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Ferns and fern care

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Ferns by their very nature are well adapted to shady areas - they've evolved to survive under low light conditions.  Most ferns (not all of them) prefer lots of moisture and will wilt if you do not care for them daily.  Some ferns are hardier than others, so choose wisely and you will be rewarded with lush tropical greenery to die for.

Fern species that can cope with drier conditions

Blechnum occidentale (hammock fern) , Polypodium aurea, Pteridium aquilinum, Pteris cretica.

Fern care

You can guess the sort of care that ferns adore by taking a close look at what conditions they thrive in their natural environment.  Most ferns live in little pockets of soil in rock crevices or live off trees so whilst they adore humidity and moisture, they will only cope with frequent watering if they are planted in well drained soil.  If the flower pot you pick has insufficient drainage holes, drill in a couple more to ensure that the poor thing doesn't just sit in the moisture day in day out and suffer from root rot.

Common pests that attack ferns

These would include mealybugs, scale insects, thrips, snails and slugs.  Ants aren't a problem per se, except they seem to be the bringer of bad tidings as they are often the carriers of sucking insects to your precious ferns.

Ferns from NatureHills Nursery

Japanese Painted Fern
The 'Japanese Painted Fern', Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum', is a low maintance, deciduous fern with soft grayish-green and silvery dark maroon foliage. Being the Perennial of the Year for 2004, one can see why. 'Japanese Painted Fern' has a plant spread of 24" and a height of 24" and a must to any garden. 'Japanese Painted Fern' requires full shade, however, small amounts of afternoon sun give the most vibrant color to its foliage. A well-drained area is best, not allowing it to dry out. Perfect as a border plant, planted near streams or ponds or as an accent plant. It will contrast well with Hosta 'Patriot' or Heuchera 'Palace Purple'. Best of all, the Japanese Painted Fern can help with erosion control, while presenting minimal wind resistance.

Brilliance Fern
The Brilliance Fern, 'Dryopteris 'Brilliance', is a new colorful and more brilliant form of the Autumn Fern. The young fronds of this cultivars are showy and orange. The fronds hold their glossy green sheen at maturity. The growth habit is identical to the Autumn but as a whole it is dramatically more showy. This fern is a great addition to the fern garden. The Brilliance Fern is an evergreen fern and is slow-spreading. It's easy to grow and is surprisingly drought tolerant once established in a garden.

Ghost Fern
The Ghost Fern, 'Athyrium niponicum var. pictum and Athyrium filix-feminais', is a deciduous hybrid fern. The characteristic that is most noteable is it's upright silvery foliage. The silvery foliage is acquired from its Japanese painted fern parent

Red Beauty Fern
The Red Beauty Fern, Athyrium 'Red Beauty', is a very vigorous and attractive relative to the Japanese Painted Fern. The Red Beauty Fern is a quick-growing plant for any partly to fully shaded garden location. The stems and veins remain bright red from spring to frost, while its long, elegant, lacy fronds cast silvery-green shadows in the shade. The upright fronds do not turn green in hot summer weather. You can use this plant as a groundcover because of its broad habit and fast growth. The Red Beauty can be used in containers, borders, and the fronds may be used for indoor arrangements. The deeply-dissected, fern-like, medium green leaves have a strong, somewhat spicy aroma that may persist when used in dried arrangements. Rabbits prefer not to eat on the Red Beauty Fern. Place this plant in moist, well-drained, enriched soil.

Wildwood Twist Fern
The Wildwood Twist Fern, 'Athyrium 'Wildwood Twist', is a hybrid of the Japanese Painted Fern. It is a deciduous fern which typically grows to 18" tall and features slowly spreading clumps of triangular, smoky gray and green fronds. The fronds twist along the length of the frond. Use this plant in the landscape to add color to shade gardens and in combinations with other perennials. The Wildwood Twist Fern is easily grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soil in part shade to full shade. The best site is in sheltered locations. The best frond color is achieved in light shade. The soil must not be allowed to dry out. Use this plant to add color to shade gardens and combinations with other perennials. It blends well with lungwort, foamflower and hostas.

Christmas Fern
The Christmas Fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, occurs in both dry and moist wooded slopes, moist banks and ravines. It typically grows in a fountain-like clump to 2' tall and features leathery, lance-shaped, evergreen (green at Christmas time as the common name suggests) fronds. Stocking shape of the pinnae also suggests Christmas. Crosiers (young fiddleheads) in spring are silvery and scaled. Sori appear on the undersides of the pinnae only at the ends (last 1/3) of the fronds. Christmas ferns are asymmetrical with a fine texture and has a moderately dense crown. The evergreen fronds provide good winter interest for the landscape. This fern does not spread but the clumps increase in size over time. These plants serve as hosts for butterfly larvae.

Cinnamon Fern
The Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamonea, occurs in moist, boggy ground along streams and on shaded ledges and grows in clumps to 2'-3' tall, but with constant moisture can reach 5' in height. When new fronds appear, they have a cinnamon color. The yellowish-green sterile fronds remain attractive throughout the summer and turn yellow in autumn. The common name of Cinnamon ferns is in reference to the cinnamon colored fibers found near the fronds base. Osumunda fiber used in the potting of orchids comes from the roots of these ferns. Plant them in a loamy woodland soil in some shade to mimic the natural environment. This fern is used in container plantings, rock gardens, borders, specimen plants and as ground cover. Cinnamon ferns do not have flowers or blooms. This plant tolerates flooding and will grow in wet submerged soils.

Ebony Spleenwort Fern
Ebony Spleenwort Fern, Asplenium platyneuron, is an evergreen fern which typically grows to 15" tall and occurs on rocky wooded ledges, rocky slopes and mossy banks. The fronds are arching, pinnate, somewhat glossy and are dark green and sterile. The central stipe (stem) is dark purplish brown. Ebony Spleewort Ferns are also know as Spleenwort Ferns. The common name of spleenwort refers to purported medicinal value once attributed to the plant. Plant in dry, rocky, shady areas of rock gardens (will grow in rocky crevices), native plant gardens or woodland areas. The ideal planting area would be in a shaded area rich in leaf mulch. This fern is very attractive when planted with wildflowers such as Tillium, Mertensia and columbines.

Southern Lady Fern
The Lady fern or Red Stem fern has a feathery textured frond with a red stem. It is a slow spreading fern, which will make a nice mass in a few years. The Southern Lady fern thrives in the garden, given any reasonably good soil and will make a dense stand over time. The Southern Lady Fern is also known as the Tatting Fern. Lady Ferns have leaves that turn bronze in the fall and then dark brown over the winter. It prefers to have it's feet wet. This plant is used for container plantings, borders, foundation planting, massing and groundcover. The Southern Lady fern is perennial and is deciduous. This very versatile plant goes well with evergreen shrubs and Hostas.

American Maidenhair Fern
The American Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum, is a deciduous, clump-forming fern which typically grows 1.5 to 2' tall and is most frequently found on rich wooded slopes, ravine bottoms and damp shady woods. American Maidenhair Ferns prefer moist, shady conditions, but will grow in sunnier spots if kept moist. It features finely-textured, somewhat frilly fronds which have curved stalks and are palmately-divided (i.e., fronds divide into finger-like projections). The Maidenhair will grow in colder areas if the plant has good air circulation. This fern is a perennial and is deciduous in colder climates. Wiry stems are reddish-brown to black. Crosiers (coiled young fiddleheads) emerge pink in spring. This is a wetlands plant that does not flower or bloom. The attractive foliage is showcased in container plantings, foundation plantings, and groundcovers.

Royal Fern
The Royal Fern, Osmunda regalis, is a tall, deciduous fern which usually occurs on moist bluffs and ledges and along streams (sometimes growing in the water). Royal Ferns typically grows in clumps to 2-3' tall, but with constant moisture can reach 6' in height. The broad fronds have large, well-separated pinnae (leaflets) which give this fern an almost pea-family appearance. Fronds typically turn yellow to brown in autumn. The Royal Fern is also known as the Flowering Fern and is deciduous. Spores are located in brown, tassel-like, fertile clusters at the tips of the fronds, thus giving rise to the additional common name of flowering fern for this plant. The Royal Fern is an excellent selection for wet areas along ponds, streams, water gardens or in bogs. It also grows well in shaded borders, woodland gardens, wild gardens or native plant gardens.

Walking Fern
The Walking Fern, Camptosorus rhizophyllus, is an interesting little plant. The common name comes from the fact that the leaves sprout new plants at their apices. After a few generations, the plant appears as if it is 'walking' across the ground because the frond tips curve over and root wherever they touch the ground. Walking Ferns have very attractive foliage and the simple leaves are often long-tapering to the tips. They can tolerate occasional wetness and wet soil. It is used in woodland gardens and as groundcover. This perennial fern does not have flowers or blooms.

Fern - Deer
Fern - Deer, Blechnum Spicant, is a hardy evergreen fern. The fronds are glossy, dark green and form a rosette. It requires a shaded growing area and a well-drained, acid soil high in organic matter. The plant is native to North America. Deer Fern is a beautiful and charming fern with fronds that have two strikingly different forms. The outer skirt of the frond is tapered at both ends. The central "fertile" fronds are stiffly erect. It creates an interesting effect and grows best with partial shade and regular moisture.

Fern - Japanese Holly
Fern - Japanese Holly, Cyrtomium Fortunei, has a beautiful and distinctive shape with a few fronds forming a vaselike crown. The fronds are four to seven inches wide and a beautiful glossy dark green with four to ten pairs of leaves per pinnae. The individual pinnae are leathery, serrated with sharp points, and have a remarkable resemblance to holly leaves - thus the common name. (Older plants may have a four foot spread.) It prefers partial sun to full shade and needs soil that is moist, humus rich, with good drainage. This fern can take more sun than most ferns so you can use it in pots or in beds as a border where you normally couldn't put a fern. However, it must be kept out of strong afternoon sun in warmer climates.

Fern - Autumn
Fern - Autumn, Dryopteris Erythrosora, is a plant that will provide a new color with every season! It is one of the showiest ferns as the fronds emerge in the spring with beautiful bright copper-bronze color tones. It then turns to dark green for summer, and back to bronze again in the fall. Autumn Fern has an evergreen habit that looks great in the partly-shaded bed or border. Once established it's virtually self-maintaining, and truly eye-catching in any setting. This Autumn Fern reaches 2 feet in height and width. It is one of the few perennials that will grow happily beneath large shade trees or in dry soils. It presents a great effect when planted near a rock or a small pond. Use in pots indoors or for a patio or deck plant. Here's a plant that will be with you season after season!

Fern - Spreading Wood Fern
Fern - Spreading Wood Fern, Dryopteris Expansa, has a stout, woody, creeping or ascending stock with large, green lacy fronds. The leaflets of the fronds have fringed tips and sides. It grows one to two feet long, in open, graceful clumps, and has a ruffled look. Wood Fern is a species of fern native to cool, temperate, and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. It prefers cool, moist mixed or evergreen forests and rock crevices on alpine slopes, often growing on rotting logs and tree stumps and rocky slopes. It is especially associated with stream banks. The species name of this fern, expansa, is from the Latin expando, meaning "to spread out, spread apart, to expand" Other common names include Northern Wood Fern, Arching Wood Fern, Spiny Wood Fern and Crested Wood Fern.

Fern - Male
Fern - Male, Dryopteris Filix Mas, is a clump forming fern found throughout North America and the Pacific Northwest. It has an upright habit and reaches 2.5 feet in height and width with a single crown on each rootstock. The crown of this fern produces multiple plants, so divide the male fern regularly to increase your plants and to keep the symmetry, or allow it to become a large clump of many plants. Either way, the fern provides a grand statement in the woodland garden. It prefers shade to bright shade and moist, fertile, acidic soil. Male Fern is one of the most common ferns of the temperate Northern Hemisphere. It favors damp shaded areas and is common in the understory of woodlands, but is also found in shady places on hedge-banks and rocks.

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Ferns and fern care
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