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Ferns

Ferns are often little understood in the gardening world as they don't flower, and many gardeners are unsure of how to incorporate them. This is a shame as ferns are a diverse plant variety that can bring much-needed colour to dark or forgotten garden spaces. We love ferns at Gardeners Dream and have both deep knowledge and appreciation for them. Our ferns guide outlines the various types of ferns as well as how to plant, grow and care for them! Check out our range below and receive free UK delivery today.

An Overview of Ferns

Ferns are often similar in appearance to certain mosses but differ because they are vascular.

Vascular plants transfer water and nutrients in different ways - so don't get too wrapped up with this particular plant type - it won't impact how you tend to them!

Ferns reproduce when they produce spores. These spores then grow and mature into new ferns.

Ferns have a wide range of uses and have been used as food, medicine, natural fertilizers and, of course, as decorative plants.

Ferns are often used as houseplants as well as outdoor ferns because research suggests they remove unwanted chemicals and toxins from the environment. With this in mind, ferns grow extremely well in bathrooms, wet rooms and rooms with high humidity because they love damp conditions.

Royal Fern

If you have an image in your mind of what a fern looks like, you're probably imagining a Royal fern. They have large, open spindle-like foliage that grow together in relatively close clusters.

  • Royal ferns grow extremely well in moist soil or boggy conditions.

  • If your garden has problems with irrigation or waterlogging, a Royal fern is a great plant to use.

  • They will absorb unwanted ground water and thrive in the wet conditions.

  • The Royal fern is a deciduous fern that is native to the UK.

  • You may also come across the cinnamon fern when looking at this fern species.

The cinnamon fern is part of the same family - osmundaceae.

Varieties of Royal Fern

There are multiple types of royal fern;

  • Osmunda regalis var. regalis

  • Osmunda regalis var. panigahiana

  • Osmunda regalis var. brasilliensis

  • Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis

Autumn Fern

The Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) is a non-native fern that can be grown in the UK.

It is native to east Asia (China, Japan, Philippines).

The Autumn fern prefers drier growing conditions, growing well in shaded conditions or at altitude. If you're looking for an Autumn fern you should look for their horticultural name Dryopteris erythrosora.

Hardy Ferns

Hardy ferns are perennial ferns that survive the cold winter months.

They grow extremely well in the UK and are very resilient to the frequent weather changes we experience here.

Types of Hardy Ferns

  • Maidenhair ferns

  • Hayscented fern

  • Broad beech fern

  • Japanese painted fern

  • Lady fern

  • Ostrich fern

  • Southern wood fern

  • Holly fern

Many other fern types are also hardy types and overall, ferns tend to be very resilient plants.

Fully Hardy Ferns

When you're exploring ferns, you may come across a category called 'fully hardy ferns'.

These ferns are particularly adept to surviving in the UK and will ensure you can enjoy your fern for many years to come. Examples of ferns in this category are;

  • Dryopteris filix-mas

  • Dryopteris affinis

  • Asplenium scolopendrium

  • Dryopteris wallichiana

Evergreen Fern

Evergreen fern types give green colour and provide year-round interest.

They can be a little less robust than deciduous ferns as they have no dormant phase and are exposed to the harsh winter weather.

Evergreen Fronds

The fronds on an evergreen fern will remain green all year round.

If you're concerned about areas of your garden (especially in shade) where there is a lack of colour, then using an evergreen fern with its evergreen fronds is a great solution.

Ferns planted in this way will not only add colour, but they will fill spaces that would otherwise be difficult to fill.

Deciduous Ferns

Deciduous ferns are more likely to be hardy fern types and tend to be native to the UK. They enter a dormant phase during the winter months which protects the plants.

This makes them particularly suited to the UK as we can experience a wide range of winter conditions that may not always be beneficial to an evergreen fern.

The downside to a deciduous fern is that they don't provide year-round interest because they go dormant. If you're looking for a deciduous fern, you can't go wrong with;

  • River fern

  • Japanese painted fern (amazing colourful fronds)

  • Wood fern

Tree Ferns

Tree ferns are sometimes referred to as 'true ferns'. Like other ferns, they don't produce flowers or seeds, instead producing spores as mentioned earlier.

They're called tree ferns because unlike other ferns, they have a tree-like appearance with a trunk.

You will find tree ferns come in many varieties although most ferns prefer partial shade. Some tree fern types are more exotic and can tolerate a full sun position.

If you're interested in a tree fern, check out;

  • Australian tree fern

  • Dicksonia antartica

  • Cyathea cooperi (Sphaeropteris cooperi)

Tree ferns can sometimes resemble miniature palm trees because of the way the foliage splays out like an umbrella over the trunk.

This can be excellent if you're trying to create a more tropical look in your garden - especially if you're limited on space or don't have the growing conditions for real palms.

Christmas Fern

The Christmas fern is a specific species of fern - Polystichum acrostichoides.

It has evergreen fronds and is native to North America, preferring wooded areas, streams, and rocky outcrops.

Because it is an evergreen its evergreen fronds are often green at Christmas time, which is where it derives its name from.

Other Ferns

The big attraction of ferns is their distinctive foliage.

We have mentioned many of the best ferns but there are also a few other notable mentions!

  • Matteuccia struthiopteris

  • Onoclea sensibilis

Delicate Fronds

If you want something a bit understated in the fern department then you should look at the Adiantum pedatum.

The Adiantum pedatum is well known for its delicate fronds and overall gentle appearance.

They can be a bit trickier to care for and you will need to make sure it gets regular watering in hotter months.

Because a fern is described as delicate, it doesn't mean that it is fragile, they may look dainty, but they are pretty robust plants overall.

Ragged Fronds

Most ferns have ragged or serrated fronds.

If you're looking for something that is wild and rough in appearance, then the following ragged ferns are a good bet;

  • Golden-scaled male fern

  • Hard shield fern

  • Lemon-scented mountain fern

  • Broad buckler fern

  • Bracken

How to Plant Ferns

Planting ferns is a relatively straightforward affair. You will need to consider location before you think about planting though. Most ferns are easy to grow when planted in the most suitable areas in gardens. You should always check your fern label before planting as there can be exceptions to the general guidance below.

Most ferns however do like the following;

  • Sheltered spots (dappled shade or partial shade).

  • Fertile soil and well-drained soil.

  • Do extremely well when planted in shelter of trees.

If you are looking for woodland plants or creating a woodland garden, then ferns are perfect.

In the same way, if you're looking to add a bit more of a wild aesthetic to your garden then ferns do the trick!

Fern Spores and Growing Ferns

As described above, a fern is quite easy to grow when you plant it in the right area of your garden.

You will notice that a fern frond will develop braille-like notches which are actually the spores.

You don't need to actively do anything with the spore on a frond as they will naturally drop and develop into new ferns if the soil is fertile.

You can increase the fertility of your soil by adding organic matter or compost to the soil around a fern that has spores on its fronds.

Young Ferns

Once the spore has taken hold you will notice growth is quite quick.

Soil moisture is important for new fern growth.

Fern fronds will produce their spores on the whole during the summer, but it isn't uncommon for them to produce a little earlier (spring/early spring).

New Fronds

As a fern grows it will grow new fern fronds and in turn these will also grow spores.

If your ground is very fertile you should be wary that fern growth can spread rapidly, and you might find yourself fighting a bit of a battle to contain your fern plants.

You can do a number of things to contain a fern breakout. The easiest thing is to simply uproot any new shoots you don't want or cut back on foliage that is becoming overcrowded.

Full Sun vs Partial Shade vs Shade

There are generally three rules with sun and fern plants.

Exotic fern plants can do well in full sun, but most fern plants don't like a full sun environment.

Fern plants like the maidenhair fern and shuttlecock fern prefer partial shade or shaded areas for optimum growth.

A fern plant has foliage that makes the most of whatever sunlight it can get and isn't greedy when it comes to light.

Soil Conditions for Ferns

In your search for an ideal planting position for your fern you should seek out a well-drained area that doesn't get too waterlogged.

Some fern plants can grow in boggy soil which is great if you have a pond that has fertile soil surrounding it.

You should avoid planting a fern in dry or chalky soil as they do tend to struggle if there aren't nutrients or moisture in the ground.

If you find your soil is drying out during the summer months, then you should regularly water to keep the ground moist.

Ferns That Need Very Little Care - Low Maintenance Ferns

If you have been in search of a plant that doesn't require too much care, then you can't really go wrong with a fern.

They look fantastic and grow well in almost all UK gardens.

The only thing you should be careful of is spreading, some fern plants are easy spreaders and can quickly overwhelm other plants growing nearby.

Gardener's Dream Ferns

We have an extensive selection of ferns in our shop!

Make sure you check out these amazing species in your fern search;

  • Cinnamon fern

  • Maidenhair fern

  • Shuttlecock fern

All our ferns are hand selected by our gardening experts, so you get the best ferns delivered to your door, continue your fern search today.

Check out some of our other popular products such as our climbing treesapple trees, ornamental trees, evergreen trees and hedging plants

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