Plants for Shade Gardens – You Need Ferns!

Plants for Shade Gardens – You Need Ferns!

Got shade? You need ferns. These lovely, low-maintenance plants add cooling colors and textures to a shade garden. Ferns combine well with other common shade plants such as Hosta and Tiarella (aka foam flower) and there is a fern for every garden. Here are some of our favorites.

Lady Fern (Athyrium felix-femina) is a wonderful fern for part shade to deep shade. It is a clump grower, not a runner, so you don’t have to worry that this fern will take over the garden. Each lady fern will grow 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, however, so don’t plant it too close to your other plants. There are varieties such as Lady in Red (red stems) and Ghost (silvery foliage) that are also attractive. Lady Fern looks nice as a single, specimen plant or when planted in a group of 3 or 5.

Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) is native to the northeast but should be planted where it can spread. This is the perfect plant for filling large shady areas. Most Ostrich Ferns grow 2 to 3 feet tall although some can grow taller when planted in the good soil and constantly moist conditions.

Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) is a spreading plant that is native to China and Japan. The new growth on this fern is golden or rust colored, as if the plants had fall color. As the plant matures in the summer the growth turns green.

Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum) brings such color to the garden that every shady bed should have at least three! Most varieties have purple, silver, and blue-green in their leaves. This fern combines particularly well with blue hosta and yellow hakon grass. Japanese painted fern grows to about 18 inches high and wide.

See how much color the Japanese Painted Fern brings to the shade garden? All this planting needs is a few pink-flowering begonias!



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