Cultural Information

Choosing the Right Fern for Your Site

Whether you have a secluded pond, sunny rock wall or a serene woodland setting, you can find an assortment of ferns to add beauty to any spot in the garden. Most ferns do well in part shade or dappled sunlight, but there are many which will do well with quite a bit of sun, provided they get enough water. Shade loving ferns appreciate an organic, evenly moist, well drained soil.  If your soil is heavy on the clay or sandy side you can add compost or other organic matter to help balance it out.  (If you use manure, be sure it is well rotted or aged.)  Ferns require minimal maintenance throughout the year.  Once in the garden, ferns in general do not require additional fertilizer.  They will appreciate leaf litter from surrounding trees and an occasional top dressing of a compost mulch.  Unless you want to share a fern with a friend these easy going plants rarely need to be divided.  Deciduous ferns can be trimmed as the fronds yellow in late fall and early winter.  Evergreen ferns do best if the older fronds are trimmed off in late winter or early spring, just before the new fronds emerge.  As with other perennials, the best time to plant is during the spring and fall when the rain is plentiful.  Ferns come in an amazing range of texture, color, sizes and  and shapes.  Their ease and versitility make them an essential part of any well rounded garden.

Tree Fern Care

These handsome ancient plants are a poplar attraction in warm gardens, but unfortunately not reliably hardy in the greater Seattle area. Dicksonia antarctica is the most cold tolerant of the lot, but all tree ferns need special care and winter protection. Site them in the warmest section of the garden; a shady nook on the south side of the house (away from cold north winds) is ideal. As the roots extend down the trunk, the plants need extra water to transport a steady supply to the foliage. The trunk also needs to be misted or watered periodically. Critical care is especially essential for survival during the winter months. When the plants are young and containerized, the entire plant can be brought inside to the warmth of a greenhouse or suitably comfortable site in filtered light. Once the plant gains height and remains in the ground it will need protection from the cold. A hefty mulch at the base and a simple wrap of burlap or horticultural gauze around the trunk can be sufficient in mild weather. However, in more severe cold the trunk needs greater insulation. Experts use various techniques. One of the easiest is to wrap the trunk in bubble wrap and then cover this with an addition blanket of burlap or similar material. (Bubble wrap alone should not be used as it magnifies sunlight which will burn the plant.) Some gardeners also wrap the fronds which if left exposed will burn and brown in a severe frost. They should be held up vertically, not pulled down, and tied with a loose wrapping. Be advised that the fronds will likely be damaged in the process. Note that all of these precautions should be in place before an arctic blast arrives. Good luck!!