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Growing Native Fern Plants in Shade Gardens

Tips and Tricks for Growing Native Fern Plants in Shade Gardens

If you want to add some lush greenery to your shade garden, native ferns are an excellent choice. These beautiful plants not only add a touch of elegance to any garden but are also low-maintenance and hardy. However, growing ferns can be tricky, especially if you're new to gardening. That's why we've compiled some essential tips and tricks for growing native fern plants in shade gardens.


Please stick with us as we cover everything from selecting suitable fern species to understanding their basic needs, such as light, water, and soil requirements. You'll also learn about some common problems ferns face and how to prevent and treat them. So whether you're a pro gardener or just starting, this guide will help you grow healthy, luscious ferns in your shade garden.

Selecting the Right Ferns for Your Garden

Ferns are an extensive group of plants, with over 10,000 species worldwide. When selecting suitable ferns for your garden, it's essential to consider their size, shape, color, and texture. Native fern species are an excellent option for shade gardens, as they are well-adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. 

Here's an overview of some popular native fern species and their characteristics:

Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

Lady ferns are a leading choice for shade gardens due to their delicate fronds, which can grow up to 4 feet tall. They prefer moist, well-draining soil and can tolerate some sunlight.

Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)

Maidenhair ferns are known for their delicate, lacy foliage and black, wiry stems. They grow best in well-drained soil and thrive in excellent, shady locations.

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

Christmas ferns are named for their evergreen fronds, which remain green throughout the winter. They can grow up to 2 feet tall and require well-drained soil.

Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)

Cinnamon ferns are distinct for their striking cinnamon-colored spore-bearing fronds, which appear in the spring. They prefer moist, acidic soil and can tolerate a little sun.

Considerations for choosing the suitable ferns for your garden:

  • Size: Consider the mature size of the fern species and ensure it fits in your garden space.
  • Soil: Ferns require well-draining soil, so consider the soil type in your garden before selecting a fern species.
  • Light: Ferns prefer shady conditions, but some species can tolerate some sunlight. Consider the amount of light your garden receives before selecting a fern species.
  • Climate: Native fern species are well-adapted to local climate conditions, so consider your region's environment when selecting ferns for your garden.


Understanding Ferns' Basic Needs

Ferns have specific requirements for light, water, and soil conditions. Here's all you should know about the basic needs of ferns for them to grow successfully.

Light requirements for ferns:

Most ferns prefer shady conditions, as direct sunlight can scorch their delicate foliage. Some fern species, such as the Cinnamon Fern, can tolerate partial sun but still require protection from the harsh midday sun. It's best to place your ferns in a location where they receive dappled light or filtered shade.

Water requirements for ferns:

Ferns require consistent moisture to thrive, as they don't have roots that can penetrate deep into the soil to access water. It's essential to ensure the soil is evenly moist but not soggy. Avoid overwatering; it can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases. To maintain consistent moisture, consider using a drip irrigation system or watering by hand with a watering can.

Soil requirements for ferns:

Ferns grow best in well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter.

They require moist soil, not waterlogged, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot. Planting and Caring for Ferns

Planting and caring for native ferns in your garden requires attention to their unique needs. Proper planting and care will help your ferns thrive and create a beautiful landscape in your shade garden.

Tips for planting native ferns in your garden:

  • Choose a place with organically rich soil that drains well and is shaded.
  • Plant the fern at the same depth as the container in a hole dug slightly larger than the fern's root ball.
  • After planting, give the soil a good watering to let the roots settle.
  • Cover the ferns with an organic mulch to help maintain moisture and control weeds.

Best practices for caring for ferns, including pruning and fertilizing:

  • Water frequently to maintain wet but not soggy soil.  
  • Fertilize using a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring.
  • Prune any dead or damaged fronds in the spring to allow healthy growth.
  • Divide giant ferns every few years to prevent overcrowding.

Watch out for common ferns and pests like scale insects and fungal diseases. If you notice any issues, it's ideal for taking prompt action to prevent the spread of the problem.

Common Problems and Solutions

Even though ferns require little upkeep, they occasionally have some common issues. Below we provide you a list of some of the most typical problems that ferns encounter, along with recommendations for how to prevent or resolve them:

Scale insects: 

These tiny pests can infest ferns and cause yellowing and wilting of the foliage. To treat, use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

Fungal diseases: 

Ferns can be susceptible to various fungal diseases, including rust and leaf spots. To prevent, avoid overhead watering and ensure good air circulation around the plants. Use a fungicide according to the package directions if a disease is present.


Too much moisture can damage the plant and cause root rot and other fungal problems. Ensure that the soil is well-draining, and avoid watering too frequently.


Ferns require consistent moisture to thrive. The fronds may wilt and turn brown if the soil is too dry. To prevent this, water regularly to keep the soil evenly moist.

Nutrient deficiencies: 

Ferns require specific nutrients to thrive, including nitrogen and iron. A fertilizer application may be needed if the foliage turns yellow or pale.

You can easily maintain ferns in your shade garden in good condition and ensure their success by being aware of the typical issues mentioned above and implementing preventative or remedial measures.

Native ferns are an excellent way to add greenery and texture to your environment by cultivating them in your shade garden. You can build a stunning, low-maintenance garden that will be enjoyable for many years by choosing the appropriate fern species and being aware of their fundamental requirements.

While ferns may encounter some common problems, these can be easily avoided or remedied with tender, loving care. Your ferns will grow and make a gorgeous addition to your yard with correct planting, consistent watering, and occasional fertilizer and pruning.

Why not give growing ferns a try? Their unique beauty and easy-care nature make them an excellent choice for experienced and novice gardeners. Whether you're trying to create a lush woodland oasis or add some greenery to a shady corner, native ferns are an excellent choice. Feel free to experiment with different fern species and planting arrangements to create a garden that is uniquely your own.


Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon Fern

The Cinnamon Fern is a large type of deciduous fern characterized by its distinctive, cinnamon-colored fertile fronds standing upright in the plant's center.It is a captivating and versatile plant with numerous landscaping benefits. This fern, native to eastern North America, has become famous for gardeners and landscapers due to its aesthetic appeal, adaptability, and environmental contributions. One of the most significant benefits of using it in landscaping is its ornamental value. Its striking appearance adds a touch of elegance to any garden or landscape. Cinnamon Fern has tall fronds, which unfurl gracefully, resembling cinnamon sticks, hence the common name. The vibrant green color of the fronds contrasts beautifully with other plants, creating a visually appealing landscape. Whether used as a focal point or as part of a foliage backdrop, it enhances the overall aesthetics of the outdoor space. Moreover, it is well-known for its ability to thrive in various conditions. It can adapt to sunny and shaded areas, making it versatile for different landscape settings. This adaptability allows gardeners to include it in various landscaping designs, regardless of a particular location's specific light and soil conditions. Beyond its aesthetic appeal and adaptability, it also offers several environmental benefits. Incorporating it into landscaping can support biodiversity and help maintain a balanced ecosystem. Furthermore, it plays a role in soil conservation. Its fibrous root system helps stabilize soil, reducing erosion and improving water infiltration. This erosion control capability makes it a valuable addition to landscapes on slopes or near bodies of water. Another significant advantage of using it is its low maintenance requirements. Once established, it is relatively self-sufficient and does not demand extensive care, making it a practical choice for gardeners looking for low-maintenance landscaping options. In conclusion,the cinnamon fern is an excellent choice for landscaping projects due to its ornamental value, adaptability, and environmental contributions. Its aesthetic appeal and ability to thrive in diverse conditions make it a versatile addition to any garden or landscape. Beyond the visual aspects, it also supports the regional ecosystem by feeding habitat and food for wildlife while aiding in soil conservation. Its low maintenance requirements further enhance its attractiveness as a landscaping plant. With all these benefits combined, it proves to be a valuable asset to any landscaping endeavor. Get your Cinnamon Fern at TN Nursery today! The Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) is a striking and distinctive fern species in various moist and shaded environments across North America. This perennial plant belongs to the family Osmundaceae and is renowned for its unique appearance and ecological significance. Standing as a testament to the wonders of nature, the fern is a botanical marvel worthy of exploration and admiration.  The most remarkable feature of the Cinnamon Fern is its fronds, which emerge in early spring and can extend up to 5 feet long. These fronds are bipinnate, dividing them into smaller leaflets, creating an intricate and delicate appearance. What sets the Cinnamon Fern apart from other ferns is the distinct coloration of its fertile fronds. These fronds bear reproductive structures and are a warm, cinnamon-brown hue, hence the fern's common name. This cinnamon coloration contrasts the vibrant green of the sterile fronds, creating a captivating visual display in the woodland understory.  The fern thrives in moist, shaded habitats, often found along the edges of streams, wet woodlands, and damp meadows. Its preference for these environments makes it a valuable indicator of high-quality, undisturbed ecosystems. This fern is not only aesthetically pleasing but also ecologically important. It supplies habitat and nutrition for different wildlife species, including insects and amphibians, and contributes to soil stability and moisture retention.  Reproduction transpires through spore production. The fertile fronds release spores into the air, which, when dispersed, develop into new fern plants. This reproductive strategy is efficient and fascinating, adding to the fern's mystique.  In conclusion, the Cinnamon Fern is a botanical treasure that graces North American landscapes with its elegance and ecological significance. Its striking cinnamon-colored fertile fronds, intricate bipinnate leaves, and preference for moist, shaded habitats make it a captivating species to observe in the wild. This fern serves as a reminder of the intricate beauty and importance of nature's diversity.

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