Crazy (For) Ferns

Athyrium niponicum var. pictum  ‘Applecourt’


Who would dare find ferns boring?  Ferns are some of the craziest and most bodacious plants you’ll ever grow!  You just need an idea of which ones to choose.


Native maidenhair fern, Adiantum x mairisii


I enjoy all ferns, to be perfectly honest.  Even the relatively ‘plain Jane’ native Christmas ferns grow with a certain peaceful confidence that I admire.


Polystichum acrostichoides, our native Christmas fern, earned its name because it remains green and beautiful past Christmas and into the winter months. This is a very hardy (zones 3-9), dependable fern that can tolerate a fair amount of sun, once established, and will survive a our hot, dry summers.


And I am sure that there are those fern lovers who prefer these for their neat, regular, evenly green fronds.


Sensitive fern. Onoclea sensibilis, peeks out from around a clump of native Mayapples.  This deciduous fern is very sensitive to cold weather, and dies back each autumn with the first frost.  Not to worry, because each year it spreads and gets a bit better in the garden.


And that is all fine, but I am partial to ferns with interesting colors and forms.  I enjoy ferns that are a bit variable from frond to frond and plant to plant; full of surprises, you might say!


Athyrium niponicum var. pictum


The Japanese painted ferns fill the bill on both counts.  A hybrid of the ‘Lady Ferns,’ it interbreeds with other ferns fairly easily to produce some very interesting color patterns and beautifully ruffled and crested fronds.


Athyrium filix-femina ‘Lady in Red’


Growing from just a few inches to more than several feet tall, these wonderfully surprising ferns can fill many different garden niches.



There are lots of crazy ferns on the market these days.  There are ruffled ferns, footed ferns, staghorn ferns, hart’s tongue ferns, and even a hybrid named A. ‘Godzilla.’

I found and planted A. ‘Godzilla’ last summer, and I’m keeping a close eye on it.   It has not yet grown into its gargantuan potential.  It’s still sinking its roots and trying to feel at home in the garden.

But believe, me, when it does begin to grow crazy-big, I’ll post a photo for you.

Woodland Gnome 2018


About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

4 responses to “Crazy (For) Ferns

  1. I think ferns are among the earliest of plants. Be careful of lurking dinosaurs !

  2. Where would we be without ferns to dress up our shade gardens? Nice post!

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