Planting Native Ferns In Your Garden

Planting Native Ferns In Your Garden

Ferns History

Ferns have grown on earth for millions of years. They have existed today bear many similarities to those that appear in ancient fossils. Most North American fern is native to the eastern part of the United States and southern portions of Canada.

Growing Conditions

Most ferns grow best under moist, shady conditions.  Ferns commonly prefer lighting conditions similar to what they would receive on the forest floor, with light coming through the tree canopy intermittently throughout each day.

Some ferns prefer whole or part sun but still require moist soil since fern reproduction depends on water.

Soil pH is an essential consideration for growing many types of ferns. Rock and mineral content of soil helps determine pH level. As rocks and minerals erode, smaller particles are deposited into the ground, contributing to soil alkalinity or acidity. Most fern species prefer acidic soil conditions. Some species, however, prefer neutral soil.

In the Garden

Cinnamon (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) is one large variety that grows up to five feet tall and makes an excellent backdrop for smaller plants in the garden. It is differentiated by its cinnamon-colored fertile fronds, which appear amidst more typical green fronds. It prefers acidic soil and full sun.

New York (Thelypteris noveboracensis) and Hay Scented (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) are examples of lower living species spread up to three feet and stay between twelve and eighteen inches tall. These plants make excellent ground cover plants. They prefer acidic soil pH and dappled sun conditions.


Growing native ferns are beneficial in the garden. They have evolved to possess natural defenses against the pests and diseases common to their respective regions. These original cases eliminate the need for using pesticides and soil treatments. 

Deer resistance is another quality that makes ferns attractive to gardeners. These plants are grown in their indigenous regions are lower maintenance than non-native plants. 

Since they have evolved to adapt to their native climates, they require less special care and attention. Because they need specific pH and moisture conditions, their health in the garden can indicate to the gardener when soil changes have occurred.

Gardening inclusive of native species of ferns preserves species and ecosystems. These plants also provide beauty and practicality to the garden.