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Native and Ornamental Ferns

With fronds like these, who needs anenomes! This diverse group of plants is well adapted to shady areas of the garden to contrast coarser textures, or used in the restoration of native habitats. Deciduous unless otherwise noted.

 

Sold in 4" (10 cm) pots only.
We currently grow: 
Adiantum pedatum (Maidenhair Fern)
Athyrium felix-femina (Lady Fern)
Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum' (Japanese Painted Fern)
Cystopteris bulbifera (Berry Bladder Fern)
Dryopteris marginalis (Marginal Wood Fern)
Mattheucia struthiopteris (Ostrich Fern)
Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern)
Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon Fern)
Polystichum arcostichoides (Christmas Fern)
Companions for Ferns
Maidenhair Fern
Adiantum pedatum

 

Also called northern maidenhair fern, five-finger fern

Height         18-24 inches (50-60 cm)

Spread        12-24 inches (30-60 cm) 

Hardiness    Zones 3-8

Light           Part shade to full shade

Moisture      Evenly moist soils

Soil             Humus-rich, alkaline to slightly acidic

 

This distinctive native fern is common throughout eastern Canada and New England in our rich, moist deciduous woodlands. The dissected, light green fronds splay out horizontally like a hand, atop 1-2' black wiry stems that unfurl in spring. Particularly well adapted to alkaline soils, it makes a graceful statement amongst limestone boulders, on treed slopes, massed in the shade garden or near a water feature. Works well with hostas, bergenias, foamflower, and other coarsely-textured shade plants. Gradually expands from short rhizomes.

 

Recommendations for growing Maidenhair Fern

Native woodland soil with lots of well-composted organic matter is good for ferns. This fern does not like to dry out so consistently moist hollows or dishes on slopes are a good place to plant into; shelter from wind. Mix in compost and peat moss on sandy soils, and cultivate compacted soils before planting. Plant at crown height and mulch thinly (about 1" deep) or crown rot may occur. Water well during the first year of establishment and during hot spells or the plant may go dormant. If shade becomes too dense, established patches can be invigorated by thinning tree branches above to allow in more light. No ongoing maintenance is required.

 
 
Lady Fern
Athyrium felix-femina

 

Height         12-24 inches (30-60 cm)

Spread        12-24 inches (30-60 cm) 

Hardiness    Zones 3-8

Light           Part shade to full shade

Moisture      Moist to wet soils

Soil             Humus-rich, adaptable

 

This quintessential fern is one of the most useful ground cover ferns for its ability to create lush, tropical-looking backdrops for the shade garden. Also one of the most widely distributed and adaptable, so long as the soil is sufficiently moist and moderately fertile. Can tolerate more sun if consistently damp or the occasional drought, sending up new fronds at the next rain. Spreading slowly by rhizomes, the twice-divided fronds appear lacy at a distance, and works well with jack-in-the-pulpit, native lilies, iris, plumbago, foamflower and bellwort. Interestingly, lady fern and its many genetic mutations were the foundation for much of the Victorian-era Fern Craze; hybrids between lady fern and Japanese painted fern have produced beautiful cultivars, such as Athyrium 'Ghost'.

 

Recommendations for growing Lady Fern

Native woodland soil with lots of well-composted organic matter is good for ferns. This fern is more adaptable than it looks, but consisent moisture and partial shade will keep it looking fresh all summer. Shelter from wind. Mix in compost and peat moss on lighter soils, and cultivate compacted soils before planting. Plant at crown height and mulch thinly (about 1" deep) or crown rot may occur. Water well during the first year of establishment and during hot spells. No ongoing maintenance is required.

 
Japanese Painted Fern
Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum'

 

Height         12 inches (30 cm)

Spread        8-12 inches (20-30 cm) 

Hardiness    Zones 4-9

Light           Part shade to full shade

Moisture      Average to moist

Soil             Humus-rich, adaptable

 

This beautiful little fern won the 2004 Perennial Plant of the Year distinction for its striking foliage and lady fern-like adaptable nature, and is still a knockout. More a clumper than a spreader, it can be used in small masses or clumped throughout a shady moist garden, in a sheltered nook of a rock garden or along a watercourse. Best in spots with morning or late afternoon sun; strong mid-day sun can burn these vividly coloured fronds in the heat of the summer.

 

Recommendations for growing Painted Fern

Native woodland soil with lots of well-composted organic matter is good for ferns. This fern is more adaptable than it looks, but consisent moisture and partial shade will keep it looking fresh all summer. Shleter from wind. Mix in compost and peat moss on lighter soils, and cultivate compacted soils before planting. Plant at crown height and mulch thinly (about 1" deep) or crown rot may occur. Water well during the first year of establishment and during hot spells. No ongoing maintenance is required.

 
Berry Bladder Fern
Cystopteris bulbifera

 

Also called bulbet fern, fragile fern

Height         12-18 inches (30-45 cm)

Spread        12-24 inches (30-60 cm) 

Hardiness    Zones 3-9

Light           Part shade to full shade

Moisture      Moist to wet

Soil             Humus-rich, neutral to alkaline

 

This fern should be used more often given its ability to light up a shady corner and its love of boulders, cracks and crevices in dolomitic limestone, and alkaline soils. The light green upright fronds emerge in spring with bright red petioles, and mature fronds develop bulbils underneath. These drop to the ground, producing new plants and growing the colony where suitable spots exist. It naturalizes hardscapes and water features quickly and blends well with other native and non-aggressive edging plants.

 

Recommendations for growing Berry Bladder Fern

Native woodland soil with lots of well-composted organic matter is good for ferns. This fern prefers consistently wet soils to look its best. Can tolerate seepage areas at the base of cliffs and ravines. Unique plant to set into boulder pockets with rich soil. Mix in compost and peat moss on lighter soils, and cultivate compacted soils before planting. Plant at crown height and mulch thinly (about 1" deep) or crown rot may occur. Water well during the first year of establishment and during hot spells. Minor weeding of bulbets may be necessary but are not hard to remove. 

 
Marginal Wood Fern
Dryopteris marginalis

 

Also called marginal shield fern

Height         12-24 inches (30-60 cm)

Spread        24-30 inches (30-60 cm) 

Foliage        Evergreen

Hardiness    Zones 3-8

Light           Part shade to full shade

Moisture      Average (tolerating dry periods in summer) to moist

Soil             Humus-rich, acidic to neutral

 

We are excited to offer another tough evergreen fern, with the added bonus of tolerating drier, shallow soils than most species here. New fronds in spring unfurl a vivid green with fuzzy brown petioles, foliage darkening to a handsome leathery bluish-green mid-summer. A polite clump-former, it makes a beautiful addition to a perennial border, shady rock garden or can be tucked into soil pockets in around hardscapes and boulders. Low-maintenance once established.

 

Recommendations for growing Marginal Wood Fern

Native woodland soil with lots of well-composted organic matter is good for ferns. This evergreen fern can tolerate drier, shallower soils and tree root competition well once established. For lushest growth, mix in compost and peat moss on lighter soils, and cultivate compacted clay soils before planting. Plant at crown height and mulch thinly (about 1" deep) or crown rot may occur. Water well during the first year of establishment and during hot spells. Old foliage may be desirable to remove, but can be left to compost.

 
Ostrich Fern
Mattheucia struthiopteris, syn. M. var. pensylvanica

 

Height         36-48 inches (90-120 cm)

Spread        24-36 inches (60-90 cm) 

Hardiness    Zones 3-8

Light           Light shade to full shade

Moisture      Evenly moist soils

Soil             Humus-rich, adaptable

 

This stately fern is well-known for its easy care, and edible fiddleheads. It can withstand more sunlight than most ferns (given there is enough water) and the occasional summer drought once established. Fertile fronds provide winter interest. It spreads by thick rhizomes and can colonize a large area in a couple years, so do not interplant timid perennials with it. Works for foundation plantings, on cool north walls, low spots of poorer drainage or around natural or man-made water courses.

 

Recommendations for growing Ostrich Fern

Native woodland soil with lots of well-composted organic matter is good for ferns. This fern is adaptable, but consisent moisture and partial shade will keep it looking fresh all summer. Shelter from wind or leaves get ratty. Mix in compost and peat moss on lighter soils, and cultivate compacted soils before planting. Plant at crown height and mulch 2" deep. Water well during the first year of establishment and during hot spells. Maintenance of established patches may include trimming of old foliage (makes great mulch in-place) and containing rhizomes from nearby plantings.

 
Sensitive Fern NEW FOR 2017!
Onoclea sensibilis

 

Also called bead fern

Height         12-36 inches (30-90 cm)

Spread        60-120 inches (60-120 cm) 

Hardiness    Zones 3-8

Light           Part shade to full shade best; full sun if consistently wet

Moisture      Moist to wet

Soil             Humus-rich, acidic to slightly alkaline

 

We are excited to offer another useful native fern, particularly for rain gardens, bioswales, and coarse texture in the shade garden. New fronds in spring unfurl to a soft, medium green colour and beaded fertile fronds appear in mid-summer lasting long into winter. Deer and rabbit resistant. Spreads at a moderate rate by rhizomes but is not aggressive and often held back by moisture. Can intermingle with other bog plants. Low-maintenance once established.

 

Recommendations for growing Sensitive Fern

Native woodland soil with lots of well-composted organic matter is good for ferns. Slightly acidic soils, consistent moisture, and partial shade will keep this fern looking fresh all summer. Shelter from the wind. Mix in compost and peat moss, and cultivate compacted soils before planting. Plant at crown height and mulch 1-2" deep. Water well during the first year of establishment and hot spells. Crowns may go dormant in extended droughts. No ongoing maintenance required except containing rhizomes from other plantings.

 
Cinnamon Fern
Osmunda cinnamomea

 

Height         36-48 inches (90-120 cm)

Spread        24-48 inches (60-120 cm) 

Fall colour    Golden yellow

Hardiness    Zones 3-10

Light           Part shade to full shade

Moisture      Moist to wet

Soil             Humus-rich, neutral to acidic

 

A striking native fern with a bright green rosette of sterile leaves reaching 3-4' high and arching outwards, following by distinctive orange “flower” spikes in summer. Leaves turn golden yellow in fall and fertile fronds give winter interest. Better adapted to rich acidic soils and deep shade; great for naturalizing, shaded bog gardens, and along shorelines. Spreads slowly by rhizomes.

 

Recommendations for growing Cinnamon Fern

Native woodland soil with lots of well-composted organic matter is good for ferns. Slightly acidic soils, consisent moisture and partial shade will keep this fern looking fresh all summer. Shelter from wind. Mix in compost and peat moss, and cultivate compacted soils before planting. Plant at crown height and mulch 1-2" deep. Water well during the first year of establishment and during hot spells. No ongoing maintenance required except containing rhizomes from other plantings.

 
Christmas Fern
Polystichum arcostichoides

 

Height         20-24 inches (50-60 cm)

Spread        24-30 inches (60-75 cm) 

Foliage        Evergreen

Hardiness    Zones 3-10

Light           Part shade to full shade

Moisture      Average to moist

Soil             Humus-rich, neutral to acidic

 

A hardy and widespread native fern, often praised as the best evergreen fern choice for any garden east of the Mississippi. Easy to grow and maintain, Christmas fern is adaptable to drier slopes than most ferns (only Marginal Wood Fern beats it from our list. It is at home under sugar maple and beech, or clumped amongst limestone boulders. Silvery grey fiddleheads emerge early in spring in a spectacular flush. Mixes well with other native woodland plants, smaller grasses and ferns, especially those that go dormant in summer.

 

Recommendations for growing Christmas Fern

Native woodland soil with lots of well-composted organic matter is good for ferns. Slightly acidic soils, average moisture and partial shade will keep this fern looking fresh all summer. Shelter from wind. Mix in compost and peat moss, and cultivate compacted soils before planting. Plant at crown height and mulch 1-2" deep. Water well during the first year of establishment and during hot spells. No ongoing maintenance required

Companions for Ferns
 
  • Asarum canadense (Canadian Wild Ginger)

  • Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley)*

  • Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry)

  • Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen)

  • Viola labradorica 'Purpurea' (Labrador Violet)

  • Hemerocallis (Daylily)* in part shade

  • Hosta (Plantain Lily)

  • Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' (Creeping Jenny)*

  • Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese Spurge)*

  • Vinca minor (Periwinkle, Myrtle)*

* in ornamental plantings, not native woodlots or habitats

 

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