Enhance Shady Gardens with Evergreen Ferns

Enhance shady gardens with evergreen ferns

Transform shady gardens into lush evergreen havens from the abundance of fern varieties available. Ferns thrive for years and give a lush, green aspect to shady gardens.

Ferns have been around since time immemorial so they have the staying power to enhance any shady garden. Any unused or difficult shady spot in the garden, perhaps an area overshadowed by trees or tall shrubs can easily be transformed into a lush evergreen haven.

Ferns can be graceful delicate plants, such as Maidenhair Fern, they can be bold like Bird’s Nest fern and they can even find a suitable place hanging on a wall – the Staghorn Fern is best suited for this.

There are no flowering ferns so they reproduce by having spores underneath the fronds. When conditions are right these spores fall away and begin the cycle of forming a new plant.

Related: Dwarf evergreen shrubs

Enhance Shady Gardens with Evergreen Ferns

Where to Grow Ferns

Over the millennia ferns have found a way to survive and adapt and they can be found anywhere around the globe once favorable growing conditions can be met.

They will grow in rock crevices, in swamps and ditches, in country estates and small enclosed gardens but they will not grow well in full sunshine. Their favorite conditions are easily met and maintained with the minimum of fuss but a few pointers to remember are:

  • Ferns like moist, humid conditions.
  • No direct sunlight.
  • Shade is a must. Natural shade from overhanging trees is ideal but any shade will be beneficial. Remember the natural habitat for ferns is a woodland floor.
  • Ferns love to creep along underneath other plants so provide good humus rich soil.
  • In a controlled site misting to create a higher humidity will be appreciated.
  • Wind and freezing temperatures need to be avoided.
  • Slightly acidic soil is best.

Ferns will adapt to their surrounding very quickly and if something is amiss the plant will suffer. This will become apparent very quickly and it is best to lift that particular plant and select another type of fern.

Choosing a Suitable Fern

Some of the most reliable ferns for the average garden are:

#1. Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum raddianum

Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum raddianum | Enhance Shady Gardens with Evergreen Ferns - FarmFoodFamily.comIt 

is probably the best loved of all ferns with its evergreen delicate foliage. Its light green foliage immediately brightens a dark area. It does well in US zones 9+ and it likes semi shade with evenly moist conditions. It grows about 2ft.tall and wide.

#2. Bird’s Nest Fern, Asplenium nidus

Bird’s Nest Fern, Asplenium nidus | Enhance Shady Gardens with Evergreen Ferns - FarmFoodFamily.com

It does not remotely look like what a fern is expected to be. This one has light green, broad leaves which grow in a tight cluster like a nest. This fern likes high humidity so misting is needed for good sustained growth. Its broad leaves give a tropical feel to a garden and it is easy to grow.

#3. Hartstongue Fern, Asplenium scolopendrium

Hartstongue Fern, Asplenium scolopendrium | Enhance Shady Gardens with Evergreen Ferns - FarmFoodFamily.com

It has narrower fronds than the Bird’s Nest fern but this one is at home in lime-rich soil.

#4. Boston Fern, Nephrolepis exaltata

Boston Fern, Nephrolepis exaltata | Enhance Shady Gardens with Evergreen Ferns - FarmFoodFamily.com

It is an easy to grow fern and looks particularly good in hanging baskets or placed on a raised platform, a tree trunk or such.

Keep the growing conditions moist and humid and its fronds will grow up to 3ft long and hang gracefully over its pot or basket. It likes more light than other ferns so place it in semi-shade.

#5. Staghorn Fern, Platycerium holtummii

Staghorn Fern, Platycerium holtummii | Enhance Shady Gardens with Evergreen Ferns - FarmFoodFamily.com

It is not readily recognized as a fern but a fern it is and it can live for decades. It grows to about 2ft. high and considerably wider. It can be attached to walls, pillars or tree trunks – in fact placing this fern in an elevated position gives that shady humid spot a jungle feel.

Ferns as Houseplants

Ferns make very successful house plants and live for years with the minimum of fuss and being low maintenance plants they are invaluable. For a medium bright spot use Lemon Button fern, it has a faint lemony scent during the growing season. For a darker area indoors choose the Maidenhair fern.

Because of the abundance of fern varieties available and their ability to thrive in difficult sun starved areas, Ferns are ideal plants to transform shaded gardens into lush evergreen havens. Ferns are also good companions for both dracaena and rubber plants.


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I am founder of FarmFoodFamily blog, where you can read about all living things. I have been a writer all my life, a collector of various interesting and old things, a traveler and an artist. Hobby and career paths have gone in many directions, from making miniature furniture to watercolor painting, fundraising for a symphony orchestra to selling antiques, from interior decorating to copyediting, from being a wife and mother to being a caregiver for family members with serious illnesses. Throughout the years I have learned and taught about all of these things and have been eager to share the information with a wider readership.


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