Friday, September 14, 2012

Growing Ferns in the Home Garden

Ferns are one of the oldest living plants and also one of the most fascinating. Long before we arrived on earth, there were great forests of giant ferns. The forests are long gone, but many descendants of those prehistoric ferns still thrive. In fact, over 12,000 species have been identified to date. 
Ferns make a fine background for many flowering plants, and they give a delicate, airy quality to shade gardens.  They can vary widely in appearance – creeping or billowy, delicate or coarse, tall or short, etc. Some ferns, such as the Christmas fern, are evergreen.

Interested in growing ferns in your home garden? Then site selection is critical. Ferns prefer sandy soil or soil rich in humus with excellent drainage. They also prefer indirect light, thus making them ideal plants for woodland gardens or other shady areas.

How to plant ferns? In general, ferns with spreading roots prefer to have their roots barely covered, while central-crown types prefer to have the crown exposed or just above the soil line:

·         Begin by checking the pH of the soil to determine if it matches the requirements of your fern. While most ferns prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil, some are happier in more alkaline soil.

·         Dig a fairly deep hole and add a mixture of leaf mold, sand, and loam. Oak leaves and compost are good substitutes for leaf mold.

·         Place the fern in the hole and add soil around it.

·         Water thoroughly.

·         NOTE: if you’re moving a fern during the active growing season, cut the fronds back by half to help minimize stress from water loss.
So, the next time you buy plants for your garden, don’t overlook ferns. These low-maintenance plants are invaluable for shade gardens and will make your landscape look mature and lush.


  1. I just ordered several fern varieties but it seems these plants (3-4 inch pots) will not be delivered until late September. Will that be an okay time to plant them in my yard? I live about 1000 feet up in Front Royal.

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