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Wild Willy
 

How to Grow and Care for Hardy Ferns

Ferns come in a diverse range of texture, color, sizes and and shapes.
Their ease of care and diversity of attributes make them an essential part of any well rounded garden.

Willy the Garden Gnome In their native environment, most hardy ferns thrive in the dappled shade of the woodlands and forests, growing in rotted leaves and other natural compost.
Deciduous ferns should be trimmed as the fronds yellow in late fall and early winter.
Older or damaged fronds of hardy evergreen ferns can be trimmed off in late winter or early spring,
just before the new fronds emerge. At the same time, apply a new layer of mulch for the new growing year.

Planting Hardy Ferns

The best time to plant hardy ferns is during the spring and fall when the rain is plentiful.
Cultivate the soil thoroughly, adding a good portion of compost into the planting hole before you plant your fern.
Ferns are shallow rooted plants and should be planted with their crown flush with the surrounding soil.
Keep garden debris away from the crown of your ferns if you can.

Growing requirements for Hardy Ferns

Ferns require good drainage, so if your soil is very heavy with clay, it may be necessary to raise the soil level a few inches, or mix in sand to prevent crown rot. Most hardy ferns grow well in partial shade or indirect sunlight, but there are many of them that will do well in full sun, as long as they get enough water.
More than anything else, ferns need both sufficient moisture and good drainage. Whenever possible, water the roots and not the fronds.
Your ferns will appreciate an annual spring top dressing of chopped up fronds, well rotted-compost or manure.
Every 2 or 3 years, you can dig up and divide your ferns into several new plants.
Hardy Fern Conditions Height Zones Comments
Western Sword Ferns, Polystichum munitum

Western Sword Fern

Polystichum munitum
Evergreen Fern

This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
Once established this plant requires little or no supplemental wateringThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
No Deer
3-5 ft. 5-9 Native to the coastal forests of North America, this large, easy to grow fern grows best when planted in compost rich soil in a cool, shady, moist garden location. Western Sword Ferns are deer resistant and suitable for growing in the acidic soil found beneath Cedar Trees and other conifers.
Deer Ferns Growing in the Forest, Blechnum spicant

Deer Fern

Blechnum spicant
Evergreen Fern

This plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
12-24" 7-9 Deer Ferns can be grown in difficult situations such as under evergreen trees or in deep shade. They are drought tolerate but will grow best if kept damp. Deer Ferns should be planted in a rich acidic (pH 5.0-6.5) soil. They prefer full shade but will grow in almost any light conditions except full sun in a hot climate. Deer Ferns do not grow well in areas with hot humid summers.
How to Grow and Care for Deer Ferns
A Coastal Wood Fern, Dryopteris arguta

Coastal Wood Fern

Dryopteris arguta
Deciduous Fern

This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
18-24" 4-8 The Coastal Wood Fern is a common native to coastal regions from southern California to British Columbia. The lacy fronds fan out from thick reddish stems. Coastal Wood Ferns can be grown in most average garden soils as long as it is well draining. They grow best in partial or full shade, but can be grown in full sun if they are kept moist.
A Pacific Maidenhair Fern Growing in Hummingbird House, Adiantum pedatum

Pacific Maidenhair Fern

Adiantum pedatum
Deciduous Fern

This plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
18-24" 3-8 The Pacific Maidenhair Fern can add a bit of graceful elegance to any partial to fully shaded area of your garden. The fronds emerge in early spring on black, wire-like stems that reach 18-24 inches. Your Pacific Maidenhair should be planted in a rich, humus soil and provided with constant, even moisture.
How to grow and care for Pacific Maidenhair Ferns
A Tassle Fern in the Garden, Polystichum polyblepharum

Tassle Fern

Polystichum polyblepharum
Evergreen Fern

This plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
18-24" 5-8 Tassle Ferns are very showy and easy to grow. Their dark green fronds grow in a very symmetrical, rosette form. The stiff stems are covered with soft, copper-brown hairs. Tassle Ferns should be planted in compost rich, evenly moist soil in a area with partial to full shade.
A Licorice Fern Growing in the Moss on a Maple Tree, Polypodium glycyrrhiza

Licorice Fern

Polypodium glycyrrhiza
Evergreen Fern

This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
Once established this plant requires little or no supplemental wateringThis plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
12-18" 5-9 Licorice Ferns are attractive, epiphytic plants that are primarily found growing with mosses on rotting logs or in Bigleaf Maple trees. They are fairly difficult to grow without a rotting log to plant them in. Licorice Ferns grow best partial to full shade, but will tolerate very short periods of bright sun. Generally they require moist soil, but they will tolerate brief periods of drought.
Lacy Fronds of an Oak Fern, Gymnocarpium dryopteris

Oak Fern

Gymnocarpium dryopteris
Deciduous Fern

This plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
5-12" 3-9 Oak Ferns spread by non-aggressive, underground rhizomes forming a nice delicate looking ground cover in your woodland setting. Oak ferns should be grown in evenly moist, compost rich soil and planted where it will grow in partial to full shade.
An Autumn Fern in the Forest, Dryopteris erythrosora

Autumn Fern

Dryopteris erythrosora
Evergreen Fern

This plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
15-24" 5-9 The fronds of the Autumn Fern begin to emerge in early spring as a copper to reddish color and mature to dark green by mid summer. In the fall months, Autumn Ferns once again change colors. They should be planted in evenly moist, compost rich soil and grown where they will receive partial to full shade. Autumn Ferns are deciduous in frost zones.
A Japanese Painted Fern Growing in Hummingbird House, Athyrium niponicum

Japanese Painted Fern

Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum'
Deciduous Fern

This plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
12-15" 4-8 The slow spreading Japanese Painted Fern is probably the most decorative of all ferns. The fronds are tri-colored blends of silver, pink and green, standing above burgundy stems. Japanese Painted Ferns should be grown in full shade to partial shade, where soil is moist but well-drained.
A Maidenhair Spleenwort Growing on Moss, Asplenium trichomanes

Maidenhair Spleenwort

Asplenium trichomanes
Evergreen Fern

This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
4-7" 3-9 The Maidenhair Spleenwort is a rhizomous, low growing, creeping fern that forms dense tufted rosettes of deep green fronds on black, wire-like stems. In nature, Maidenhair Spleenworts grow in shady rock cervices and rocky, calcium rich (limestone) soil. They require constant moisture and good drainage.
A Small Hart's Tongue Fern, Asplenium scolopendrium

Hart's Tongue Fern

Asplenium scolopendrium
Evergreen Fern

This plant grows best with full sun for most of the dayThis plant requires or will tolerate shade during the heat of the dayThis plant may not tolerate any direct sunlight
This plant will tolerate some drought, but benefits from periodic wateringThis plant needs a thorough, deep weekly watering, Double icons require boggy or wet conditions
24-30" 6-8 Unlike most other ferns, tropical looking Hart's Tongue Fern has strap-like undivided fronds. These glossy green ferns are native to most areas of the world with alkaline soil. In areas with acidic soil, you will have to to add lime to the soil before planting. Keep the soil evenly moist. Hart's Tongue Ferns are well suited for growing as a container plant, as long as you add extra lime to the soil mix.

For more information on growing Hardy Ferns, visit the Fancy Fronds Web site