Growing Ferns

Growing Ferns
Growing ferns.
  • Ferns can be grown in the border or woodland, even in a pot.
  • They do not flower but some produce attractive seed heads in autumn.
  • They can be tall growing, middle-sized or more compact. All produce very attractive fronds.
  • Some are evergreen, others are deciduous. Most grow in shade but a few will tolerate some sun.
  • They can grow in a wide variety of shady situations from a shady border, in woodland under deciduous trees or shrubs, under shrubs in the shady border or in a pot grown as a group or individual specimen plant.
  • Low maintenance, with evergreen varieties only needing dead or damaged fronds removing. Deciduous ferns require dead foliage removing in spring before new growth appears.
  • Most varieties are green but some have unusual silvery foliage & some produce more colourful new fronds in spring.
  • Ferns can be used as excellent ground cover requiring little or no maintenance. They can hold their own when grown with vigorous growers like Vinca & Lamium.
Ferns have beautiful foliage, some lacy & textured whilst others grow more solid fronds. Ferns with lacy fronds are a good contrast against solid- leaved perennials like Hostas. The taller growers can give the garden a lush almost tropical feeling. Athyrium niponicum (Japanese painted fern) with beautiful lacy, silvery pink or red fronds provides both textural & colour contrast. Ferns grow best in a moisture retentive soil.
Ferns that can tolerate sun.
  • Asplenium – Sun to part-shade.
  • Osmunda – Full shade or sun.
  • Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern)-A statuesque fern growing between 3-5’ tall. Sun to full shade. If grown in sun it requires a lot of water. It can even grow in shallow, standing water.
Shorter growing ferns for shade.
  • Adiantum pedatum varieties (Maidenhair fern) – Part or full shade in humus-rich soil. Approx. 30 cm tall. Deciduous or semi-evergreen.
  • Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’ AGM –Grow in shade. Not too keen on lime soil. Approx. 30 cm tall. Grow in shade.
  • Athyrium niponicum (Japanese painted fern) – Grow in full/part-shade but fronds colour better with some morning sun. Reddish or pinkish fronds are overlaid with a silver layer which gives them a ghost-like appearance. They need a moisture retentive soil but once established can tolerate quite dry soil & even become drought tolerant.
  • Blechnum spicant AGM – Part or deep shade. Approx. 20-50 cm tall.
  • Cyrtonium fortunei –Grow in part-shade. Semi-evergreen growing to approx. 50 cm tall.
  • Dryopteris polydactyla ‘Dadd’s’- Grow in shade. Can tolerate dry soil when established. Approx. 75 cm tall.
  • Dryopteris wallichiana ‘Jurassic Gold’ – Grow in shade. Semi-evergreen if grown with shelter otherwise deciduous. Approx. 75 cm tall.
  • Polystichum aristichoides – Deep or part-shade. Evergreen Reaches approx. 45 cm tall.
  • Polystichum aculeatum – Grow in deep to part-shade. Evergreen reaching approx. 60 cm tall.
  • Polystichum makinoi – Grow in full shade. Evergreen growing to approx. 60 cm tall.
  • Polystichum setiferum congestum group – Deep or part-shade. Evergreen reaching approx. 30 cm tall.
  • Polystichum setiferum acutilobum ‘Wollastonii’- Full or part-shade. A semi-wintergreen, compact plant.
  • Woodsia obtusa – Part-shade or part-sun. A deciduous,
Taller growing ferns for shade.
  • Asplenium scolopendrium ‘Cristatum’ (Hart’s Tongue Fern’) – Grow in shade. Approx. 60 cm tall.
  • Athyrium ‘Branford Beauty’ – Grow in shade. Deciduous. Reaches approx. 60 cm tall.
  • Athyrium filix-femina (Lady Fern) – Part or full shade. Do not let it dry out. Grows anywhere between 60-150 cm tall (2’-5’). An easily grown deciduous fern with finely cut, lacy fronds.
  • Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich Fern) – Part or full shade. A winter hardy fern growing to approx. 120-180 cm (4’-6’). Plant carefully where there is room for it to spread. Could be grown in a very large pot to make a statement.
  • Dryopteris affinis(Scaly Male Fern) – Grow in part-shade. Semi-evergreen. Approx. 1.2 m tall.
  • Dryopteris championii – Full or part-shade. Evergreen. Approx. 90 cm tall.
  • Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn fern) – Part-full shade. An evergreen fern growing to approx. 60-90 cm (2’-3’) providing colour all year round. Attractive coppery-pink foliage emerges in spring then turns bronze in autumn. Good ground cover. This is one of Cath’s favourite ferns as it provides so much interest all year round.
  • Cyrtomium spp (Holly Fern) – Part or full-shade. A shorter grower to approx. 60-90 cm (30’’) tall. Glossy, dark-green fronds look like holly leaves hence its common name. Good for ground cover & good in a container. Survives salt air so ideal for coastal gardens.
  • Dryopteris filix-mas (Male Fern) – Part or full-shade. Approx. 90 cm – 180 cm tall (3’-6’). An excellent specimen plant that is semi-evergreen in colder areas. Easily grown as long as it has enough moisture. Protect from strong winds. Will grow in clay soil. Rabbit resistant.
  • Matteuccia struthiopteris – Grow in dappled shade. Deciduous. Approx. 170 cm tall.
  • Polystichum munitum(Western Sword Fern) – Full shade or part-sun. A winter hardy variety growing to between approx. 90 cm – 180 cm (3’-6’). Will cope with drier soil once established. Deer resistant.
  • Polystichum polyblepharum AGM – Full or part-shade. Evergreen growing to approx. 60-80 cm tall.
  • Polystichum setiferum ‘Herrenhausen’(Soft shield fern) – Full or part-shade. Semi-evergreen. Approx. 1 m tall.
  • Polystichum setiferum plumoso-densum –Plant in light sun or part-shade. Approx. 1.2 m tall.
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