Indispensable for shady areas, these delicate plants make the hottest summer day seem cooler. Great variety exists in form and size, giving the creative gardener many planting options. Most Ferns are slow growing and can take several years to reach their mature size, which varies greatly between varieties.
Light/Watering: All Ferns thrive in light to heavy shade. A few, such as Lady Ferns (Athyrium filix-femina) will grow in full sun in the North, provided the planting site is damp. Water Ferns regularly if rain is not sufficient, and do not let the soil get completely dry. A 2″ thick mulch of composted leaves or pine needles will help keep roots cool and damp.
Fertilizer/Soil and pH: Ferns prefer soils high in organic matter that are well-drained but do not dry out. Most will tolerate poor soils and a pH of 4 to 7; Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum) prefers a more alkaline soil between pH 7 to 8, but will grow at a lower pH. Apply fertilizer in spring, just after new growth has begun. Ferns are very sensitive to fertilizers; use a slow-release fertilizer when new growth appears in early spring. For initial planting of bareroot plants, lay the mat formers (Adiantum, Athyrium, Dennstaedtia, and Dryopteris) with buds and old fronds facing up in a shallow hole and cover with an inch of soil. Plant bareroot crown-formers (Matteuccia, Osmunda, Phyllitis, and Polystichum) with the growing tips just barely showing through the soil surface. Ferns are notoriously slow to send up new growth after planting, but good things come to those who wait.
Pests/Diseases: None serious enough to worry about, other than the occasional slug attack. Fight back with bait or diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the base of the fronds.
Companions: Ferns are lovely with other shade-lovers such as Alchemilla, Brunnera (False Forget-me-not), Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Hosta, Mertensia (Virginia Bluebells), Phlox divaricata, Pulmonaria (Lungwort), Tiarella (Foam Flower), and Viola. They add fabulous texture to woodlands and landscape plantings. Ferns are deer-resistant, so they make an excellent choice for a woodland garden where deer are a problem.
Dividing/Transplanting: When Fern fronds appear to be smaller, or the clump has a bare center, it is time to divide. Some Ferns form crowns while others grow as mats of fibrous roots. Dig up the whole clump and take 6″-square pieces from the most vigorous growth. Replant at the original depth and water well.
End-of-Season Care: Cut fronds back after a killing frost, and apply a winter mulch of salt marsh hay or evergreen boughs to help prevent winter heaving.
Calendar of Care – Ferns
Early Spring: Divide or transplant as soon as new growth appears, and water well if it is unseasonably dry, as plants prefer an evenly moist soil. Fertilize gently with a slow-release fertilizer or use an organic mulch. Recently planted Ferns may be slow to appear, but be patient.
Mid-Spring: Water consistently if rainfall is not sufficient to keep soil moist. Apply a 2″ thick mulch of composted leaves or pine needles.
Late Spring: Watch for slug or snail damage and treat as necessary.
Summer: Continue regular watering as needed to maintain soil moisture.
Fall: Cut foliage back to soil level when it dies back after a heavy frost. When the ground freezes, mulch to protect plants from heaving out of the soil in winter.
- Athyrium filix-femina
- Athyrium Species, Victoria Lady Fern ‘Victoriae’
- Care Of Lady Ferns: Planting Lady Ferns In The Garden
- Lady Ferns in the Garden
- How to Grow a Lady Fern
- Lady Fern
- Plant of the Week
- Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina (L.) Roth)
- Plants & Flowers
- Attributes: Genus: Athyrium Species: filix-femina Family: Athyriaceae Life Cycle: Perennial Woody Recommended Propagation Strategy: Division Country Or Region Of Origin: Macaronesia, NW. Africa, Europe to Mongolia Distribution: northern North America, Europe and Asia Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): Deer, Shade, Rabbits Dimensions: Height: 1 ft. 0 in. – 3 ft. 0 in. Width: 2 ft. 0 in. – 3 ft. 0 in.
- Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Fern Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Habit/Form: Erect Growth Rate: Medium Maintenance: Low
- Cultural Conditions: Light: Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day) Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Available Space To Plant: 12 inches-3 feet Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
- Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Leaf Color: Green Leaf Type: Fronds Leaf Arrangement: Rosulate Leaf Shape: Lanceolate Leaf Margin: Lobed Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: > 6 inches Leaf Width: > 6 inches Leaf Description: Feathery, erect or ascending, broad, lance-shaped frond, slightly reduced at base; continues to produce new fronds during summer.
- Stem: Stem Color: Green Red/Burgundy Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Description: Stipe and rachis are green or red; stipe is smooth or grooved in front; a few dark brownish scales on stipe
- Landscape: Landscape Location: Woodland Resistance To Challenges: Deer Heavy Shade Rabbits
Athyrium Species, Victoria Lady Fern ‘Victoriae’
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
Partial to Full Shade
Grown for foliage
Unknown – Tell us
18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
15-18 in. (38-45 cm)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 °C (-30 °F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 °C (-25 °F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)
Where to Grow:
Unknown – Tell us
Unknown – Tell us
Unknown – Tell us
Unknown – Tell us
Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
Unknown – Tell us
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)
Unknown – Tell us
This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:
Southold, New York
Williamsburg, Ohio(2 reports)
Care Of Lady Ferns: Planting Lady Ferns In The Garden
For finely textured foliage in the shady to part sun garden or natural wooded area, consider growing lady fern plants (Athyrium filix-femina). Lady fern plants are reliable, native plants and easy to grow in a moist, partially shaded location. When you’ve learned how to grow a lady fern, you’ll want to include them in many shady areas of the landscape. Care of lady ferns is not difficult once the plant is established in the right location.
Lady Ferns in the Garden
Locating lady fern plants may require observation of the spot before planting. Lady ferns in the woodland garden do best in a lightly shaded spot or an area that gets dappled sunlight year round.
Plant them in a loamy soil that is slightly on the acidic side, amended with shredded oak leaves or other organic
material that is well composted. Soil should be well-draining so that roots do not rot. Poultry grit may also be worked in to improve drainage. Planting lady ferns in the right place allows them to colonize and provide an attractive ground cover.
Choose the proper cultivar for your area too. Athyrium filix-femina angustum (Northern lady fern) performs best in the upper United States, while Southern lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina asplenioides) takes the extreme summer heat of the south. Both have upright arching fronds that may reach 24 to 48 inches. More than 300 cultivars of lady fern plants are available commercially as well.
How to Grow a Lady Fern
Ferns may be propagated from spores, called sori and indusia, that grow on the back of the leaves. Starting ferns from spores can be a time consuming process, so start your lady fern plants from division of the rhizomes or by purchasing small plants.
Divide lady ferns in the garden in spring. Then plant your lady ferns in the shady location where the soil has been amended, if necessary.
Water regularly when planting lady ferns in a new spot. Once established, however, the plants are somewhat drought resistant.
Fertilize in spring when new growth appears as part of lady fern care. Ferns are easily injured by too much fertilizer. A pelleted, time-release type works best, applied once in spring.
Planting lady ferns is a great choice for the woodlands, the pond or any moist shaded area. Get them started in the garden this year.
Common Names: Northern Lady Fern
Parts Used: the leaves are used for decoration
You may have Lady fern in your own house. Many people use it to decorate their homes. You may see it hanging or potted. People in Victorian times were crazy about Lady fern. However, Lady fern is not only found in the house. It also grows in the wild, especially in deciduous forests and the taiga of North America and Eurasia.
Lady Fern is a deciduous, perennial fern about 24 to 36 inches tall. Its light green, lacy leaves are about 24 to 30″ long and 6 to 9″ wide and tapered at both ends. The fronds are cut twice and
grow from a central base. The J-shaped spore casings, or sori, grow on the underside of the leaf.
In the wild, Lady ferns can be found growing in meadows, open thickets, moist woods, and along stream beds. They also grow in the cracks of rocks. In the taiga it usually grows in the understory of white spruce, black spruce, Douglas-fir and western hemlock. Lady ferns prefer shaded areas.
Many Lady ferns will grow in a group in the shape of a circle. As they grow farther and farther outwards, the centers die away, leaving a ring of Lady Ferns. Lady ferns reproduce by thick, scaly rhizomes and spores. They grow in most semi-shaded areas.
Grizzly bears like to eat Lady ferns as a major food source. Elk will also eat it also. Native Americans had many uses for Lady ferns. They used lady ferns for drying berries on, and covering food. The young shoots, or fiddleheads, were cooked, baked or eaten raw. Tea was made from the leaves to help urination and to stop breast pain caused by childbirth. The tea was also used to ease labour pains. Roots were dried and ground into a dust to help heal wounds. Oil from the roots of Lady ferns has been used since the 1st century AD to get rid of worms. An overdose could cause weakness, coma, and often blindness.
Lady ferns are a dominant plant in the understory of the taiga, and will cover the forest floor. It is not an endangered plant.
“Lady Fern”, http://members.eb.com, (6/18/00)
“Lady Fern”, http://www.rook.org/earl/bwca/nature/ferns/athyriumfil.html
“Athyrium filix-famina”, http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/fern/athfil/
Athyrium filix-famina &endash; Lady Fern”, http://www.borealforest.org/ferns/fern1.htm
Synonyms / Also Sold As: Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’, Athyrium angustum f. rubellum ‘Lady in Red’
This elegant red stemmed lady fern is native to the Eastern United States. It was originally described as a sub-strain of the species and given the name vairiety angustum. However, in recent years I have seen this in the trade under the name ‘Lady in Red.’ New fronds are several times divided and have brightly colored stipes, giving them an appearance like green lace on red knitting needles! The overall habit is very upright upon emergence, with fronds splaying out slightly horizontally as they mature and become heavier. The lovely thing about this particular lady fern is that it is larger and more vigorous than many of the delicate European lady ferns, but not as huge or aggressive as the Western Lady Fern (A. filix-femina var. cyclosorum). Like other lady ferns, they prefer deep shade and even moisture and do best with some protection from high winds and animal traffic as their fronds are brittle and somewhat easily broken.
Frond Condition: Deciduous
Origin: Eastern United States
Mature Height: 2-3′
Cultural Requirements: Part Shade, Shade, Evenly Moist, Slightly Moist
USDA Zones: 5, 6, 7, 8
Plant of the Week
Range map of Lady Fern. States are colored green where the species may be found.
Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina (L.) Roth)
By Rhonda Stewart
Lady Fern is a native perennial upright fern that can reach 2-5 feet in height. The leaves are a bright green, with a fine-textured lacy appearance, and single fronds can measure up to 1’ wide and 3’ in length. The frond stalks are green to purple or red in color. Lady Fern is native to the continental US and Alaska.
This graceful fern is a lovely addition to any moist shade gardens. The lacy light green foliage provides a striking contrast to other wide, dark-leaved shade-tolerant plants. Lady Fern is best introduced into a garden using a containerized plant or by propagating the rhizome. The Lady Fern is easy to grow and maintain as it colonizes through rhizomes but growth is slow. It often forms clumps or groups of upright fern leaves, maintaining a compact appearance, although if left unchecked over a long period, it will spread from 3-7 feet in diameter. This is a deciduous fern. It will drop its leaves with the first frost. Lady Fern is relatively tolerant of sun and dry soil, compared to other ferns. The best growth will occur in full to partial shade and a rich, moist soil. This hardy fern also makes a nice ground cover plant on the north or east side of buildings.
In the wild, Lady Fern grows in moist woods, moist meadows, and swamps and along streams, from lowlands to mid-elevations. Because of its easy maintenance, there are several cultivated varieties, in various shades. This deciduous fern is a very low maintenance plant that adds a lot of esthetic value to the landscape.
For More Information
PLANTS Profile – Athyrium filix-femina, Lady Fern
Plants & Flowers
Common name: Silver Lady, Silver Lady Fern, Dwarf Tree Fern
Synonymous: Lomaria gibbum
Distribution and habitat: Blechnum gibbum is a species of the genus Blechnum along with another 200 species, belonging to the Blechnaceae family. It is a small tree fern, 90-120cm (36-48 inch) high, from tropical and subtropical climates. Native to Fiji, New Caledonia and the Pacific Islands, Blechnum gibbum is growing as an under story plant in forested areas where thrive in filtered light and high humidity in moist fertile soils.
Description: Blechnum gibbum is a neat, symmetrical rosette of fronds up to 90cm (36 inch) long and 30cm (12 inch) wide, which eventually crowns a scaly, black trunk up to 90cm (36 inch) tall. The many leaflets of each frond are shiny green and slightly drooping. There are several forms distinguished by having either narrower, wider or more pointed leaflets.
Unlike other tree ferns this dwarf variety is reasonably fast growing and the fronds will spread to over 1m (3 feet) in good conditions.
Blechnum gibbum have both sterile and spore bearing fronds.
Houseplant care: Blechnum gibbum is widely circulated as a houseplant.
Light: Bright light, but without any direct strong direct sunlight is most suitable for Blechnum gibbum ferns.
Temperature: These Blechnum gibbum ferns grow vigorously in warm – not hot- rooms. Tough tolerant of dry air, the plants should be given as much humidity as possible during the active growth period from mid-spring to late fall. Stand pots on trays of moist pebbles throughout the warmer months. With the resultant adequate humidity, they will tolerate temperatures slightly above 24°C (73°F). Lower temperatures are better in winter, though. Around 15°C (59°F) is ideal, but these ferns can even stand 10°C (50°F) if kept fairly dry.
Watering: Water actively growing ferns plentifully, as often as necessary to keep the mixture thoroughly moist, but never allow the pot to stand in water. If the temperature falls below 12°C (54°F) water moderately, allowing the top 1cm of the mixture to dry out between waterings.
This fern prefers rainwater because it has an intolerance of lime.
Feeding: One or two applications of half-strength liquid fertiliser during the active growth period will suffice.
Potting and repotting: Use equal parts of soil based potting mixture and leaf mould. Move plants into pots one size larger only when roots begin to appear on the surface of the potting mixture – about once every two years.
Maximum pot size recommended for these small tree ferns is around 40cm (16 inch). After that top dress this fern with fresh potting mixture.
Gardening: Blechnum gibbum ferns grow in a wide range of climates from temperate to sub-tropical locations, however this fern needs reasonable ventilation. It is not frost tolerate, although it has been reported to survive temperatures down to -4°C (25°F) and can re-grow if frozen. All fronds eventually blackened but new growth will emerge early in spring.
Its popularity can be attributed to its fast growth, perfect symmetry, attractive broad fronds and its ability to beautify the difficult dark parts of the garden. It is generally quite easy to grow.
Remove old, browning fronds by trimming off at their base. In time, this reveals a narrow trunk, reminiscent of this feature of larger tree ferns.
Position: Plant Blechnum gibbum fern in shady area of the garden where nothing seems to grow very well. This fern is probably at its best when multi-planted adding a cooling, yet tropical, feel to the garden. It will thrive placed by a stream edge which will provide it with added air humidity.
Blechnum gibbum can also be used to add an exotic effect in a patio tub or as a house plant in a bright location out of direct sun.
Soil: Blechnum gibbum will perform best in moist, free-draining, compost-enriched and slightly acidic soil. It has a reputation for being sensitive to transplanting.
Mulching is recommended to keep the roots cool and moist.
Irrigation: Keep the soil moist throughout the year for Blechnum gibbum. This may mean a weekly watering in winter and increase the frequency in warmer months. It is recommended to use drippers, rather than overhead watering, so the foliage avoids staying wet for long periods.
Containerised plants should generally be watered more frequently than in-ground plants. Water when the top layer of potting mix appears dry. Try not to over-water Blechnum gibbum fern as this may cause root rot.
Fertiliser: Feed Blechnum gibbum ferns with a controlled release fertiliser in early spring. Alternatively, can be either replaced or supplemented this application by liquid feedings on a more regular basis during the warmer months.
Propagation: Commercially, Blechnum gibbum are grown from spores which can take between one and three months to germinate. Occasionally, these ferns produce basal offsets which can be detached from the parents, potted up and treated as mature ferns.
Problems: If overwatered fronds will quickly turn brown and the Blechnum gibbum fern is unlikely to recover without immediate action.
Bronze fronds are not a feature. This can be caused by a lack of ventilation and over watering.
Blechnum gibbum is not overly prone to pest or disease attack however it is possible to see the effects of aphids, caterpillars, slugs, scale or mealybugs.
Treatment: Use appropriate insecticides and follow the instruction on the label.
Note: The root systems of Blechnum gibbum are often used to produce a substrate for growing orchids.
Uses and display: Plant enough of Blechnum gibbum close together and they will make an interesting under tree groundcover. It can be grown in pots also and makes a wonderful focal plant. This fern looks great when used in large pots for display around patio or planted in shaded moist areas in the garden, included in a tropical planting or shown off to great advantage in a courtyard in a decorative pot. It has become popular choices for gardens to add a large, finely textured green presence in their landscape.
Foliage – green
Shape – rosette
Height – 90-120cm (36-48 inch)
Wide – 60-90cm (24-36 inch)
Watering in rest period – moderately
Watering in active growth period – plentifully
Light – bight filtered
Temperature in rest period – min 10°C max 16°C (50-61°F)
Temperature in active growth period – min 18°C max 27°C (64-81°F)
Humidity – high
Hardiness zone: 9b-11
Ferns, Foliage Plants, Garden Plants, Indoor Plants Blechnum gibbum, Dwarf Tree Fern, Lomaria gibba, Lomaria gibbum, Silver Lady, Silver Lady Fern