Ancient history has a common thread, it is the fern. These plants have fossil records that date back to the age of Dinosaurs and are still thriving today. Ferns are a common feature of woodlands, mountainsides and other shaded, damp areas of our environment
In the 1800’s, Ferns were extremely popular indoor plants as well. In fact, fern-fever or 'Pteridomania' was actually a ‘thing’. In the Victorian era, fern-motifs were found on virtually everything! Fronds were pressed into albums and plants were put on display in homes and outdoors. Fern identification and collecting became a popular past-time. Many were gathered from the wild and relocated to glasshouses and conservatories. These activities led to the creation of the ‘Wardian Case’ to protect the ferns from urban pollution. Wardian Cases are often though of as the pre-cursor of the modern terrarium.
Collections become so large and popular that 'fern-houses', greenhouses devoted to ferns, became additions to homes while outdoor displays of ferns began to be called ‘ferneries’ Over time, fern-mania declined and other plants gained the forefront.
Today, planting and enjoying ferns is gathering momentum as a trend, both indoors and out. People are looking for form, texture, foliage and of course, low maintenance plants. Ferns fit the bill beautifully.
What makes ferns unique is that they do not flower or set seed. Instead they reproduce using spores that disperse and begin new plants. They are extremely diverse in habitat, form and size. Most inhabit warm, damp areas of the planet with only a few that thrive in dry cold spaces.
The ones we’ve chosen to focus on today are the most common and popular with home gardeners and landscapes in our area of the Pacific Northwest. So without further ado, here are 12 Fantastic Ferns for your garden.
A native of Europe and Western North America, the Deer Fern, or Belchnum spicant is an attractive evergreen used in shady gardens and containers. They can also be used indoors as houseplants if given a cooler, humid environment. Deer ferns are unique in that they grow two types of leaves (fronds). Fertile fronds are taller and emerge from the middle of the clump. The sterile fronds are shorter, thicker and evergreen. They surround the center fronds. Hardy in USDA zones 5-8
Japanese Painted Fern
Athyrium nipponicum var Pictum
Japanese Painted Ferns are perhaps one of the most beautiful and unique of all the ferns. In fact, it was the Perennial Plant Associations 2004 Plant of the Year. It is a smaller and slower growing deciduous plant planted for its amazing metallic, silver, green and purple-burgundy fronds. Native to Eastern Asia. Prefers rich, evenly moist soil and shade to part shade. Its an excellent plant for containers, mixed borders or shade gardens. Grows 12-24 inches tall and 12-18 inches wide
Tasmanian Tree Fern
Dicksonia Antarctica, also known as the Tasmanian Tree Fern is a sought after evergreen tree fern native to Australia. Makes a dramatic statement in the garden. It naturally occurs in dense forests under a tree canopy that provides filtered sunlight and plenty of moisture. Shade or part shade is best. Soil should be loose, well drained and rich in organic material. It is slow growing, putting on only 3-4 cm per year. In the right environment, it can reach 10-12 metres in height. It is a tropical plant and will only grow in areas with mild winters or winter protection. Hardy only to Zone 9-11
Harts Tongue Fern
The Hart’s Tongue Fern has an unusual, almost tropical appearance with wide leathery green, strap shaped fronds. Grows in a low clump. Ideal for woodland and rock gardens. Best grown in part to full shade. Prefers good drainage and slightly alkaline soils. Can grow 1-3ft across at maturity. Hardy to Zone 5
This lovely vase shaped fern features lustrous, shiny, dark green fronds that add elegance to shaded gardens. Fronds on the Tassel Fern are frosted on the reverse with a rusty brown stem. Quite attractive as the new fronds unfurl. Best grown in shade to part shade in moist, humus rich, acidic soils. Grows 18-24 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide. Hardy to Zone 5
Western Sword Fern
The Western Sword Fern is one of the most robust and reliable of the native ferns. It features great texture with glossy, leathery, toothed foliage that is dark green in colour. Any visit to our mountains and woods is sure to reveal this plant in abundance. Foliage is evergreen and vigorous. Forms clumps that may be up to 4ft tall and wide! Best grown in woodland areas in shade to part shade. Prefers moist, rich, well drained soil. Hardy to Zone 4
Autumn Brilliance Fern
Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Autumn Brilliance’
This colourful fern features pink fiddleheads that turn into coppery orange, glossy fronds. These turn a shiny dark green in summer through the cool season. A fantastic fern for lightening up a darker area. Although it prefers moist, rich, well drained soils, it develops some drought tolerance once established. Hardy to Zone 5 and can stay evergreen in frost-free areas. Grows 18-24 inches in height and spread.
American Maidenhair Fern
The American Maidenhair Fern, also known as the Northern Maidenhair Fern, is probably the most graceful and delicate in appearance of all the native ferns. Airy, fan-shaped green fronds are held on thin black stems in tight clumps. It is also frequently used as a houseplant. These plants appreciate a moist, rich soil. Best in shade to part shade. Grows 12-20 inches in height. Deciduous. Hardy in zones 4-9
Himalayan Maidenhair Fern
This shorter growing Adiatum variety also features a delicate appearance with black stems holding small green leaves. Foliage is much denser than the American Maidenhair. Habit is low and spreading. A rich, moist soil in shade to part shade is best. Grows 8-12 inches in height and 12-24 inches wide. Hardy in zones 5-8
Dyce’s Holly Fern
Polystichum x dycei
Shaded gardens get a bold and elegant look with this large holly fern. Sturdy, arching fronds with glossy dark green foliage emerge from the middle of the crown giving a symmetrical appearance. Small bulbils are produced on the fronds in late summer to fall. Easy to establish in the landscape, forming handsome, deer resistant clumps. Evergreen. Best grown in shade to part shade in consistently moist soil. Can grow 3-4 tall and wide. Hardy in USDA zones 6-8
Japanese Holly Fern
The Japanese Holly Fern provides unique form and texture. 1-2ft long fronds are stiff, upright and arch outwards from the middle of the plant. They begin light green and age to a dark green over time. Grows well under trees and in containers. While it is evergreen in mild climates, clean and trim off tired looking foliage after winter. Best grown in shade to part shade in consistently moist soils. Hardy in zones 6-8
Soft Shield Fern
The Soft Shield Fern provides outstanding foliage for shade. Feathery, dark green fronds look tropical, but are actually hardy! A great contrast to bold leaved plants. This lovely, lacey fern is an evergreen to semi-evergreen fern that is extremely popular in Europe. It forms a medium sized clump of soft textured fronds that are glossy dark green.Best grown in shade to part shade in consistently moist, slightly acidic soil. Naturalizes well. Grows 2-3 ft tall and wide. Hardy in zones 6-8
If your looking to add ferns to your garden, drop by or give us a call at 604.882.1201 during business hours. As always, our in-store selection is always changing so contact us in advance if you are looking for something in particular. We hope that their is a space in your garden or home to add a fern or two to your collection. Enjoy!