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For that shady spot, you can't go wrong with holly ferns. Their evergreen fronds always look good and they mix well with other shade lovers, without taking over. They can be planted close and massed as a groundcover, or used as accent plants where soil is rich and well drained.
Part Sun, Shade
Under 6 inches to 3 feet
1 1/2-4 feet wide, depending on variety
how to grow Holly fern
more varieties for Holly fern
Braun's holly fern
(Polystichum braunii) has upright but arching glossy fronds to 2-feet tall. It's easy to grow and hardy in Zones 3-8.
Makinoi's holly fern
(Polystichum makinoi) has slightly arching fronds to 2-1/2-feet long. The stipe and rachis (main stem) are shaggy, covered with brown scales in contrast to the bright green leaflets. Zones 3-8
plant Holly fern with
This plant hardly grown 40 years ago is now one of the most commonly grown garden plants. But hosta has earned its spot in the hearts of gardeners -- it's among the easiest plants to grow, as long as you have some shade and ample rainfall.Hostas vary from tiny plants suitable for troughs or rock gardens to massive 4-foot clumps with heart-shape leaves almost 2 feet long that can be puckered, wavy-edged, white or green variegated, blue-gray, chartreuse, emerald-edged -- the variations are virtually endless. Hostas in new sizes and touting new foliage features seem to appear each year. This tough, shade-loving perennial, also known as plaintain lily, blooms with white or purplish lavender funnel-shape or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slug and deer.
Have a tight, tough spot? Try pearlwort. This durable little plant can soften the edges of flagstones and rocks in dry crevice gardens with bright green or golden 1/2-inch tall mats of foliage. This tiny plant is excellent in troughs and other containers, and as a groundcover in rock gardens. It can be walked upon gently with little damage and seeds generously. Free draining gritty soil is pearlworts preference.
Barrenwort is a rare plant -- one that thrives in the dry shade beneath shallow-rooted trees! It spreads at a moderate rate, forming a graceful, dense groundcover. Almost as a bonus, it also produces dainty flowers shaped like a bishop's miter -- prompting another common name, bishop's cap. Its colorful foliage dangles on slender stalks, providing yet another moniker: fairy wings.