herbicide used to treat invasive plants. These kill the rhizomes as well as the fronds of invasive ferns in turn getting rid of them.

As these chemicals are non-distinguishing meaning, they will kill everything in they are sprayed on, this makes it paramount to protect useful plants.

To do this cover plants that surround the fern with a plastic sheet or paper or cardboard, cover them will help protect them from the chemicals sprayed on the fern. 

How to kill asparagus fern with vinegar?

Like other fern variants, the asparagus fern can also be killed using vinegar. Either you can douse the plant with vinegar or another option is to feed vinegar to the roots. This will kill it faster and is more effective as compared to other methods

Dig a trench around the plant – the trench needs to be in a way that you are able to see the roots.

Once the roots of the plant are visible continue digging till u see most of the root. 

Caution: keep an eye out for roots of other plants. 

Once the trench is dug pour vinegar into it, both white, as well as industrial vinegar, work fine. 

In one to two days the plant will with away 

It can then be pulled out from the soil by loosening it with a shovel.

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How to remove ferns killed by herbicides?

When herbicides are used the fern will wilt away in the same place. This process will take anywhere between 3 days to a week depending on the size of the plants. Once the plants wither, they will need to be taken out of the soil. Here is how this can be done

Loosen the soil

Pulling out dead fern will be as difficult as pulling out live ones. To make it easier using a shove dig a trench surrounding the fern.

Keep digging till you reach the root ball. This should be about 1 – 2 feet deep depending on the plant height.

Tip: Dig as close to the trunk as possible to loosen it.

Pull out the trunk

After the trench is dug and the soil is loose holding the trunk firmly and pull the plant out. Keep pulling till you see the roots. These plants are deep-rooted plants hence it is important to see that the entire plant is pulled out.

Tip: Use proper gloves while pulling out the plants, also protect your skin with full-sleeved clothes. This will help you protect yourself from residual herbicides.

If the plant is still hard to pull out try digging closer to the plant. If that does not help dig deeper into the trench.

Dig up the entire plant

Ferns are deep-rooted plants making the soil inhabitable. To make the soil fit to plant another crop inspect the soil for residual parts of the root system. Use a shovel to turn over the soil Pull out the left-over pieces and only then plant other plants.    

Caution: As tempting as it may be do not throw these plants in the compost pile. Throw them in the trash. 

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How to kill fern growing on your roof garden?

We are familiar with an invasive fern growing in gardens, landscapes, and crevices but they also show up unexpectedly on roofs sometimes.

These ferns need to be treated carefully as they cannot be washed away, nor do they come off with time. The situation is worse if your house is in a shady area and does not receive enough sunlight. 

Fern on roofs grow and multiply in crevices between the tiles or sheets. They cannot be pulled out as it will damage the entire roof. The only option in such cases is to use an insecticide or vinegar and wait for the plant to wilt. 

The process will take longer as compared to getting plants on land to wither. Once the plant is completely dry it will then turn brittle and fall off naturally. 

It is advisable to let these plants be during the duration of treatment as it will safeguard the roof and keep it intact. These plants like others damage the structure with their roots hence if you notice a fern growing on your roof treat it immediately. 

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Do herbicides affect the soil?

Herbicides are easy to use and a sure shot method to get rid of weeds and ferns. These chemicals need to be applied less frequently and the application process is simpler. This being said the easier they are to use the more harmful they are to the soil and the environment at large.

In the soil they attach to the particles this slows down the product of weeds but at the same time, they also affect other plant growth. In the environment as well, they can linger for a long-time causing contamination of both air and water over time.

How do you neutralize herbicides in soil?

Once sprayed herbicides linger on the soil and stay in the environment for long. The effect of this can be neutralized by adding activated carbon to the soil. 0.5 grams of activated carbon to 5lbs of soil or a sandy soil mixture can help deactivate atrazine or another herbicide residue.

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In Conclusion

Ferns are beautiful plants that add beauty to all landscapes but when they grow out of turn and are invasive it becomes necessary to get rid of them. How to kill fern without affecting other plants in the garden?

Is a question most gardeners come up with. The steps and methods discussed in the article are suitable for both organic gardeners as well as those who are ok with using chemicals.

There are also articles published and research done about the ill effects of using herbicides to treat fern as they linger over soil and in the ecosystem for a long time.

Hence it is advisable to use home remedies to get rid of fern, like using eco-friendly fertilizers and insecticides while organic gardening. I hope this helps to know how to kill ferns in a garden, how to get rid of unwanted ferns in the garden.