Ferns for the Garden

Ferns are a large group of plants with their main distinction being that they have neither flower nor seed. They create their next generation through spores! But that is a topic for another day. Today we’ll focus on hardy ferns, as there are may, some of which are tropical and make nice houseplants. Today’s hardy fern pictured is Athyrium ‘Ghost’ which is a hybrid of the Painted and the Lady fern. It is a vigorous grower with silvery foliage reaching 2 to maybe 3 feet tall. Its growth habit is upright. The key to success with ferns is a rich and moist soil environment. Dry shade will not work with most ferns. We have grown ferns in quite a bit of sun, and they will look good in an area of a half day sun. This is provided that they never dry out! Ideally, they will be situated in a partially shaded (morning sun) location with fertile damp soil. There are other Painted fern varieties such as ‘Godzilla’ ‘Red Beauty’ and ‘Burgundy Lace’ that have more red along with the silver in the leaf that will add contrast to the shade garden and compliment nicely with Hosta. We trim back the foliage from the prior year, in the spring of the next season. In our experience, trimming back foliage too early weakens the plant. Simple steps for success with ferns is adding of organic matter (compost,humus,aged manure etc.), selecting a proper location in an area that will not dry out, and trimming foliage at the right time! With this, you will have color and texture in your garden all season long.