Ferns are a perfect solution to those shady spots in your garden. They also provide secret shady hideouts for many beneficial garden visitors. There are several different types of ferns to add texture and variety to your garden.
All about ferns
Ferns are an ancient group of plants that date back over 300 million years, making them older than dinosaurs. They are very easy to grow and add much beauty to your garden.
Plant them in part to full shade with well-drained soil. They do need protection from the hot afternoon sun to prevent them from drying or scorching. In the hottest summer months, it is important to keep them watered as they need a moist environment. Mulching helps keep the moisture around them and also provides protection for bugs and other critters that hide in ferns.
They can reach 12 inches to 6 feet tall, depending on the type of fern. In the winter you can prune them so they come back healthy the next spring. They can also be divided and moved to other parts of the garden.
Types of Ferns
There are many types to choose from. Some of the more popular include:
Holly – native to Eastern US, they get their name because of their tough green leaves that can be used for Christmas decorations. Their old leaves need to be clipped each year to ensure new growth in spring.
Lady – dainty ferns that are tolerant of the sun and drop their leaves in winter time. Japanese painted, Lady in Red and Ghost are some of the most common lady ferns to include in your garden.
Maidenhair – delicate airy ferns that are hearty. They have wiry stems that hold broad leaflets at the tip of the stem creating an umbrella look.
Osmunda – a very common fern west of the Mississippi. They are one of the largest ferns you can plant in your garden and can reach 3-5 feet tall. Two common varieties include Cinnamon and Interrupted.
Western Sword – have glossy dark green fronds and grow 3-4 feet tall and wide. They do better in coastal settings.
Protection for garden visitors
Ferns provide shade and moisture to help many visitors to your garden. In the hot summer months, I often find lizards, beetles and other creatures hiding under them. The environment can also attract chipmunks, toads and even snakes. So there can be a whole party going on under your ferns and you don’t even know it.
In my garden, I have ferns underneath a Japanese Maple. The tree gives them protection from the intense heat and sun of the summer. I do have to keep them watered as the temperature gets hot here in Georgia. I regularly see lizards under them and the chipmunk uses them as cover when he is planning his diabolical deeds in the garden. So far I haven’t seen a garden fairy or gnome hiding in the ferns, but I am keeping an eye out.
There are a wide variety of plants in my garden. The different colors and textures of the plants make it more enjoyable. My ferns provide depth and dimension under the maple as well as help some of my garden visitors. I think they are earning their keep around here.
If you have a shady area and are not sure what to plant there, consider ferns. They are deer resistant and relatively easy to grow. They also add unique texture to enhance your garden. The lizards and other critters in your garden will be grateful that you planted them too.
$15-25 for a 1-gallon plant
The cost depends on the variety.
Where to buy:
Walmart, Home Depot, Pike or local nurseries. You can also buy online from various sites including Amazon.
Once you have an established fern, it can be divided and planted in another part of the garden. This saves money after the initial investment.