Master gardener Paul James presents some of the best hardy and tropical ferns.
E-mail This Page to Your Friendsx
A link to %this page% was e-mailed
As a result of all his wanderings, master gardener Paul James has fallen in love with a spectacular group of woodland plants, namely ferns. "There's just something about them that I find irresistible, which is why I've planted well more than 100 of them in my landscape."
Here are some of his favorite hardy ferns. All are readily available at nurseries, garden centers or online sources.
One thing staghorn ferns do need, however, is plenty of humidity. So if you're growing them indoors, mist them often, and outdoors spray them frequently with water from the hose.
Care and culture
When given the proper conditions, many ferns are easy to grow. Nearly all of the so-called hardy ferns are native and will thrive all the way to USDA Zone 3.
Ferns want a fairly rich but loose-and-well-drained soil, a pH that's slightly acidic, and shade throughout the day--although a little morning sun is fine. They simply will not grow well in heavy soils, and although they like plenty of moisture, they'll drown if the soil stays wet. So before planting it's best to amend the soil with leaf mold, which you can sometimes buy in a bag or make yourself by shredding and composting fallen leaves for a few months.
As for pH, use a simple, inexpensive pH test kit to determine whether your soil is acidic or alkaline. If it's alkaline, you can acidify it by mixing two tablespoons of white vinegar in a quart of water and dousing the soil.
A curious thing about ferns: they can sometimes cross-fertilize to form new hybrids.
Master gardener Paul James fields questions on tree surgery, tree ferns, Sambucus, weeping dogwood and more.