How Much Sunlight do Ferns Need? [Planting and Caring]

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How Much Sunlight do Ferns Need? [Planting and Caring]

painted fern around large rock

Short Answer: Ferns are a lush and versatile addition to any garden, known for their ability to thrive in shady spots where other plants might struggle. When planting ferns, it’s crucial to choose a location with adequate shade and moist, well-draining soil, as most fern varieties prefer these conditions. Regular watering is essential to keep the soil wet but not soggy, especially during dry spells. Ferns also benefit from an annual application of organic matter, like compost or leaf mold, to nourish and support their growth. With their unique texture and varying sizes, ferns can create a serene and ancient feel in your garden, making them a favorite among gardening enthusiasts.

Ferns can thrive in various environments, including squeezed between large boulders.

Ferns can add a beautiful, feathery texture and a lot of greenery to any garden bed. To get started, all you need is some dappled shade, some plants to start colonies, and enough moisture to encourage fern growth. Here’s what you need to know to create your fern garden.

How to Care for Ferns

Although ferns come in many shapes, sizes, and textures, their care requirements are similar. If planted in the right conditions, ferns can be a full and foliage-forward addition to landscaping.

  1. Light: Ferns prefer a dappled shade canopy. Dense shade or bright sun will stress ferns beyond their comfort level.
  2. Watering: If nature doesn’t furnish an inch of rain weekly, watering will be necessary, especially during the first growing season after transplanting.
  3. Soil: Ferns sink their thirsty roots into deep, friable soil rich in organic matter. Heavy clay soils are not hospitable unless amended with compost. A neutral or slightly acidic soil is preferable for most ferns; aim for a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
  4. Fertilizer: Beyond compost added to the soil, ferns do not need fertilizer.

Caring for Ferns as Houseplants is a different topic that we cover separately.

How to Grow Ferns

Know what to expect when planting ferns in your yard. Different varieties of ferns can reach different sizes and are hardy in different zones, so read the tag before bringing a fern home.

  • Hardiness: Zones 2–10, depending on the species.
  • Height: Depending on species, ferns can range from only 8 inches to 6 feet tall.
  • Transplanting: The optimal time to transplant ferns is from late spring through the end of summer (but not during a drought).
  • Problems: Ferns are wonderfully trouble-free. They rarely succumb to diseases and are deer-resistant.

Some species of fern, such as autumn, change colors during the growing season.

Some species of fern, such as autumn, change colors during the growing season.

Selecting Types of Ferns

There are so many types of ferns that there is bound to be a variety that fits your needs. Unless you have a lot of ground to cover, avoid aggressive ferns such as ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) and sensitive ferns (Onoclea sensibilis). Some favorite hardy ferns include the evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), cinnamon-frond autumn ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora), and nearly evergreen Himalayan maidenhair (Adiantum venustum). Japanese-painted ferns feature pale hues of pink, mint, and silver.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in the USA

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
Northeast (e.g., New York, Massachusetts)Rose, Purple Lilac, Mountain LaurelSugar Maple, American Elm, White Pine
Southeast (e.g., Florida, Georgia)Orange Blossom, Cherokee Rose, Southern MagnoliaLive Oak, Spanish Moss, Saw Palmetto
Midwest (e.g., Ohio, Illinois)Carnation, Violet, Purple ConeflowerBur Oak, Prairie Grasses, Wild Bergamot
Southwest (e.g., Texas, Arizona)Bluebonnet, Saguaro Cactus Flower, Indian PaintbrushJoshua Tree, Agave, Mesquite
West (e.g., California, Washington)California Poppy, Coast Rhododendron, BitterrootGiant Sequoia, Redwood, Manzanita
Rocky Mountain (e.g., Colorado, Montana)Rocky Mountain Columbine, Bitterroot, Indian PaintbrushBlue Spruce, Aspen, Sagebrush
Great Plains (e.g., Kansas, Nebraska)Sunflower, Goldenrod, Purple ConeflowerCottonwood, Bluestem Grasses, Buffalo Grass
Pacific Northwest (e.g., Oregon, Alaska)Oregon Grape, Forget-me-not, Pacific RhododendronDouglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Ferns

This table includes the most popular flowers and plants in the USA by region, which considers a range of botanical species, including native and widely cultivated varieties.

Most Popular Flowers & Plants in Australia

RegionPopular FlowersPopular Plants
New South WalesWaratah, Bottlebrush, Flannel FlowerEucalyptus, Acacia, Banksia
VictoriaCommon Heath, Waxflower, Pink HeathMountain Ash, Silver Wattle, Victorian Blue Gum
QueenslandCooktown Orchid, Golden Penda, Umbrella Tree FlowerMoreton Bay Fig, Macadamia Nut, Queensland Bottle Tree
South AustraliaSturt's Desert Pea, Kangaroo Paw, Eucalyptus BlossomAdelaide Blue Gum, South Australian Blue Gum, Saltbush
Western AustraliaRed and Green Kangaroo Paw, Mangles Kangaroo Paw, Swan River DaisyJarrah, Marri, Karri
TasmaniaTasmanian Blue Gum, Leatherwood Flower, Tasmanian WaratahHuon Pine, Tasmanian Oak, Myrtle Beech
Northern TerritorySturt's Desert Rose, Frangipani, Desert RoseBoab, Gidgee, Spinifex
Australian Capital TerritoryRoyal Bluebell, Australian Daisy, CorreaSnow Gum, River Red Gum, Black Mountain

This table offers a basic overview of popular flowers and plants in each Australian region, focusing on a combination of state flowers, native species, and other characteristic plants. It's important to note that specific species' popularity and prevalence can vary. This table is a simplified representation. Consulting local botanical gardens or regional horticultural societies in Australia would be ideal for more detailed and accurate information.

Charlotte Gammon

By Charlotte Gammon

Meet Charlotte Gammon, our expert and author. She's our true treasure, as she has got 20+ years of experience in gardening, winery and house design. In early 2000s, she worked for today.com magazine and was in charge of the gaardening section. Later on, Charlotte opened her own designer agency and worked as a designer and decorator. We are happy to have Charlotte with us, as she is our good friend. We value her experience and we're sure you will love the articles she created for our blog.