Gardening Answers

Ferns in the Garden

Plantswoman | Posted in Pacific Northwest Gardening on

I love to mix ferns in the garden.  Some gardeners dedicate an area to just ferns and don’t let them hang out in a shade garden.  They can be very beautiful mixed with ground covers and shade perennials.  They fill in with texture and rich color when things go dormant.  Do you let ferns mingle with the perennials and shrubs in your garden?  Do you have a dedicated fern garden?


  1. User avater
    Dsherry | | #1

    I don't have dedicated fern garden, but with all the spring rains this year my cinnamon ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) along the woodland edge are MASSIVE! I took our big hound dog out for a walk the other morning and completely lost sight of her. That's a seriously impressive fern in my book ;)

    1. User avater Moderator
      Plantswoman | | #2

      I LOVE that fern. I don't grow it but I wish I did! I love Big Ferns I cannot lie.

  2. User avater Moderator
    mdwyer | | #3

    I'm a huge "fern fan" myself. I like them integrated into compositions and textural foils for bold-foliage perennials. You can't go wrong with the native maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) z 3 which is a "textural marvel"!

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      Plantswoman | | #4

      The maiden hair fern, adiantum pedatum, is so delicate and airy, a good contrast in texture to other more leathery ferns. Blechnum chilense or Chilean Hard fern is a good companion in texture. In the PNW region we are lucky to have a native Western Maidenhair fern, Adianthum aleuticum.

  3. Swwetheart | | #5

    what is a good fern for "fill in" among flowers, that is NOT invasive?

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      Plantswoman | | #8

      Polystichum polyblepharum, Tassel Fern doesn't spread and looks good most of the year. In my garden, I only take off a few beat-up fronds in the early spring. The Athyrium ferns, like 'Ghost' , Lady, or Lady in Red are also non-spreading. They do need cut back in the early spring to really enjoy the new fronds coming out. Front of the border is an excellent place for Deer Fern - Blechum spicant, another non-spreader.

  4. Swwetheart | | #6

    what is a good fern for fill in that is NOT invasive?

  5. joe_green_thumb | | #7

    I don’t have a dedicated fern garden but I mix them in. Japanese painted fern, ghost fern, deer fern, lady fern (watch out as they spread) western sword fern (watch out as they spread), Polystichum setiferum Which is soft shield fern (one of my faves) Autumn fern (another fave), ostrich Fern (watch out as they spread), 'Cristata the King' (Dryopteris affinis), Asplenium scolopendrium, commonly known as the hart's-tongue fern, and (Saber Fern) Polystichum neolobatum.

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      Plantswoman | | #9

      Wow good list of great ferns!

  6. ritam | | #10

    Ferns form a large part of my native plant landscaping of my property, especially sword ferns.
    Unfortunately there is a sword fern disease and I have lost many large beautiful sword ferns.

    It is not know what causes this and if you replant ferns in the same location they will most likely die too. UW is aware of the problem but the agent that causes this problem still remains unknown. Healthy fronds start dying and eventually they are all dead.

    1. User avater Moderator
      Plantswoman | | #11

      This is becoming a more common problem. The WSU Extension website has several postings about this. There is also a citizen watch area that helps you contribute to locating areas in Puget Sound that are seeing similar problems. I did find an article on replanting the Seward Park area of ferns that gives tips for replanting. I hope you find success with stopping the spread in your garden and replanting.

  7. User avater
    [email protected] | | #12

    My three favorite ferns are: Autumn Fern ‘ Brilliance’ (Dryopteris erythrosora); Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum); and the native Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum). I plant them throughout my shade garden. For whatever reason, my Western Sword Ferns have not spread.

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      Plantswoman | | #13

      I transplanted quite a few from a site that was being cleared. These have survived but not spread either. I think it is because it is in a forested area where there are big trees. They don't get a lot of water in the summer. I do find more little ferns in the areas where there is irrigation. These looked to be seeded (spores) from ferns further away because there aren't any planted close. Interesting!

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