Ferns make excellent landscape plants because of their attractive fronds and their ability to thrive where many plants fail. You can plant them under shady trees, use them as border plants, grow them as ground covers or line garden pathways, and fill empty landscapes with low-maintenance ferns.
Most ferns are easy to maintain. They grow under fully or partially shaded parts of gardens where they benefit from moist but well-drained and loamy soil and moderate watering at regular intervals. When provided with these conditions ferns will produce abundance of lush fronds.
Ferns come in large and small sizes. Some are dwarf and some grow taller. Some form small clusters and some sprawl to cover the landscape. Depending on the size and layout of your garden, you can use ferns in your landscapes for many purposes. They can be used as companion plants with other flowering plants. You can use ferns to provide a lush-green background to your flower beds. You can also incorporate them in your landscapes as specimen plants grown in containers or hanging baskets.
Ferns in Garden Landscape
Here are a few examples of ferns beautifully used in garden landscapes.
Ferns are excellent plants to grow in shaded gardens. Known for their attractive foliage (known as fronds), these lovely plants offer a great variety of form and size to fit in any spot in the garden. Most Ferns are slow growing and can take several years to reach their mature size.
Following is a list of some hardy and beautiful Ferns that you can grow in your garden as ground covers or border plants, under large trees or along ponds and pools.
Adiantum pedatum (Maidenhair Fern)
Attractive ornamental fern for shaded borders and pathways. Forms large clumps of finely textured fronds. Easily grown in average and well-drained soil. (Zone 3 – 8)
Maidenhair Fern/ Image by Joshua Mayer
Athyrium forma rubellum (Lady in Red)
Low maintenance fern characterized by upright, fresh-green fronds with red stripes. Suitable for shaded spots in garden where it can grow in a well-drained but slightly moist and rich soil. (Zone 4 – 8)
Lady in Red fern/ Image by Valleybrook Perennials
Athyrium vidalii (Japanese lady fern)
Small and easy-to-grow fern, suitable for rock gardens and borders under full to partial shade. Prominent green fronds of this lovely fern are beautifully contrasted by deep red stems. The plant prefers moist, slightly acidic and well-drained soil. (Zone 5 – 9)
Japanese lady fern/ Image by Powell Gardens
Blechnum spicant (Deer Fern)
Ideal for borders and rock gardens, this lovely fern produces leathery green fronds. Grows in a well-drained, acidic and moist soil. (Zone 5 – 8)
Deer Fern/ Image by Peggy A.
Cyrtomium falcatum (Japanese holly fern)
Beautiful evergreen fern with upright leathery fronds that resemble holly branches. Grows in well-drained soil and under full to partial shade. Not suitable for colder climates. (Zone 6 – 9)
Japanese Holly fern/ Image by Leonora Enking
Dennstaedtia punctilobula (Hay-scented fern)
Beautiful fern with delicate green fronds that turn to yellow in in fall. The plant emits fragrance of fresh mown hay when crushed or bruised. Grows in rich, moist but well-drained soil. (Zone 3 – 8)
Hay-scented fern/ Image by Nicholas A. Tonelli
Dryopteris clintoniana (Clinton’s wood fern)
Low maintenance and semi-evergreen fern with prominent upright fronds. Grows easily in a moist and organically rich soil. Suitable for fully or partially shaded and marshy spots. (Zone 3 – 8)
Clinton’s wood fern/ Image by douneika (flickr)
Dryopteris tokyoensis (Tokyo wood fern)
Beautiful fern with erect fronds that grows up to 4 feet and spreads across 3 feet. Grows easily in partially shaded spots. This lovely fern requires moderate but frequent watering and is suitable for most shaded indoor/outdoor spots. (Zone 5 – 8)
Tokyo wood fern/ Image by Ferntastic Nursery
Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’
Excellent ground cover with arching, evergreen fronds. This lovely fern forms compact clumps of displays striking striking shades of orange-red to copper-pink on new growth. (Zone 5 – 8)
Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’/ Image by James Gaither
Matteuccia struthiopteris (Ostrich fern)
Excellent fern for mass plantation especially under trees or in empty landscape pockets. Clumps grow up to 4 feet and spread across 8 feet. (Zone 3 – 7)
Ostrich fern/ Image by Ryan Somma
Good for growing along ponds and steams. Grows easily in semi-shaded areas where it gets moist environment in a rich and slightly acidic soil. (Zone 3 – 8)
Osmunda claytoniana/ Image by Bahamut Chao
Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive fern)
Large fern that loves moist conditions. Grows well along ponds and streams and produces rich green fronds. This lovely fern is useful for growing in marshy areas as a beautiful ground cover.
Cyrtomium is a genus of about 20 species of fern majorly from temperature climates of eastern Asia, and parts of Africa and Madagascar. The most popular of these easy –to-grow ferns is Cyrtomium Falcatum which is commonly known as Holly Fern.
Holly Fern is an evergreen perennial fern which is suitable for both outdoor and indoor plantation. The plant bears glossy green and erect fronds with edgy margins. The plant is quite hardy and survives a bit neglect. Whether grown indoor or outdoor, Holly Fern can grow in shady or poorly-lit areas (though bright sunlight is preferred) as far as it is protected from freezing temperature.
Holly Fern, Image by Gardening in a Minute (Flickr)
Being a native of temperate climates, Holly Fern requires regular watering, a well-drained soil and temperature range of 50 to 72 F. Propagation is done from spores that germinate in a moist soil. In its habitat, Holly Fern grows in woodlands, crevices and rocks, hence it is can be grown successfully in landscapes and gardens in similar conditions as a nice ornamental and foliage plant.
If you are in to collecting unusual plants, Platycerium should be in your top-ten list. This genus of unusual rather oddly-shaped ferns offers some extra ordinarily ornamental plants for both indoor and outdoor gardening. Native to tropical regions of Asia, Australia, South America and Africa, Platycerium require are epiphytic plants that usually grow on large trees. When growing these beautiful ferns at home, they can be grown indoors in hanging baskets in patios or near sunny windows. For growing outdoors, they would well against a tree or on wooden surface.
Platycerium, Image by Michael Dawes
Platycerium produces basal and fertile fronds. Basal leaves are broad and kidney-shaped; they protect the root system and conserve water. Fertile leaves appear as the plant matures and take unusual shapes – usually broad and horn-shaped, thus getting the common name ‘Staghorn fern’.
Platycerium, like Air Plants, do not require soil. Most species grow as epiphytic plants and just require warm, well-lit and humid conditions to flourish. Provide them with regular water and sunny conditions. When in doubt, water sparingly as these plants can withstand drought and come back to life quickly as soon as they are hydrated properly.
Platycerium Bifurcatum, Image by faroutflora.com
Leaves on a healthy Platycerium plant under suitable growing conditions can grow as wide as 1 meter – giving a very exotic touch to indoor and outdoor gardens.
Ferns are my all-time favorite plants for their delicate, fresh and decent foliage. They are quite compromising plants that would grow almost anywhere in homes, offices, gardens, greenhouses, window gardens and hanging baskets. There are a number of popular ferns grown and commercially as successful ornamental plants. Pellaea is perhaps one of the less known species of all ferns. Originally native to South Africa, Pellaea is a relatively smaller but very attractive plant.
Pellaea makes a good low-growing plant that can be used in garden landscapes as filler as well as attractive foliage plant. Pellaea is equally good for hanging baskets because of its delicate stems that are usually covered with small and fresh-green leaves. In its native climate, Pellaea grows in rocky mountains; thus you can mimic same conditions in your indoor or outdoor gardens to grow these beautiful ferns easily in your rock garden.
Pellaea Rotundiflora or Button Fern which is easy to grow in temperate as well as cold climates, it is nice plant for hanging baskets. It bears dense round leaves. Pellaea Viridis is another popular species which loves and grows natively in warm and humid climate. It also grows beautifully in hanging baskets.
Native to eastern Africa, Asia and Australia, Asplenium is a large genus of ferns some of which are usually known among gardeners as Bird’s Nest Fern. Most species of Asplenium are easy to grow as outdoor and indoor houseplants. The most common of all species is Asplenium Nidus.
Commonly known as Hart’s Tongue Fern, Spleenwort or sometimes as Mother’s Fern, Asplenium Nidus produces large and wide fronds that resemble banana leaves. It is a nice ornamental plant suitable for container gardening or in hanging baskets. Since it is a slow growing plant, it won’t require much care; annual mulching and prunning is usually succficient to keep the plant in good shape.
Asplenium Nidus, Image by Ahmad Fuad Morad
How to grow Hart’s Tounge Fern
Asplenium Nidus grows as an evergreen, shade-loving plant. It can be propagated easily from divisions. Mature plants grow and divide freely and provide strikingly fresh and green foliage for a year round display. Provide regular water, well-drained and a bit boggy soil, and a damp corner in your garden to keep the plant fresh and healthy.
Of all ferns, Nephrolepis are perhaps the most popular and easy to grow ferns. Nephrolepis is native of tropical and sub-tropical regions and can be grown under various indoor and outdoor climatic conditions. Most Nephrolepis would withstand frost and drought. These are excellent ferns for to be grown as ground cover or as hanging baskets.
Nephrolepis Exaltala: Commonly known as Boston fern or Sword fern, Nephrolepis Exaltala produces dense and attractive crowns of long and drooping leaves. Boston fern prefers humid conditions and bright yet filtered sunlight. It also makes an excellent choice for indoor landscapes or hanging baskets. Propagation is easy from divisions of the crown.
Nephrolepis Cordifolia: This is another drought-tolerant and a vigorously growing fern. Nephrolepis Cordifolia grows under partial sunlight, well-drained soil and moderate fertilization. It is also propagated from divisions. Common name of Nephrolepis Cordifolia is Fishbone fern.