How to Grow Sensitive Ferns in Your Garden

A complete guide to planting and growing the Sensitive fern. Learn everything about this resilient species dating back to prehistoric times!

Are Ferns Really Prehistoric?

Ferns are some of the oldest plants still alive today. They are so old that they predate the dinosaurs! These ferns are for cold zones.

While most plants and animals evolve over time or eventually die out, ferns are a reliable constant. Most of the ferns we have today are similar or even the same as the ones growing when dinosaurs walked the earth. Ferns have managed to survive for so long due to their adaptability and reproduction habits. Because they reproduce by spores and rhizomes, ferns have been able to continue growing for millennia.

What Is the Sensitive Fern's Background

The Sensitive fern is a deciduous perennial plant that is native to eastern North America. While it tends to spread, it is not invasive in its native habitat.

The scientific name for the Sensitive fern is Onoclea sensibilis. It gets the name 'sensitive' from how sensitive it is to frost and drought. While its fronds are sensitive to frost, it is still a perennial, meaning that it returns yearly. The Sensitive fern can be easily identified by its triangular fronds and large leaflets. It is also referred to as a "bead" fern because its sori resemble beads.

Where Does the Sensitive Fern Grow?

The Sensitive fern has been found naturally along streams, riverbanks, marshes, open fields, and near wetlands. It grows best in moist, well-draining soils and prefers slightly acidic soil.

The Sensitive fern will thrive under the right conditions. It requires dapple shade and consistently moist soil. It will suffer if it is exposed to the sun for too long or if the soil dries out.

Because the Sensitive fern is deciduous, it loses its vegetation in the winter when the frost comes. Then in the late summer or fall, it grows its fiddleheads that turn into fronds.

The Sensitive fern can reproduce in two ways: by spores or rhizomes.

Unless it is sterile, a Sensitive fern will have tiny bead-like pouches on its leaves called sori. The sori release spores into the air and once they land on a suitable surface, they germinate and grow into gametophytes.

The ferns also reproduce by rhizome. A rhizome is a modified stem that grows horizontally underground, and from this stem, young fiddleheads can grow. A single rhizome stem can grow several feet long.

USDA Growing Zones for Sensitive Ferns

Knowing your grow zone will help when selecting a fern to purchase. Fortunately, ferns grow in almost every USDA zone. However, if you live in a warmer climate, we recommend that you plant your ferns in ample shade and ensure the ferns are watered regularly.

Sensitive ferns have a wide growing range. Their USDA grow zones are from zone 3 to 9. This means that they will grow in nearly any zone, provided they have moist soil and enough shade.

Some Ferns Can Be Toxic

Humans and pets should not eat ferns or fern parts. Some ferns have carcinogenic compounds and can lead to some health issues if consumed. Additionally, ferns should not be planted near pastures or farmland. The good news is, that as a result of their inedibility, all ferns are completely deer and rabbit-resistant.

How To Grow a Sensitive Fern

Despite their delicate-sounding name, Sensitive ferns are sturdy plants. They are low maintenance once planted and are easy to take care of.

Here is a short, step-by-step guide on how to successfully grow the Sensitive fern:

  1. Identify the right planting location for your Sensitive fern. These ferns grow best in shaded gardens and woodland gardens where they can spread
  2. Check your soil and make sure it's free-draining.
  3. Buy your Sensitive ferns.
  4. Avoid planting in summer. If you do, then plant them when it cools out, like in the early evening.
  5. Plant the Sensitive ferns avoiding covering the crown with soil.
  6. Water thoroughly after planting and make sure the soil is well draining.

If you are having difficulty growing your Sensitive ferns, try testing your soil. Inexpensive soil tests are available at most garden centers.

If your Sensitive fern wilts, it may need to be relocated to a shadier area in your garden. It may also need to be watered more often.

Where Can You Buy Sensitive Ferns

Tennessee Nursery has a wide range of ferns available to buy online, including the Sensitive fern. We have affordable prices for all our plants and trees so you can create a luxurious garden at a fair price!

Here are several other ferns we offer through our online store:

Sensitive Fern

The Sensitive fern grows in dapple shade and moist soil. It has large, jagged leaflets that originate from its large fronds. The sensitive fern can add a lush look to any shaded outdoor space.

Zones: 3 to 9Sun exposure: Part shade to full shadeMature height: up to 4 feetWater: Average to moistBest for woodlands and containers

Cinnamon Fern

The Cinnamon fern has large triangular fronds that wave in the breeze. It can grow fairly tall for a terrestrial fern and looks great in woodland gardens. Plus it's low maintenance and easy to keep healthy.

Zones: 3 to 9Sun exposure: Part sun to part shadeMature height: from 3 to 5 feetWater: AverageBest for woodlands and containers

Royal Fern

The Royal fern has an upright growth habit and grows in clumps. Its unique appearance makes it an ideal choice for any woodland or shaded garden. Its fronds bear oblong deciduous leaves.

Zones: 3 to 9Sun exposure: Full shadeMature height: up to 3 feetWater: AverageBest for woodlands and containers

Ostrich Fern

The Ostrich fern is one of the most exotic-looking ferns available. Its long tapered fronds have an upright growth habit that brings a sense of serenity to an outdoor space. Its distinct look makes it one of our more popular products.

Zones: 3 to 7Sun exposure: Full shadeMature height: up to 4 feetWater: AverageBest for woodlands and containers

Bracken Fern

The Bracken fern is an exceptional woodland ground cover due to its spreading habit. It is one of the easiest ferns to grow and requires little maintenance if any. It can tolerate some sun and thrives in a range of soil conditions.

Zones: 3 to 9Sun exposure: Full sun to part shadeMature height: average of 3 feet but can grow up to 7 feetWater: Average to dryBest for woodlands and containers

Fern Variety Pack (10 Ferns)

The variety pack is an ideal choice for the gardener who wants a little bit of everything. Whether you need to cover a large space or can't choose just one fern, this option is for you. You will receive ferns that vary in size, texture, and leaf shape. Why choose just one fern when you can have 10?

Shop Our Fern Selection

Visit our online shop for a wide selection of plants and trees, or come say hi at our store location in Tennessee! We offer fast shipping nationwide so you can start transforming your garden today!

If you have any questions about ferns or if you have any other plant needs, don't hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

Sensitive Fern - TN Nursery

Sensitive Fern

The Sensitive Fern is a hardy, deciduous plant with finely dissected fronds that curl up when touched or exposed to frost. This makes it a unique and exciting addition to damp woodland gardens. This fern is a beloved plant that gets its name due to its sensitive nature, preferring specific environments that are mostly warm and humid. But despite its name, it's one that you should pay attention to if you live in a region that it can grow in. Let's examine why this perennial plant is a must-have for your landscape.  Sensitive Fern Is Stunning in Greater Numbers This plant looks good, but it produces a lush, green, thick spectacle that quickly adds more to any space when you plant multiple perennials together. The lobed leaves blend and reach up and out at a maximum height of about two feet. If you want to add some volume and life to spaces that need it most, consider adding several plants to your landscape. They may even spread naturally with time. Sensitive Fern Acts As a Home for Wildlife These plants grow in areas where wildlife flourishes, meaning they play an essential role in the ecosystem. Speaking of its more practical uses, small animals like frogs and salamanders will use the leaves of this plant to take cover and escape from the heat. If you're looking for plants that are friends with and attractors of wildlife, this one will be an excellent fit for your space. Sensitive Fern also serves as a source for animals and insects, so you won't have to worry about the wildlife population in your area decimating your plants before you can enjoy them. It is both deer—and rabbit-resistant, with larger animals only taking a few leaves or avoiding them entirely. This ensures that your plants still contribute positively to the environment but aren't at risk of being wiped out by animals. Sensitive Fern Is A Stunning Border Plant Groundcover like Sensitive Fern is the perfect solution where more common plants cannot grow. Adding height and color to more moist and humid areas of your property, these perennials take root and help your property look less bare, supporting the areas in your yard that need it most.

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