Ferns can still occasionally be admired in older gardens, but they are very rarely included in the design of newly landscaped gardens today. Which is a pity considering the undemanding and diverse variety of ferns. In the following article you will therefore get an overview of the many types and care of garden and indoor ferns.

Ferns for the Garden

There are many ferns for the garden. Here is a compilation of some examples from the variety of species, according to possible areas of application.

There are species that grow impressively tall and should be given a solitary position in the garden :

  • Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis): Grows up to 1.50 meters high, likes sun to shade, dry to moist wood edges and pond edges.
  • Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum): Grows up to 2 meters high, but it is rampant and poisonous. It should only be planted in the garden (if at all) with a root barrier.

Medium-sized ferns for solitaire or in combination with other perennials:

  • Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas): Adaptable, grows best in partially shaded locations, attractive, brownish shoots.
  • Japanese ostrich fern (Matteuccia orientalis): Bright green, shiny fronds and red stems, does not form runners, grows between 40 and 80 cm high.
  • Native ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris): Reaches heights between 80 and 120 cm, very attractive, but not a fern for small gardens due to self-propagating.

Small and dwarf ferns , as ground cover or for rock gardens:

  • Brown spleen fern (Asplenium trichomanes): Also known as stone feather, a beautiful little fern for shady wall joints, but also well suited for planting in tubs.
  • Writing fern (Ceterach officinarum): Very decorative fronds that can protect themselves well from evaporation, so they also thrive in sunny locations.
  • Wall rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria)): Small fern that is particularly decorative in wall crevices and rock gardens.

Ferns for Wetlands:

  • Native swamp fern (Thelypteres palustris): Needs a very damp location, where it quickly forms a lush carpet of ferns with almost no maintenance.
  • Clover Fern (Marsilea quadrifolia): Perennial aquatic plant that forms thin, hairy rhizomes.

Ferns for the floors under conifers:

  • Tierra del Fuego fern (Blechnum penna-marina): Rib fern that grows only about 10 cm high and spreads out over its rhizome network just below the surface of the earth to form evergreen cushions.
  • Rib fern (Blechnum spicant): Native forest fern with a final height of approx. 30 cm, elegant growth and glossy green fronds, evergreen, grows well in the shade.

The right location

It is also incomprehensible that ferns have not yet really conquered our modern gardens, since many vascular spore plants are content with locations where few other plants thrive. Most ferns are forest plants that grow in partial shade or even in the shade, even on soil that is always slightly moist, as long as it is reasonably humus and loose.

Most ferns can therefore find their place both in the light shade of the shrubs and under a tree with a somewhat translucent crown. Even a (much too) shady courtyard or the rather gloomy area in the shadow of a high wall can be covered with green by these ferns. The ferns make it possible for you to design garden areas where normally there is only “little activity”.


In principle, you can plant ferns during the entire growing season. However, there are some frost-sensitive ferns that are better planted in spring. Then these tender little plants can take root well until their first winter.

If you have chosen a garden soil location for a particular fern, you should prepare the soil a little before planting. So well loosened and enriched with nutrients (mature compost). If you want to place one of the rock garden ferns in a wall joint, you must provide it with a sufficiently spacious root space there, a root space filled with nutrients. Here you should first fill humus potting soil in the gap, water it and wait until the soil has settled well. Only then is the fern planted.

Ferns with a creeping rootstock are planted fairly shallow in soil or crevices. Ferns that grow in clumps should be planted slightly lower than they were in the pot. With them, the rootstocks gradually grow upwards if they are set too high, even above the surface of the earth.


When they are planted, the ferns are pressed firmly again and then watered well. During the first year you should generally water regularly, especially in the summer heat.

You can prevent drying out by covering the soil around the ferns with leaves, e.g. B. with a mulch layer of leaf compost. You can then simply leave the falling leaves under the trees in autumn. An additional layer of foliage should be applied to open locations.

Pruning Garden Ferns

Evergreen ferns are a bit tricky when it comes to pruning: In principle, they should only be pruned in the spring, as the foliage is needed as winter protection in winter. However, it is not easy to find the right time to prune at the beginning of the season: if you prune too early, the garden will look unusually bare for a while, if you prune too late, you will have a hard time tending to the young ones that are already drifting Cut fronds around. It is perfect if you use the time just before the young fronds sprout for the cut.

You can prune deciduous ferns in autumn, but if the variety gets winter protection (which some Asian ferns in particular need, which sprout very early in spring), the fronds are only slightly shortened. The remaining frond parts in the lower area hold the winter protection made of protective foliage very well.

Propagating Garden Ferns

Ferns do not reproduce by flowers and seeds, but (among other things) by spores. These spores develop in spore cases located on the underside of leaves. These sporangia are recognizable, they look like small dark dots or dashes (some fern fronds may also be sporangia-free and sterile). You can try to propagate these ferns by sowing the spores, but this will not always lead to success.

Other ferns make it easier for you by developing brood nodules. The shield fern (Polystichum) forms these brood tubers e.g. B. on the underside of its fronds, they sit like a kind of string of pearls on the midrib and are fully developed in late summer. With a bulbous fern, you can simply take a frond from a mother plant and secure it flat to the surface with ivy needles (it stays attached to the mother plant). The brood nodules will now take root, after a few weeks several small ferns should appear on the upper part of the leaf. When these young plants have gathered strength for a few weeks, you can cut them off with a knife and overwinter in pots in a bright and warm place, then next spring they can be moved to the garden.

Propagating large ferns is even easier: divide them at the beginning of spring, just before they sprout. The individual plants are then immediately replanted and kept very carefully moist for a while.

Room Ferns—Species

There are just as many indoor ferns as there are garden ferns, with individual species of a fern genus usually being particularly suitable for one of the two locations.

Here is a first overview:

  • Maidenhair fern, Adiantum: 50 cm to 100 cm (fan fern), graceful fern with decorative fronds, sensitive to drafts but otherwise easy to care for, popular indoor fern, also as a traffic light plant.
  • Antler Fern, Platycerium: Epiphytic fern native to tropical rainforests, adaptable for indoor culture, grows best on pieces of bark or in sphagnum-substrate mixture in a hanging basket.
  • Goldspotted Fern, Phlebodium: 60 cm long, heavily feathered fronds, grows all year round under good cultivation conditions.
  • Harefoot Fern, Davallia: A feature is the elongated rhizomes that grow on the surface of the soil and are covered with silver-white or rust-brown scales.
    • these indoor ferns also thrive in low humidity
    • are well suited for keeping in shallow bowls or hanging baskets.
  • Stag’s Tongue Fern, Phyllitis: Only as Phyllitis scolopendrium in indoor culture, medium-sized, colored stems and glossy light green leaves
  • Pellefarn, Pellaea: Two species for the room, the more creeping Pellaea rotundifolia and the bushy Pellaea viridis, both grow all year round.
  • Rib Fern, Blechnum: Interesting fern with fronds reminiscent of palm leaves, with several different sized species in indoor culture, tolerates dry air better than most other ferns
  • Sausage Fern, Pteris: Pteris cretica (Crete Sausage Fern), Pteris ensiformis (Silvertip Fern) and Pteris tremuia (Australian Sausage Fern) for indoor culture, have different growth forms and care needs
  • Shield fern, Polystichum: popular fern for indoor culture, with almost triangular, about 25 cm long fern fronds, covered with serrated leaflets with sharp tips
  • Sword fern, Nephrolepis: Nephrolepis cordifolja and Nephrolepis exaltata, both species have no specific names of their own and are offered in slightly different looking varieties.
  • Sickle Fern, Cyrtomium: Cyrtomium falcatum (holly fern) for indoor cultivation, pinnate leaves resemble leaves of a holly tree, undemanding and long-lived.
  • Spleen fern, Asplenium: undemanding beginner’s fern in three types for indoor culture, Asplenium bulbiferum, Asplenium daucifolium (formerly A. viviparum) and Asplenium nidus (also called nest fern), prefer to stay in the damp bathroom

The care of indoor ferns

Some indoor ferns prefer a bright location, but with little direct sunlight, especially at midday (e.g. maidenhair, rib, sickle, sword and pellicle ferns), but most ferns also prefer fairly shady indoors locations.

The care is basically simple, regular water without wet feet, occasional fertilizer during the growing season, then most ferns in indoor culture are already satisfied.

The indoor ferns are cut and propagated as described for the garden ferns, pests and diseases are also rare here, you can find out about any special care requirements when you buy the individual varieties.

If you want a rather gloomy area of ​​your garden to look attractive without a lot of work, just plant ferns there. In addition, however, the decorative plants can be used profitably in a wide variety of bright locations in the garden and in the house, the large selection of species makes many things possible.

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