Fern Favourites

Ferns are a particularly attractive group of plants, instantly recognisable by the distinctive characteristics of their leaves. They are low maintenance, offer a long season of interest, and are visually appealing, so what’s not to love? Here are a selection of some of our favourites.

Asplenium scolopendrium. Hart’s tongue fern.

Asplenium is an evergreen fern with rich green, tongue shaped fronds. They need a humus-rich and moist but well drained soil, and do best in full shade. For alternatives to a woodland setting they can add interest to a contemporary courtyard or city garden scheme or be used as ground cover.

Athyrium filix-femina. Lady fern.

The name ‘lady fern’ derives from the gracefulness of its fronds, compared with the much more robust fronds of the ‘male fern’ Dryopteris filix-mas. Athyrium filix-femina is a vigorous deciduous fern that forms a clump of fresh green, lance-shaped fronds. They are easy to grow in a cool, moist, shaded site, and are also useful as a marginal plant for bogs and ponds.

Blechnum spicant. Hard fern.

Blechnum are attractive evergreen ferns with dark green pinnate fronds. The fronds stand erect and look a little like fish bones. They prefer an acid, humus rich soil and full or part shade. They look great in a woodland setting or can be useful as underplanting of shrubs.

Dryopteris affinis. Scaly male fern.

Dryopteris can be deciduous, semi-evergreen or evergreen ferns. D. affinis is semi-evergreen and is bright yellow green when young, developing to a rich green as it matures. It prefers shade but will also tolerate full sun if kept moist, so it lends itself well to be used in a mixed border or in a low maintenance garden scheme.

Dryopteris dilatata. Broad buckler fern.

D. dilatata is a robust semi-evergreen fern with dark green strongly toothed fronds. It is easy to grow in most cool, moist and lightly shaded sites and would be at home in an informal garden scheme or even a city garden design.

Dryopteris erythrosora. Copper shield fern.

D. erythrosora is a semi-evergreen fern that often has a coppery pink tinge when young and turns an attractive colour in autumn. It likes full or part shade in a moist but well drained soil.

Dryopteris filix-mas. Male fern.

D. filix-mas is a robust deciduous fern that forms a shuttlecock like tuft of lance shaped fronds. It’s a larger specimen and grows to 1.2m in height. It will tolerate sun in damp locations, and is useful in a number of different garden situations.

Dryopteris wallichiana. Alpine wood fern.

D. wallichiana is arguably the most attractive fern in this family especially in spring with its new growth of gold green fronds . It is deciduous or semi-evergreen and forms tufts of erect, lance shaped fronds. It prefers a position in shade or part shade and can be used in a low maintenance or informal garden scheme.

Matteuccia struthiopteris. Shuttlecock fern.

The ostrich plume or shuttlecock fern is a large and handsome specimen which forms colonies of erect rosettes to 1.5m in height, with lance-shaped, bright green fronds. It tolerates a bit more sun than other ferns and will create a weed-suppressing carpet if allowed to flourish.


Osmunda regalis. Royal fern.

Osmunda are medium to large sized deciduous ferns with erect or arching fronds to 2.5m in height. They have beautiful autumn colour when the foliage turns an attractive red and brown.

Polystichum setiferum. Soft shield fern.

P. setiferum is a tufted evergreen fern to 1.2m in height, with rosettes of soft textured, lance-shaped, fresh green fronds. The stalks have prominent orange-brown scales which look particularly beautiful on emergence in spring.  It is easy to grow in cool, moist, fertile and shaded soils.


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