No shade garden is complete without the addition of ferns. Ferns are versatile plants that thrive in woodland conditions. Perennial ferns are easy to grow and widely cultivated, with dozens of varieties to choose from. Best planted in masses or interplanted in clusters amongst ground covers or other perennials, the lacy fronds of ferns are unmatched by any other plant. With the added advantage of being deer resistant, ferns are virtually carefree and it’s no wonder that they are a favorite of many gardeners.
Some, though not all ferns, are evergreen with foliages that continue to persist through winter. Autumn ferns are a great evergreen fern option, growing up to 2 feet in height. The autumn fern is prized for the reddish-copper hues of its newly emerged fronds. As the fronds matures, they turn green.
Another popular evergreen fern option is the Christmas fern. A coarser texture than the autumn fern, the Christmas fern is a slightly smaller, native fern known to tolerate dry conditions.
Another native option, the Cinnamon fern has showy, spore-bearing, cinnamon-colored spikes from April to June that add interest and texture to a space. Ostrich ferns are also native, typically growing 2-3 feet in cultivation, though have been known to grow up to 6 feet in the wild when found growing happily in moist, cool conditions.
Japanese painted ferns, though not native, are an especially flashy cultivar with luminescent silvery-blue fronds that at times have hints of purple to them. Their unique foliage is often used to brighten a shady spot. Japanese painted fern was named Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year in 2004.
With their unique foliage and easy care, ferns can add textural interest to a less-sunny garden. With many options to choose from, there are ferns for every garden that has at least one shady pocket.