Ferns- Shade Garden Elegance
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 easily grown in humus- rich, well- drained soil. Some ferns prefer a more acidic soil. They need an evenly moist soil so they do not dry out, and are right at home in the shade garden planted next to bolder leaf hostas, in groupings, or on their own. They can be a bit slower to emerge in the spring, but once they are up, nothing really compares to the texture and interest their delicate foliage can add to the garden!
How to Plant/Grow Ferns
Hardy outdoor ferns are tolerant of cold winter temperatures. They prefer 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. For sandy soil, add about 2 inches of organic material to help retain moisture.
Ferns can also be grown in raised beds. 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 once 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. Most require plenty of moisture during the growing season. About one inch of water or more per week should be ample. Take care not to over water, as 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.
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.
They combine well with many other shade loving perennials, such as Hosta, where the broad, wide foliage forms a pleasing contrast to the delicate foliage of ferns. The delicate and airy appearance of ferns also blends wonderfully with Pulmonaria, Tiarella or Brunnera, or can combine nicely with ornamental grasses for the shade such as Hakenochloa, or Carex.
Ferns can be grouped as foreground plantings to shrubs, such as Hydrangeas.