9 Top Ferns to Liven Up Your Shade Garden
For shady spots, you can rely on ferns to deliver welcome color and texture, especially when mixed with flowering plants that also do well in shade. They also make an excellent choice if there are too many deer in your neighborhood to grow hostas and other shade-loving plants, because ferns tend to be low on the menu. Many ferns are natives, and they come in an array of colors, shapes, and sizes. Their hardiness varies by species, but overall, ferns make tough but beautiful additions to any shady garden. Whether you use ferns as specimen plants or for background plantings, here's what you need to know about growing ferns in your garden and the best varieties to try.
How to Grow Ferns in Your Garden
Plant ferns in part to full shade and rich, well-drained soil. In all climates, they need protection from afternoon sun to prevent drying and leaf scorch. Ferns can reach 12 inches to 6 feet tall, depending on the type and growing conditions. Most prefer rich, humus-filled soil so make sure to mix compost into planting holes and cover them annually with 2 inches of organic mulch. Like other perennial plants, you can divide ferns in spring or fall. Keep the new divisions well-watered until plants are established.
Some ferns spread by underground runners, which can be helpful in places where you want a groundcover, but unwelcome in an orderly, formal planting. Research the characteristics of each fern before you plant it.
Plants That Grow Well with Ferns
Ferns are ideal companions in a woodland garden, where they offer a texture change when planted with other perennials such as hostas, dicentras, and caladiums. Other deer-resistant companions include astilbe, hellebore, barrenwort, and heart-leaf brunnera.
Best Fern Varieties
If you want to include a few ferns in your landscape, start with these favorites.