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Ferns are perennials grown for great texture and their ability to thrive in places that are too damp, shady, or compacted for other less-hardy plants. There are many types with varying preferences and sizes. Some ferns are evergreen and leathery, while others die down to the ground in fall and return in spring.

How to grow: Find the right fern for the soil type and exposure you have, and it will make itself at home. Most types prefer moist shade. Some ferns spread rapidly, so if your space is small, select nonrunning types. Water plants well after planting to help them settle in. Before long they will be totally carefree except for removing last year's fronds from deciduous types.


Related genera: Athyrium nipponicum or pictum, the Japanese painted fern, is noninvasive. Its silver foliage brightens shady gardens. Athyrium felix-femina is similar with graceful green foliage. Asparagus densiflorus, asparagus fern, is not a true fern but looks like one in southern zones where it is hardy. Dryopteris felix-mas is over two feet tall with strong green color and waxy texture. Polystichum polyblepharum has golden fiddleheads that open to dark, shiny, evergreen fronds. Maidenhair ferns (Adiantum species) have lacy, delicate leaves. There are many other ferns, some for every type of climate.

Scientific name: Varied genera and species


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