Ferns

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Osmunda regalis spectabilis, royal fern, is a large fern that can grow to six feet tall and survive full sun if moisture is continuously available to the roots, such as in a bog garden where white-topped pitcher plant might be at home.

More commonly found growing to three feet or so tall in the shade or partially shady spots in the garden, royal fern is a big bold fern with big bold fronds.

royal fern Osmunda regalis

The royal fern pictured here is at least five feet tall and growing in full sun. It is also growing in a bog garden. Do not grow in full sun unless moisture is constantly supplied to the roots. Click for larger.

Royal fern is native to the eastern half of North America from Canada south to Florida. Royal fern is highly adaptable in the garden and easy to grow in the shade in soils with average to above average moisture.

Continue reading ‘Royal Fern – Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Southern shield fern (Thelypteris kunthii or Dryopteris normalis) is an adaptable and easy to grow deciduous native fern. An excellent fern for beginning gardeners, southern shield fern can survive drought (in the shade) and even full sun if plenty of constant moisture is available. Southern shield fern is at home in wetlands.

southern shield fern

Southern shield fern - Thelypteris kunthii.

Southern shield fern is aptly named, as it is native to every state in the southeastern United States. There is something about the heat and humidity of the deep south that allows southern shield fern to prosper here.

Continue reading ‘Southern Shield Fern – Thelypteris kunthii’

See also: Native PlantsHerbaceous Perennials
Onoclea sensibilis was originally given the common name sensitive fern because the fronds are highly sensitive to frost. Sensitive fern is native to both the eastern United States and east Asia.

sensitive fern

Sensitive fern - Onoclea sensibilis prefers wet spaces in the garden.

Sensitive fern is a fern of swampy places and prefers persistently wet conditions. In shade, Onoclea sensibilis can withstand occasional dry conditions, but in sunnier locations it must have moisture. In forested woodland with plenty of canopy, I have absolutely seen sensitive fern happy and healthy in areas with average soil moisture.

Ferns such as sensitive fern and cinnamon fern can withstand surprisingly sunny spots in the garden, but continuous moisture at the roots is a must in such situations.

I have grown or attempted to grow ferns in many circumstances, and I find I almost always fail, not immediately but inevitably, if I try to push them outside their limits. It just doesn't pay to be a risk taker with ferns that demand moisture.

Continue reading ‘Sensitive Fern – Onoclea sensibilis’

Whether Mariana fern is the most beautiful fern is subjective, but few would argue with Mariana fern's value in the garden...perhaps Mariana fern is the most beautiful fern that is easy to grow. 

Mariana fern (Thelypteris torresiana), also known as Torres Fern, is expensive at the nursery (I've seen it priced at almost 40 bucks for a couple of fronds), but the return on the investment is extremely high.   Mentioned in the title...considered by some as the most beautiful of all ferns, Mariana fern is tolerant of just about any growing situation (including dry, poorish soil), and so long as the soil is not packed clay Mariana fern will expand rapidly via rhizomes.

The first photograph below is a naturalized area full of Mariana fern.  The second photo is a small residential area filled with Mariana fern. Bracken fern, which has a similar growth look, normally has purplish stems when mature, whereas Mariana fern tends to have green stems.  Mariana fern could be invasive (locally spreading) I suppose, but I have always planted it where Mariana fern has room to spread, and frankly have always been grateful for every single stem.

Hardiness is at least to zone 7b, and Mariana fern is tolerant of most exposures except direct prolonged sunlight.  Grows to 3-4 feet and spreads (fairly aggressively).  Extremely easy to grow.

mariana fern

Click for larger view.

mariana fern

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See also: Herbaceous Perennials
Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythosora) is called autumn fern due to the new growth of spring, tinted red that reminds us of the autumnal hues of fall.  The new growth eventually matures from wine red to a pale green.  Dryopteris erythosora is easy to grow, relatively drought resistant (for a fern) and spectacular in mass as a ground cover.

Regarding drought tolerance, although autumn fern is often recommended as such, please bear in mind that ferns prefer moist, rich soil, so any drought tolerance found is relative to other ferns.  The above stated, if one were looking for a fern that could thrive in a normal garden setting (average soil, moderate shade, regular amounts of rain) without tons of water, autumn fern should do well.

Autumn fern, hardy zones 5-9, retains its foliage through the winter, although by spring the general disarray of the battered fronds recommends a wack to the ground. Recommended as deer resistant, autumn fern is the answer for those who yearn for ferns but do not live in a bog.

Autumn Fern

Relatively drought tolerant, tough as nails, and ethereal in a way few plants can muster, Japanese Painted Fern is as near as a must-have in the shade or partial shade garden as I can imagine.  Especially lovely in mass or perhaps as a single plant against a fence or wall, Japanese Painted Fern, similar to Variegated False Solomon's Seal, brightens darker corners of the garden.

Japanese Painted Fern

Click for larger view.