Ferns for dry shade, Christmas, Maidenhair?

linnea56(z5 IL)April 3, 2008

I bought some ferns that are bagged, I think in peat. Do I need to wait for the last frost date (not for a month or more here), or should I get them in the ground as soon as possible? There is not much info on the package other than "shade".

I bought 8 Christmas ferns and 4 Maidenhair ferns. As far as location: which will tolerate dry shade? Either of these, or should I try for something else? My dry shade, along a neighborÂs fence, is really the area I need to fill most. I would love to have tall ferns along the back to hide / soften that fence. I have hostas in the foreground but need height at the back. Even the tall hostas have grown so slowly it is disappointing. I do water (have installed a drip system) but itÂs slightly sloped and drains away very fast. They have bushes on their side of the fence and that probably sucks the moisture away too.

I have a moist shade area too in a different garden, but the dry shade is what needs the plants.

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In my area, Christmas fern is the poster child for dry shade.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 3:50PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

I realize that you're in zone 5, but would some type of swordfern work? They tend to look a bit ratty right now, in northern California, but they do grow fairly wide if not tall.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 4:01PM
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osmund(Zone 6: Southeast Ohio)

Maidenhairs MUST have constant moisture. You'll definitely kill them in dry shade. The Christmas fern are a LOT more adaptable. No ferns are really great for dry shade, but bracken is probably the hardiest -- but must be kept under control.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 8:34PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thanks! I do have a moist location where I can plant the maidenhairs, then.

Any other suggestions for ferns that will work in the dry shade besides the Christmas ferns?

Also, can anyone tell me how tall these will get, and any idea of spread? Are all ferns pretty slow growing?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 10:47PM
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We have Ostrich ferns in huge drifts, they can get out of hand, but find if I stay on top of the pulling plants at the edges of the area, I can keep it under control. They seem to do just fine in our dry sandy soil.

Regards, Tony

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 7:23PM
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Another fern that likes the same conditions as Christmas fern would be Ebony Spleenwort. Other ones that work for me: Broad beech fern, lady fern and New York fern.

Christmas ferns generally get about 18-24 inches tall. I think they spread slowly. New York fern and Broad beech fern both spread faster than Christmas.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 11:09PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Since planting conditions are not good right now I decided to pot these up temporarily and keep them outside to start adapting to being in dirt and outside. I was surprised to find when opening the opaque bags that they were growing vigorously even though bare root. They were much bigger and healthier-looking than I was expecting: as buying bagged bare-root perennials I think generally is supposed to be a bad idea. If I had waited it would have been more difficult to separate the growing fronds from the roots as they were growing up every which way.

I have not heard of many of these ferns that you are recommending (not surprising since I am just learning about them). Is there a good company to order from? I see ferns in many catalogs but am not sure if I am better off ordering from a specialist grower. At the same time I canÂt spend a lot on the garden this year: next fall I will have 2 kids in college!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 3:49PM
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robynpa(5/6 Pgh)

I agree with the Ostrich ferm suggestion. They are lovely, spread nicley and need no care.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 7:09PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

The ferns I potted up temporarily 2 weeks ago have now unfurled. As it turns out both kinds look exactly the same! So much for the "maidenhair" ferns. So they are all either "Christmas" ferns, like the one package, or some other kind. I have probably no way of IDÂing them other than they look "average". IÂm glad they were cheap. They ARE healthy looking.

Is there some diagnostic page I can use to ID them?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 8:43PM
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You can post a picture on the Gallery (60K or less). Or check the site below. It should have most of them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hardy ferns

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 8:07AM
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I grow the northern Maidenhair from spore. It is one of the easiest. My experience is that nursery-grown plants are always in containers. Cheap, bareroot plants have been wild-collected and laundered.
The major distinction with Christmas fern is that it is evergreen. If you're in an area with snow they can flatten out in the winter.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 9:54PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

They were all planted in the same area almost 2 weeks ago. We had lot of rain and they are doing well. I will probably never know what they are; I went through part of that fern list but it is very long. They could all be Christmas ferns: they look enough like the picture to be: but then again they look like lots of the other pictures too. If they turn out to be evergreen, well maybe then IÂll know.

I donÂt usually buy anything bare root and bagged, but for a first and only time, I guess itÂs not too bad. I never see ferns in the nursery, which is probably why I succumbed.

I donÂt like the idea of wild collecting, so will not be doing this again. Fortunately I only bought the ferns. Is that true for other perennials or just ferns? IÂd be really mad if I nursed along a flower that turned out to be the wrong color or species instead.

Thanks for all the help!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2008 at 12:09AM
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