How to Transplant Alaska Fiddlehead or Ostrich Fern Plants

The Alaska fiddlehead fern, also commonly called the ostrich fern, is a large, showy plant. Each individual frond can be as much as 12 inches wide and 5 feet long, and is shaped much like the plumage of an ostrich. The huge size, rich green color, and the fern's adaptability (it's hardy down to USDA hardiness zone 2) make it popular with many people. Transplanting the ostrich fern is not difficult, and with care you can have it growing almost anywhere you want with a minimum of effort.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Compost


    • 1

      Choose a location for the transplant. The Alaska fiddlehead fern does best in areas of full to partial shade. It also requires a moist, humid area and sufficient room to spread out. The shady bank of a creek or near a spring are ideal spots. Allow at least 3 feet on all sides of the plant to insure it has plenty of space to grow and for new ferns to develop.

    • 2

      Dig a hole several inches deeper and wider than the root ball of the fern you're transplanting. If you're moving a very small fern, make the hole at least 10 inches wide and 10 inches deep. Remove all of the soil from the hole.

    • 3

      Mix some aged compost into the soil that you removed from the hole, so the soil contains about 50 percent compost. Place a layer of this mixture back into the hole.

    • 4

      Set the ostrich fern into the hole. Make sure that the base of the plant is level with the ground. If it's too far above the surface, set it to one side and dig the hole deeper, then try again. If it sits too low, lift the fern and add some more of the soil mix until the plant sits at the correct height.

    • 5

      Use the soil and compost mixture to fill in carefully around the plant. Bring the level of the soil in the hole even with the ground. Press down firmly around the plant to remove any air pockets.

    • 6

      Water the plant gently until the soil is thoroughly soaked. This can be hard to gauge, but usually soaking it for about 10 minutes will be adequate.

Tips & Warnings

  • The fiddlehead is also the name for the coiled leaf of a fern when it first pops out of the ground, before it uncurls, due to its unusual shape.
  • The ostrich fern cannot tolerate hot, sunny areas. If it gets too much sun the leaves may burn to a dry brown. Too much heat is likely to kill the plant completely, though if it gets plenty of moisture it may survive.
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  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images

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