Growing Ferns in Shaded Gardens

The fern is an understated and often overlooked garden plant, which we think is a shame, as it is graceful and pretty in equal measures. They are native to the UK as well as pretty much the rest of the world, being versatile and hardy plants. In gardens, they can make an impactful flourish of foliage to cover gaps and do especially well filling in rock formations or flowerbeds.

They are also one of the oldest plant varieties in the world, with ferns being found as early as three hundred and sixty million years ago. The types of fern that we are accustomed to first appeared in the cretaceous period, meaning that some of our favourite herbivore dinosaurs like Triceratops were probably munching down on it for sustenance.

We don’t recommend eating your fern (although there are varieties you can eat) and instead recommend you grow it for the wonderful decoration it provides. If you’re looking for flowers, then you’re in the wrong place as ferns don’t flower –but that’s okay because they’re distinctive all the same.

Fern Varieties that Love Shade

When picking ferns, you should be aware that there are so many varieties that there isn’t a one size fits all rule for growing them. Most ferns love the shade, and it is fair to say all native ferns love a good level of shade. Ferns often grow alongside mosses, so it is little wonder they favour the same damp and dark conditions that moss likes.

Most UK varieties are low-level ferns that don’t grow very tall. If you’re looking for a taller fern type, then tree ferns have robust stems and can reach an impressive size for what they are. Here are our top three ferns for growing in the UK.

Nephrolepis Bostoniensis

The ‘Boston Fern’ is ideal as an indoor fern variety because it requires a little attention when pruning. However, if you wanted to, this fern variety would grow well outdoors in the UK as well. Because of its diversity, it is definitely on our list and well worth a look.

Boston Fern
Nephrolepis Bostoniensis – Boston or Sword Fern

Adiantum Fragrans

Another fern type that serves multiple purposes. It is also one of the most popular office plants in the UK and is known for being an air purifier. Like most ferns, Adiantum Fragrans dislikes sunlight, so if you’re tempted to plant it outdoors, find the darkest and most miserable place in your garden and you’re guaranteed a happy plant.

Adiantum Fragrans
Adiantum Fragrans

Pteris Tricolor

This is perhaps our favourite because ferns rarely have differential colouring – but the Pteris Tricolor does! It grows fairly well indoors but needs plenty of light, making it a fussier fern type as well. Don’t be tempted to plant in direct sunlight either as this will damage your plant, instead, opt for partially shaded areas that get lots of natural light without burning your delicate fern.

Pteris Tricolor
Pteris Tricolor – Painted Brake Fern

Tips for Growing Ferns

Of course, there are a great many different fern types to choose from, and we selected our list for versatility as much as anything. Once you have decided what ferns you want to grow, there are some tips to get the best from your fern plant.

Tip One – Sunlight

Like all plants, ferns need some light in order to live and function. In the case of the fern, it can be a bit of a love-hate relationship though. Ferns like light but don’t want to be showered in it directly, which is why they grow best in shaded or partially shaded conditions. If you grow your fern indoors, this can be tricky, because ferns do appreciate indirect sunlight, so it is a matter of careful positioning.

Also, as with the Tricolor above, some ferns like bright light, and don’t like the darkened conditions we associate with ferns, so bear that in mind and read your plant labels.

Tip Two – Watering

Ferns like damp conditions and grow rich and full when they have lots of water. Don’t be tempted to over-water your fern though because waterlogged soil can drown your plant and kill it. In general, ferns do like a healthy dose of water though.

Tip Three – Cover

Ferns may look dainty and delicate, but they are not at all fragile. You can plant a fern in open and exposed conditions, and it will hold up extraordinarily well. Native ferns in the UK are a common sight on windswept moorlands and mountainsides, so don’t be worried by a slight breeze.

3 Great Places to Plant Your Fern

Now you know what type of fern you want, and the tips for growing it, you might be wondering about how to incorporate it into your garden or where is suited for ferns to grow? Don’t worry if you are, here are our three places to grow ferns.

  • Indoors. Ferns are known for their air purification properties and make excellent indoor plants and housewarming gifts. Better still, they thrive in warm wet conditions like your bathroom, making them perfect to pop on the frosted glass windowsill.
  • By Trees. Ferns and trees go together like bread and butter and some of the most impressive tree ferns look sensational when planted alongside trees. If you opt for a more diminutive variety then planting them in and amongst bushes and shrubs has an equally splendid payoff.
  • Filling Gaps. All gardens have some gaps, even the best-kept gardens. Ferns are a great way of filling gaps for a number of reasons. They add a blanket colour, stop weeds from being able to grow and establish themselves and lastly, they don’t interact negatively with plants around them.

This makes ferns the perfect companion.

Find Fern Plants at Gardeners Dream

If you have been positively convinced that a fern is your next must-have plant, then make sure you check out our range at Gardeners Dream. We have purpose-chosen ferns that grow in a myriad of conditions to give you a choice that you simply can’t resist. Look at our ferns now!

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