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Ferns

Ferns offer a quiet, graceful beauty by softening landscapes indoors and out.  

Room temperatures that are comfortable for human beings are usually a bit warm for many ferns. Nighttime temperatures for ferns should be on the cool side, preferably below 60°F. Daytime temperatures should not be above 72° and preferably cooler.

When ferns are grown outdoors during summer, they should be located in the cooler areas of the garden, usually in deep shade or on the north side of the house or a garden structure. Never expose ferns to full sun in summer.

The basics of growing ferns in the landscape are the same as growing them in pots. Site selection in terms of drainage and light exposure is critical to production of high-quality ferns. Ferns require well-drained soil. Sandy soils or humus soils with good surface drainage are preferred. Heavy clay soils or soils with a shallow clay pan should be avoided or amended to provide good aeration and drainage. Elevated beds with amended media are excellent sites in the landscape because they ensure good aeration under most conditions. Light intensity is another key factor in site selection for plantings of ferns. Ferns either prefer or require indirect light for production of high-quality fronds (leaves). They are excellent plants for shady areas where other plants will not grow well. Avoid direct exposure to afternoon sun. Outdoor planted ferns can be divided by separating clump or cutting off established runners. The best time for dividing outdoor ferns is after the first frost through November. This gives the transplants plenty of time to regenerate roots. No fertilizer is needed for fall transplants.

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Sensitive Fern

The Sensitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis, is a large, somewhat coarse deciduous fern which occurs in wet woods and thickets and in moist soils along streams and springs. Sensitive Ferns can grow up to 4' tall. It features long-stalked, deeply pinnatifid, bright green, vegetative (sterile) fronds (2-4' long) with leathery, triangular leaflets (pinnae) which have distinctively netted veins. It is best not to remove dead fronds until spring, because they provide protection for the crowns over the winter.


Christmas Fern

The Christmas Fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, occurs in both dry and moist wooded slopes, moist banks and ravines. It typically grows in a fountain-like clump to 2' tall and features leathery, lance-shaped, evergreen (green at Christmas time as the common name suggests) fronds. Christmas ferns are asymmetrical with a fine texture and has a moderately dense crown. The evergreen fronds provide good winter interest for the landscape. These plants serve as hosts for butterfly larvae.


Cinnamon Fern

The Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamonea, occurs in moist, boggy ground along streams and on shaded ledges and grows in clumps to 2'-3' tall, but with constant moisture can reach 5' in height. When new fronds appear, they have a cinnamon color. Plant them in a loamy woodland soil in some shade to mimic the natural environment. This fern is used in container plantings, rock gardens, borders, specimen plants and as ground cover. This plant tolerates flooding and will grow in wet submerged soils.


Ebony Spleenwort Fern

Ebony Spleenwort Fern, Asplenium platyneuron, is an evergreen fern which typically grows to 15" tall and occurs on rocky wooded ledges, rocky slopes and mossy banks. Plant in dry, rocky, shady areas of rock gardens (will grow in rocky crevices), native plant gardens or woodland areas. The ideal planting area would be in a shaded area rich in leaf mulch. This fern is very attractive when planted with wildflowers such as Tillium, Mertensia and columbines.


Hayscented Fern

The Hayscented Fern, Dennstaedtia punctilobula, is very common. It can be identified by its lacy, light-green fronds that feel very slightly sticky to the touch. It often grows in large colonies and appears to be forming a carpet. When the leaves are bruised they smell like fresh mown hay, hence the name. It is an aggressive spreader and is a very popular garden fern. Landscape uses are for borders, massing, specimen and groundcover. This perennial fern grows fast and is deciduous.


Leatherwood Fern

The Leatherwood Fern or Marginal Shield Fern is an evergreen fern which typically forms a non-spreading, vase-shaped clump to 1.5-2' (infrequently to 3') tall. This is a woodland fern which is most often found in shaded crevices of rocky ledges and bluffs. Leatherwood Ferns features grayish-green, deeply cut, leathery fronds (15-20" long). These ferns prefer loamy moist soils, and do best in cool position in the garden, so avoid the afternoon sun. The evergreen fronds are very attractive and provide good interest to the winter landscape.


Royal Fern

The Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis, is a tall, deciduous fern which usually occurs on moist bluffs and ledges and along streams (sometimes growing in the water). The broad fronds have large, well-separated pinnae (leaflets) which give this fern an almost pea-family appearance. Spores are located in brown, tassel-like, fertile clusters at the tips of the fronds, thus giving rise to the additional common name of flowering fern for this plant. It also grows well in shaded borders, woodland gardens, wild gardens or native plant gardens.


Southern Lady Fern

The Lady fern or Red Stem fern has a feathery textured frond with a red stem. It is a slow spreading fern, which will make a nice mass in a few years. The Southern Lady fern thrives in the garden, given any reasonably good soil and will make a dense stand over time. It prefers to have it's feet wet. This plant is used for container plantings, borders, foundation planting, massing and groundcover. The Southern Lady fern is perennial and is deciduous. This very versatile plant goes well with evergreen shrubs and Hostas.


Toothwood Fern

The Toothwood Fern, Dryopteris spinulosais, is a delightful lacy plant. The Toothwood Fern, also known as the Narrow Buckler Fern, has true fern foliage that is a rich, deep green color. The long triangular fronds, made of hundreds of tiny leaflets, spray up and out in whorls. This deciduous perennial plant is semi-evergreen. Whether it is used as a border or a background, it will enhance any garden with its gracefulness. This fern is easy to grow almost anywhere and thrives even when other plants fail.


Walking Fern

The Walking Fern, Camptosorus rhizophyllus, is an interesting little plant. The common name comes from the fact that the leaves sprout new plants at their apices. After a few generations, the plant appears as if it is 'walking' across the ground because the frond tips curve over and root wherever they touch the ground. Walking Ferns have very attractive foliage and the simple leaves are often long-tapering to the tips. This perennial fern does not have flowers or blooms.


Japanese Painted Fern

The ‘Japanese Painted Fern’, Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum', is a low maintenance, deciduous fern with soft grayish-green and silvery dark maroon foliage. Being the Perennial of the Year for 2004, one can see why. ‘Japanese Painted Fern’ has a plant spread of 24” and a height of 24” and a must to any garden. ‘Japanese Painted Fern’ requires full shade, however, small amounts of afternoon sun give the most vibrant color to its foliage. Best of all, the Japanese Painted Fern can help with erosion control, while presenting minimal wind resistance.


American Maidenhair Fern

The American Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum, is a deciduous, clump-forming fern which typically grows 1.5 to 2' tall and is most frequently found on rich wooded slopes, ravine bottoms and damp shady woods. American Maidenhair Ferns prefer moist, shady conditions, but will grow in sunnier spots if kept moist. Wiry stems are reddish-brown to black. Crosiers (coiled young fiddleheads) emerge pink in spring. The attractive foliage is showcased in container plantings, foundation plantings, and groundcovers.

 

 


 

 

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