Why do ferns scare so many people? I LOVE them, . Inside and outside. Often I think that many are afraid that ferns just don't belong in area's of the country that get hot. Or that ferns cant survive the harsh winters. Oh how I hope this post, of any other post I have ever posted will change you mind. I absolutely love ferns.Ferns are the most under used perennial out there. That to me is very sad. (they are actually on the endangered species list) People who come into my yard always say "I Love Ferns!" I always wonder why if they love them, they don't grow them. There are honestly over 1000 different varieties of ferns that live in temperate climates all around the world. (to bad that they have limited availability) Spread the word. Ferns are good, not bad! Then maybe we will all have better availability on new varieties.
Ferns do need Shade. Some of the information I have read indicates that Ferns can be grown in Full Sun. But I must say that none of the ferns that I have had would grow in Utah's hot sun. And that is the only place I have had them. I am going to say, stick to shade. My Shade isn't incredibly dense, but it stays shady all of the day. The parts of my ferns that hang into the sun actually get sun scalded. But thinking that Ferns MUST be in the deepest darkest shade just isn't correct. My shade is all along the front of my house.
Ferns emerge from their winter sleep all coiled up. They are called Fiddleheads! (great name) I love all of the stages of fern growth, but this one is my favorite. Leaves are called Fronds. If you purchase a Fern from a catalog to be mailed to you. It will most likely come in the form of a rhizomatous root. (really just a bulb of sorts) I had to throw out all of those names, because I think they sound pretty cool...
Easy! Very little work! Part to heavy shade. Humus-rich, slightly acid, moist but well-drained soil. Mulch your ferns to hold in the moisture, it can also help with the early frost in the fall. Then again with the over wintering. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch! No real need to fertilize, as long as you keep organic mater in your garden and mulch. Although slow release fertilizer wont hurt. My Ferns get some every year because the rest of my perennial get some.
Propagation- Division, although I will admit I have never tried this.
If you plant rhizomatous roots, the crown should be just below the soil level. Dig the soil down 15 inches deep, then back fill. Add lots of organic material in the back fill if you can. Planting the crown to deep will cause the fern to rot. After planting make sure for the first year that your fern is well watered. If you plant a fern that is already started at the nursery, use the same instructions as above. You just have a little jump start.
I wouldn't plant any fern in your garden that you have just purchased until after the threat of frost is gone. Yes next year your ferns will survive the frost, but this year they are not hardened off. Don't take the chance. Also some of the fronds and stems may turn brown over the summer. No worries, cut them off. Let the fern keep growing. This is common.
I was going to post a list of Ferns to run out and get. But I decided that because the varieties are so varied, you better choose from things you see and like. Check the tag, make sure that the variety you like will survive in your zone. My honest favorite is the Japanese Painted Fern. (2004 Perennial plant of the year, just to throw that in) I just love it. And I have had mine now for 5 years, along with several other varieties. With really no other maintenance than watering. Yes, some of the ferns I have tried have died. But most, over 90% have lived! And they are doing great!
If you have shade, GO GET A FERN! Happy "Fern" Planting!