Ferns are such a unique grouping of plants, that if a gardener were unfamiliar with them, it would be quite difficult to put them into words. Their distinctive arching fronds that uncurl so playfully, displaying luscious shades of green; their lacy textured foliage, and their ability to thrive in areas otherwise undesirable to most plants. Ferns certainly have many features making them worthy of a spot in anyone’s garden.
What are Ferns?
Ferns are literally some of the oldest plants on our planet, dating back to prehistoric times. One of the things that makes them so different to most plants is that they do not produce flowers or seeds, instead they reproduce by spores. If you have ever noticed reddish brown dust on the underside of your fern leaves (or fronds), there is nothing wrong with your plant, what you are seeing are millions of spores, that are the equivalent to seeds and act in the same way.
How to Care for Ferns
Most ferns thrive in a moist environment with bright light, but no direct sunlight. For indoors try and select the most humid room (add an open water source or humidifier) and place them on a bright window, avoiding the hot sun. Outdoors most ferns favor a shady or semi-shady spot, with a moist and rich soil. A few ferns that can tolerate dry soils are the Christmas Fern and the Hayscented Fern. Ferns do not need to fertilized, but do want a humus-rich soil, so best to add compost.
Different Fern Types
At Pesche’s we sell both hardy and tender ferns. Hardy ferns should be planted outdoors and will return each year, whilst tender ferns can be enjoyed as houseplants. When choosing a suitable location be aware that some ferns (Ostrich Fern) are quite vigorous and will grow in clump size as well as spread via seedlings, whilst others (Maidenhair Fern) are conservative and will require some pampering.
Design with Ferns
There is such incredible diversity amongst ferns in regards to their foliage, textures and growth habits, that they are an absolute delight to incorporate into garden beds and designs. Their vastly different appearance makes it very easy to create contrast between plants and highlight different leaf shapes and types. Incorporating foliage into designs is always more critical in beds of shade perennials, as we are not solely relying on flower interest.