#ProPlantTips: Growing & Caring for Ferns

#ProPlantTips: Growing & Caring for Ferns

fern plant

With soft and lush fronds, these living studies in symmetry and fractalization, the gorgeous Fern conjures images of fairy glens and magical forests! These diverse shade and moisture plants have a cooling and relaxing effect on any landscape setting!

Learn about growing and caring for these primordial perennial plants to keep them healthy and happy in your garden!

There’s so much about Ferns that’s amazing! From the mighty Tree Ferns in Australia that resemble their prehistoric brethren to the little Maidenhair Fern - these easy-to-grow plants set the mood in the garden!

Where to Best Grow Ferns

fern infographic

Ferns are generally known in horticulture as landscape plants. They are also used as houseplants and cut foliage and filler for bouquets as well as the garden! Nature Hills has many varieties of Ferns for you to enjoy in your shady gardens and in your home!

  • Single specimens or focal points - Try a King Ostrich or Ostrich Fern
  • Lush frilly backdrops and drifts - Try a Western Sword Fern or Lady Ferns
  • En masse to fill the gloomy shade & let naturalize - Try Ghost or Royal Ferns
  • Container thrillers and fillers - Like Cinnamon Ferns or Dwarf Southern Fern
  • High-interest color in pots or in the ground - Burgundy Lace or Painted Ferns
  • Hot climate Ferns include Foxtail Fern or Kimberly Queen Australian Sword Ferns
  • Arctic cold-tolerant Ferns like Hayscented Ferns and Marginal Wood Fern
  • Add to a Rain garden or water runoff area - Royal Ferns and Lady Ferns do best!
  • Dry shade Ferns include Male Ferns and Autumn Ferns
  • Great houseplants! Boston Fern, Maidenhair and Dragon Ferns!
  • Small, space-saving garden accents - Japanese Holly Fern and Tassel Ferns
  • The Brilliance Autumn Fern is a must for fall color

The Basics of Fern Care

Highly adaptable, Ferns can tolerate a wide range of conditions as long as they have adequate care while they’re getting established!

Best in areas with lots of rainfall like the Northwestern US, and the humid Southeast, Ferns are native to a large portion of the country! Rambling throughout the shaded woodlands and forest gullies, even a few areas of grassland!

Sun Needs

hanging basket fern

Loving full shade and afternoon shade, a few Ferns can handle full sun, especially when planted in cooler USDA growing zones. These delicate and airy foliage plants light up the dingy gloom with their verdant color!

Indoor houseplants and container-planted Ferns do best in bright yet indirect sunlight.

Soil and Moisture

ground fern

Ferns thrive best in moist, deep, highly organic, enriched environments, but a few Ferns tolerate dry shade - once established. For dry shade areas, add compost and 3-4 inches of arborist mulch to the soil surface to help hold in moisture more regularly!

Avoid soggy, poor drainage areas, but let them ramble around the edges of Rain Gardens and water features so long as it is well-drained.

Fern Pruning/Maintenance

Usually planted and left to their own devices, a once-a-year cleaning of their mounds before they come out of dormancy in the spring is about all the maintenance they need to look spiffy!

In colder growing zones, when these perennials die back to the ground, as soon as the fronds die, prune them back near the crown. Top dress with a layer of compost or loose, clean leaves, and/or mulch.

close-up fern

Another difference between growing Ferns and growing other perennials is that Ferns will often not survive harsh frosts in the winter. Most perennials are used to the cold winter months and build strong root structures in order to survive.

Some Ferns are generally used to living in warmer climates and temperate frost-free winters, making them unable to survive the cold. Some more tropical Ferns make great houseplants and therefore, can be brought in from the garden and planted in pots and hanging baskets indoors.

After a Fern is established, they are relatively easy to grow and do not require much attention! 

Prune dead or damaged fronds when they appear. Ferns are perennial and in colder climates, they may die back to ground level in the winter and regrow each spring. Clean up these fronds and remove dead debris from the area to prevent slugs and snails from overwintering.

Fantastic Ferns!

Growing Ferns is an enjoyable experience! Many gardeners attempt growing Ferns without first understanding the very specific conditions needed for the Fern to thrive! Luckily, even for the most novice gardeners, Fern plants are forgiving and easy to grow!

Check out all the incredible Ferns for your landscape today at Nature Hills! We’re sure to find one that will work for your unique landscaping needs!

Happy Planting!

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