ostrich fern from The Garden Collection

Awarded an RHS Award of Garden Merit, Ostrich Ferns are ideal for shady borders
Copyright: The Garden Collection

If you love ferns and want to fill your garden with their calming, green and delicate fronds, we’ve sourced some of the best independent content from the internet to help you succeed. With advice on where and how to plant them, feeding, dividing, pruning and even suggestions for new varieties to try, these experienced garden bloggers have a wealth of knowledge to share. Here’s everything you need to know to grow your own fabulous ferns.

Alan Down – Down to Earth

Polystichum proliferum from T&M

Mother shield ferns feature attractive textural foliage and excellent ground cover
Copyright: Nova-Photo-Graphik GmbH

“Ferns aren’t plants to tuck away in some dingy corner of the garden,” says Alan Down of Down to Earth. According to this professional horticulturist, ferns “play a vital role in the transition of colours from one end of the colour spectrum to the other,” and he suggests adding a few of these ancient specimens to new gardens to lend them a well-established appearance. For a thorough description of all the hardy fern varieties, along with tips on other plants to complement their striking fronds, this is a great place to start.

Adrienne Wild – Wild About Gardening

Fern stumpery in the garden

A stumpery is the perfect way to showcase ferns
Image: Shutterstock

Not sure how to incorporate ferns into your garden? A stumpery makes a great design statement, says Adrienne Wild. Made from “tree roots and logs planted up with a collection of unusual ferns,” she says that Prince Charles has used pieces of sweet chestnut to create his stumpery at Highgrove. Particularly good habitats for insects and wildlife, Adrienne loves the way that soft fern fronds combine with “sculptural tree roots…rocks and water to reflect a craggy natural landscape.” For more planting ideas, check out her ‘fabulous ferns’ article over at Wild About Gardening.

Alexandra Campbell – The Middle-Sized Garden

Australian tree fern from Thompson & Morgan

Australian tree ferns can withstand some frost and snow
Image: Australian tree fern from Thompson & Morgan

Don’t be worried that your garden isn’t warm enough for tree ferns, says Alexandra Campbell of The Middle-Sized Garden. Unless you get prolonged periods of very cold weather, she explains that “they can withstand some frost and snow.” In any case, you can move container specimens into a greenhouse for the winter, or wrap horticultural fleece around those that are planted in the garden.

Having interviewed rare plant specialist Stephen Ryans from Australia, Alexandra’s article: ‘What you need to know about tree ferns in a cool climate’ is packed full of planting, watering, feeding and care tips. There’s even a video showing how to move one. Did you know you could “simply cut the trunk off wherever you like and plant it in the ground?”

John Moore – Pyracantha

Tree fern in a woodland

Plant your tree fern in partial shade similar their natural forest environment
Image: Pseudopanax at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also a huge fan of the architectural tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica), John Moore explains that they’re “commonly purchased as logs” and should be planted in a shady and sheltered position. Over at Pyracantha, his excellent ‘tree fern care’ article has some great planting and watering tips to help you care for yours. “Once planted,” says John, “they need watering every day…watering into the crown and giving the log a good soak.” He recommends doing this daily for 6 months, and then reducing the regime once they’re established, making sure to keep them moist.

George Lowther – George’s Jungle Garden

Digging hole in garden

Don’t make the hole for your tree ferns too deep, as you’ll lose some height and they grow very slowly
Image: Shutterstock

For a great video tutorial on how to plant a tree fern, check out George’s Jungle Garden. Not only is the prehistoric-looking tree fern George’s all-time favourite plant, he’s a bit of an expert at moving them, having brought so many over from a previous garden. When it comes to planting them out, “don’t make the hole too deep,” says George. Because they’re such a slow-growing plant, he says they’ll take a long time to regain that buried height. A hole of about 4 inches deep is about right.

Alison Levey – Blackberry Garden

New ferns appearing from crown

It’s a joyous moment when the first frond emerges from the crown!
Image: Blackberry Garden

After mourning the loss of a beloved tree fern, Alison Levey decided it was time to order a new one to complete her exotic garden in Leicester. ‘The Great Tree Fern Saga’ is a humorous read containing a series of fascinating photos of her new tree ferns as they spring into life. Even if you’re not a fan of Carry On films, the highs and lows shared by this Blackberry Garden blogger will definitely bring a smile to your face.

Jane Perrone

Fern spores on underside of fronds

Ferns aren’t propagated from seeds, but from spores found on the underside of the frond
Image: Shutterstock

If you love a good podcast, tune in to On The Ledge where Jane Perrone interviews fern expert and British Pteridological Society member Peter Blake to discuss how to grow ferns from spores. Contained in clusters of ‘sori’ on the back of individual fronds, Peter explains that the spores are ready to collect when they turn a tan colour. This step-by step ‘sow-along’ is a fascinating listen filled with really useful advice on how to raise your own ferns from spores.

Simon Eade – Garden of Eaden

Australian tree fern from T&M

Feed your new tree fern into the top of the crown, to help it establish roots
Image: Australian tree fern from Thompson & Morgan

If you’ve just bought a new tree fern, “feeding the crown will be important as they generally come cut at the base and therefore without a root system,” says Simon Eade over at Garden of Eaden. Why is feeding so important? Simon says that “the tree fern will be stressed and have little energy reserves with which to produce new leaves and an essential, replacement root system.” Read his full article on how to feed tree ferns for more excellent advice.

Mike Palmer

Woman pruning ferns with secateurs

Prune your ferns carefully in the spring with a sharp pair of secateurs
Image: Shutterstock

See Mike Palmer’s YouTube channel for a simple demonstration on how to cut back ferns in spring. Pruning his Heart’s Tongue fern and dryopteris cristata, Mike carefully removes all the old fronds until nothing but the coiled up crosiers remain. In this short, beautifully clear, and easy to follow video, Mike recommends cutting your ferns back before new fronds start to appear, so that it’s easier to see what you’re doing and you don’t damage any of the precious new growth underneath.

Laetitia Maklouf

Asplenium scolopendrium ‘Cristata’ from T&M

Perfect for dark areas, Asplenium scolopendrium has crinkled, glossy fronds
Image: Asplenium scolopendrium ‘Cristata’ from Thompson & Morgan

Fill your garden with calming, evergreen ferns, says Laetitia of Laetitia Maklouf. “In fact, if you can bear to step away from colour, the payback will be sophistication and serenity in spades.” But which are her favourite ferns for containers? “Try Asplenium scolopendrium,” says this 5-minute gardener. “It’s an absolute wonder for difficult, dark areas (it will grow in cracks in a wall, given enough moisture). Its leaves are un-cut and slightly wavy at their margins and at 18ins or so, it is smallish, so perfect for little crevices.”

Jack Wallington Garden Design

Divided ferns on a table

Divide ferns from time to time using a sharp garden knife
Image: Shutterstock

Follow Jack’s easy, step-by-step instructions as he explains how to divide a container-grown fern with a sharp and sterile garden knife. His top tip? “Cut through the middle of the roots and through the join between the largest crown and the other smaller ones…making sure they each have a good rootball.” Jack’s practical and easy to follow advice will have your woodland garden looking lush and green in no time!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our selection of the best fern content from the internet, and feel ready to plan your own woodland garden or stumpery. For even more info and advice on exotic plants, visit our hub page. Or if you’re dealing with a shady garden, discover everything you need to know about plants for shade here.

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