Ferns 101: Benefits and How to grow them

Gardeners cherish ferns and why they wouldn’t be. From the dramatic spreading of new fronds (fern leaves) to the luscious greenery they offer, every single thing about them makes them revered by tons of people, especially the gardeners. The tender fern types are a fantastic house plant option or as terrarium specimens, while Hardy ferns work beautifully in various garden situations. Then there are two more categories of ferns based on their suitability for sun and shade, i.e., the Shade Ferns and the Sun Ferns; go for the category that seems ideal for your space.

The Benefits Of Landscaping With Ferns

Aesthetic Diversity

Ferns are a great way to add visual diversity to any landscape through their distinctive fronds, i.e., the broad forms, the intricate lace-like patterns, etc. The refreshing contrasts of fronds create vibrant visual compositions that attract and retain the attention of viewers.

Naturalistic Ambiance

The unstructured lush growth of ferns resembles the pattern found in natural environments like pristine forests, which arouses a sense of calmness usually associated with outdoor nature sanctuary.

Shade Tolerance

One of the best things about ferns is how well they adapt to shade, making them an excellent landscape option with limited sunlight availability. Their shade tolerance quality comes in handy, especially when you are looking to transform places (especially those that are not put to good use) into plush green sanctuaries.

Low Maintenance

Ferns offer self-sufficiency, make low maintenance, and need the bare minimum of attention and care to flourish beautifully. They don’t require extreme watering or pruning, which saves you time, effort, and energy. Maidenhair fern, Rabbit Foot fern, and Button fern are a few examples of easy Ferns to grow.

Erosion Control

The extensive root systems (the fibrous root structures) prevent erosion by stabilizing the soil and boosting water retention.

Biodiversity Enhancement

Incorporating ferns into a design landscape is a great way to attract wildlife, such as birds, insects, and small mammals. Ferns support a healthy ecosystem by becoming a source of food, nesting sites, and shelter for multiple species.

Air Quality Improvement

Like other plants, Ferns undergo photosynthesis, absorb carbon dioxide, and release oxygen, improving air quality. Moreover, Fern leaves play their part in creating a cleaner environment for humans and wildlife by trapping airborne pollutants.

Water Conservation

Most of the fern species can adapt to both humid and dry (in case of drought) environments equally well. Landscape designers can use drought-resistant ferns to support water conservation efforts. Moreover, Ferns don’t require frequent irrigation due to their ability to retain moisture in the soil, which conserves water resources even more.

Versatility in Design

Suppose you are looking for plants with versatile design applications. In that case, ferns are the answer as you can use them as border plants, ground covers, or dramatic focal points, and they are so good at seamless adaptation to a different set of designs, whether naturalistic, contemporary, or traditional, offering innovation and originality effortlessly.

Historical and Cultural Significance

Ferns are not just low-maintenance plants that offer a calming ambiance, protect soil from erosion, or conserve water, but they are deemed culturally and historically significant and have been featured as a symbol of transformation, rebirth, and resilience in folklore, art, and literature for centuries. Thus, you pay homage to these cultural narratives every time you integrate ferns into landscaping designs. Ferns offer depth in historical and cultural perspectives and create great outdoor ambiance.

Where to plant ferns

Even ferns are low maintenance, but you can grow any fern anywhere under any conditions. Ferns have a vast range in terms of the height they grow up to, the diversity of options, and, of course, the habitat they live in. Some ferns need moist soil, while others need shade for optimal growth.

If you pick a fern for a sunny spot, go for Osmunda regalis or Dryopteris affinis. Polystichum rigens and Dryopteris filixmas are great options for plantation in shady spaces. Similarly,  Matteuccia struthiopteris and Osmunda regalis are wonderful choices for a bog garden. It is crucial to notice that the Blechnum Species of Ferns grow best in acidic soil, while the majority of ferns prefer neutral or alkaline.

Ferns come with specific requirements for optimal growth. Hence, it is essential to consult a professional before investing in ferns, as if you grow a shady fern in a sunny spot, it will be destined for death. Let’s explore a few of comparatively popular ferns suitable for a particular property type:

For Very Wet Areas

For wet areas, native species like sensitive and cinnamon ferns are a perfect fit. They even thrive well in bogs and at the edge of ponds.

For Dry Areas

The smaller and less showy can usually survive in desert conditions, i.e., less water than the moist ones. Lady and gigantic wood ferns are dry ferns that do well in drier yards.

For Areas With Moderate Light And Moisture

Autumn ferns, Hart’s tongue, and oak are examples of ferns that grow well in moderate light and moisture, provided both these elements are provided to them on a consistent basis.

Propagating Ferns

By this time, you know that ferns come with the inability to produce flowers or seeds; instead, they produce spores on the underside of their leaves (aka fronds), and it takes up to two years for new plants to grow from spores, which is in itself a specified propagation method used by keen gardeners.

Asplenium bulbiferum is an example of bulbils producing ferns. These are easily spotable categories of ferns, as you can easily observe the emergence of small fronds on the parent frond. Remove a bulbil-laden frond, and you can propagate more plants with ease. Take a seed tray, water it, and put some seed compost in it. Now, use the small hooks of garden wire to pin the front flat onto the compost. Put the whole seed tray in a clear plastic bag, and then seal the end. Place this seed tray in a warm place with light and watch out for signs of bulbil rooting. Then, cautiously lift out the new ferns once they are rooted and pull them away from the parent leaves (frond). And proceed to pot them on and keep them moist.

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