Ferns- For Shade Garden Texture
Hardy ferns are shade loving perennial plants grown for their lovely foliage and depending on the variety, colorful appearance. Ferns offer a great variation in form and texture and once established are easy to grow.
Ferns are different from a lot of other plants with specialized names for their parts. Fern leaves are called fronds, the new emerging shoots in the spring are called fiddleheads and what they produce instead of seeds is called spores.
Ferns are easily grown in humus- rich, well- drained soil. It is best to keep the soil evenly moist so ferns do not dry out.
They are right at home in the shade garden planted next to bolder leaf hostas, in groupings, or on their own.
Ferns can be slower to emerge in the spring, but once they are up, represent some of the most beautiful shade perennials adding interest and texture to the shade garden.
How to Plant/Grow Ferns
Hardy outdoor ferns are tolerant of cold winter temperatures. Hardy ferns prefer easily well drained soil, high in organic matter. For clay soil, add about 2 inches of organic material (composted pine bark) before planting to improve drainage. Ferns can also be grown in raised beds. For sandy soil, add about 2 inches of organic material to help retain moisture. Some ferns prefer a more acidic soil.
When planting, do not bury the crown, but make sure the soil level matches that of the top of the soil level from the pot. It is best not to disturb the root ball one you remove them from their container. If you need to move your fern, it is best to move it in spring or fall.
Most ferns require a moist, shady spot in a woodland area, or on the north side of a building. Many ferns require plenty of moisture during the growing season. About one inch of water or more per week should be ample. They do not like being waterlogged.
Many ferns will grow well in dappled, or part shade provided they get some protection from the hot, afternoon sun.
Ferns are slow to emerge in the spring, so give them some time, and enjoy the fronds as they unfurl in spring.
Carefree ferns combine well with many other shade loving perennials, such as hostas, where the broad, wide foliage forms a pleasing contrast to the delicate foliage of ferns.
Since ferns are not heavy feeders, it is best not to over fertilize. Apply fertilizer in the spring. Avoid fertilizing late in the season.
Ferns can be used as ground covers, mass plantings, or as specimens.
The soft, delicate airy appearance of ferns blends wonderfully with bold leaf hostas, Pulmonaria, Tiarella or Brunnera.
Ferns also combine nicely with ornamental grasses for the shade such as Hakenochloa, or Carex.
Ferns work as foreground plantings to shrubs such as Hydrangeas.