Favorite Ferns

aachenelf z5 MplsJune 7, 2013

It seems like Japanese Painted Fern is mentioned a lot as a favorite, but IâÂÂm curious what other ferns people really like. I donâÂÂt grow many and the ones I do grow are mainly grown in at least half day sun, because shade is something I just donâÂÂt have a lot of. So my top 3:
Onoclea sensibilis
A bit rampant, but easily removed with a shovel and hatchet if it spreads too much. The only downside is it tends to crisp up by midsummer and look kind of awful. Still like it though.

Osmunda regalis
This one has been an extremely slow grower for me, but this year it actually looks like it might do something interesting. WeâÂÂll see.

Adiantum pedatum
Who doesnâÂÂt love this one? Despite its delicate appearance, it really holds up well to heat and drought.


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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

* Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn fern): Once established, it can tolerate drier soils than other ferns (not dry-dry, but still...). Love the form of it and the texture is kind of "leathery", comes up bronze in spring and doesn't disappear with the cold, not until a snow dump does it in. Simply outstanding.

* Ostrich fern

* Athyrium filix-femina "Lady in Red"

BTW: I really only like Jap. painted fern when they are silvery-blue. I have a clump of one that is green with a soft silver cast and eh - wouldn't miss it if it weren't there anymore, it's just kind of there not really doing anything impressive. Lesson learned -- buy only the ones that are already showing themselves to be silvery-blue when fully leafed (fronded?) out.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2013 at 9:50PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

Athyrium filix-femina "Lady in Red" - I've read about this one, but I've never seen it in person. Maybe I need to expand my fern collection a bit.

I guess I really like Japanese Painted fern, but it's one of those plants that doesn't make that big of an impact in my garden. It's easy to overlook it, but when you do notice it it really is a beautiful fern. I guess I tend to think of it as a "dot accent" plant. Maybe I need a bigger clump?


    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 3:30PM
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Campanula UK Z8

mmm, quite a few of my favourites won't grow in my alkaline soil (woodwardia, osmunda, onoclea) but the common and reliable hart's tongue fern(asplenium scolopendrium) always does well for me as well as does the evergreen holly fern(cyrtonium falcatum. With little shade and no moisture, ferns have not featured hugely in my gardens (but boy is that going to change) but a star performer is always a plain lady fern (athyrium filix-femina) - tolerates sun better than most as always offers a cool and fresh place to rest my eyes.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 3:49PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Japanese Fern is my favorite. Very easy to grow and does take some sun. Each one has a little different pattern and coloring. 'Ghost' Fern is my second favorite.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 4:30PM
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Japanese painted fern, but my second is Bradford Beauty.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 5:03PM
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Japanese painted fern gets another vote from me altho' I can't say I'm impressed with its size. I bought it originally as a contrast plant in my full-shade hosta bed but it simply cannot compete with the size of the hostas growing around it and just tends to get lost/disappear when compared to them. Still, I find nothing aside from size to criticize--I do enjoy the contrasting color. I've found enough other shade lovers to fill the bed & act as contrasts to the hostas, if not in color, at least in form.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 7:56PM
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Campanula UK Z8

yeah, the athyrium nipponicum painted ferns just vanish in the general cacophany of my garden - I am thinking it needs to be seen in a much more formal and controlled (Japanese?) setting than I can manage. Plain old athyrium filix-femina though - what a lovely large clumper. Excuse the unfinished (unrendered) walls).

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 5:55AM
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Ispahan Zone6a Chicago

I too find that the good old Japanese painted fern tends to disappear visually in my over planted garden. I love the colors, but it is too dainty to have much of an impact for me.

That said, the Athyrium hybrid called 'Ghost' is wonderful in every way, and it is half Japanese painted fern by blood. It is much taller and much more robust. The fronds are not so dramatically silvered but are "ghostly" enough to truly light up my shade bed. It is slowly clumping and just gets better and better each season. I think many people tend to overlook it because it looks plain in comparison to the Japanese painted fern when grown for sale in nursery pots.

I also love other variants of Athyrium, including A. felix-femina and the selection 'Lady in Red'.

I love all variants of Adiantum but I have not yet been brave enough to add one to my garden.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 7:26AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I guess you do have to plan a place for a Japanese Fern to shine if your garden is packed. Mine is still filling in so I haven't had that problem. Here is a Japanese Fern with it's own space.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 8:52AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

And I don't have a really good photo of the 'Ghost' fern, but here is one that at least gives you an idea of what it looks like....

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 8:54AM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

prairiemoon - That Japanese/Heuchera combo is perfect. What is the other blooming plant with the similar leaf color? I like it.

Ghost looks promising.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 10:13AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Kevin, that is a Ninebark 'Summer Wine' shrub on the corner of the house, so the shrub gets western exposure but the fern/heuchera is on the north side of the house.

The 'Ghost' is vigorous and dense and taller than the Japanese Ferns and it clumps.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 10:31AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Oh, btw Kevin, your Maidenhair Fern is gorgeous! I planted one 3 years ago and it's still a couple of stems. I don't have ideal conditions for them, so I love seeing yours looking the way it's supposed to.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 10:37AM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

I am new to ferns and am enjoying this thread. My Japanese painted fern just got smaller and smaller until it finally did not emerge this spring. I like the looks of 'Ghost' though so I'll keep an eye out for it.

I use lady ferns for cut flower bouquets. I find the chartreuse color is a real winner with many colors of flowers. Here is an example from last week:

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 11:30AM
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marquest(z5 PA)

Oh gee I love them all I do not have a favorite.

Ostrish Fern is the tallest fern I can grow so I used that to compliment the garden decor.

I love J-painted fern because it compliments the hostas and the heucheras.

Brilliant for its color and winter evergreen

Another tall fern is Cinnamon fern

I could go on and on about my love of ferns.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 10:56PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Karin, that bouquet is gorgeous. Simple, but nice textures and colors. Very much to my taste. I just ordered my first Japanese Fern. I've got a few that were given to me, so I don't know their names, but I hope to expand my fern collection significantly over the next few years.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 11:19PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Some lovely combinations in the pictures above. Shows what you can do without blobs of bright flowery colour. I don't have anything unusual but I love ferns for their robustness and their immunity to slugs and snails. I find that the Japanese Painted Fern never gets very big but the plain old native Dryopteris filix-mas (Male Fern), Athyrium filix-femina (Lady Fern) and Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart's-tongue Fern) do sterling work. I have a couple of Athyrium filix-femina curiosities: (one sold to me as Irish Tatting Fern but I'm not convinced) and another I cannot id. Another stalwart is Polystichum setiferum (Soft Shield fern) which produces babies along the fronds a la Kalanchoe. This is not a great picture but shows various ferns. The supposed Irish Tatting is front right. Anyone know what it really is?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 5:01AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

A fortuitous little corner. A half dead piece of fern shoved in a crack in the paving led to this. Fatshedera lizei (rescued from a bin at work), fern, Parthenocissus henryana. Sorry I didn't sweep before snapping.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 5:06AM
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Campanula UK Z8

another pic of my athyrium

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 5:44AM
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marquest, those are wonderful pictures and as you have written they for sure complement your garden decor.

I think the reason that ferns may be underused or under appreciated it that too often they are planted at the very back of a garden. I am guilty of this practice. Here are some just fine Japanese Painted ferns of some type that soon will be 'unseeable' from the front of the garden as other plants in front of them will be too large and so block one's view.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 12:55AM
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