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Posted by skybird z5, Denver, CO (My Page) on
Thu, Apr 29, 10 at 21:29

GinnyTrcka asked a question over on one of the swap threads about hardy ferns, and to keep the info separate, and to keep that already long thread from getting a lot longer, Im going to post the information here!

I LOVE fernsespecially hardy ones!

Most of the genus Dryopteris ferns are hardy, and many of them are referred to a "wood ferns," and look a lot like what youd most often find growing wild. One of the common names for Dryopteris marginalis is Eastern wood fern, and it looks exactly like something youd find growing out "in the woods!"

Dryopteris filix-mas, male fern, is another one that looks like a stereotypical fern!

So far I have Dryopteris erythrosora, autumn fern, which I love because the new fronds are a pretty bronze color when they start, and then they turn green as they mature. But as long as there are new fronds growing out, you get that pretty bronzy look! Autumn fern was one of my "gotta haves!"

Another "pretty" one is Athyrium nipponicum, Japanese painted fern, which has silvery-green fronds with red highlightsespecially on the stems, and there are now varieties, as I understand it, that have very red stems! I have the originalso far!

I also have a Matteucia struthiopteris, ostrich fern. Got that one at a box store as a root in a baggie with a little bit of peat moss! It was $3.00! (Fern plants are usually higher priced that the other perennials at garden centers, BTW) Ostrich ferns are supposed to be invasive, but mines been in since spring of 07 and I sure havent had any problem yet! Its the clay factor, I assume! It comes back every year, but it really isnt a whole lot bigger than it was the first year! They get big/tall (3' or more), and are more "bowl shaped," but mine hasnt gotten big enough yet to see the "bowl!"

And I have a leatherwood/Eastern wood, Dryopteris marginalis, which I also got "in a baggie" for $3.40! It hasnt done much either, but all my ferns are up already, and I have high hopes for this year! (I am a little bit worried about the next couple nites since some of the "uncurling" fronds are already 6" high! I pushed a little more mulch around the bottoms, but the tops are still sticking outand theyre on their own!) This one looks like an everyday, ordinary fern, and would be good for use in flower arrangementsif it ever gets big enough! (Different from the leatherleaf ferns used by florists!)

I also bought a cinnamon fern in a baggie, but it died the first winter. After looking up more info online, tho, I didnt really care that much that it had died! The "big brown things" that stick up (actually, the fertile fronds) looked pretty in the picture on the package when I got it, but I found some "real" pictures online that were downright uglyIMO!

I definitely still want to get a maidenhair, Adiantum pedatumI love the delicacy. And Ill probably eventually get one of the "newer," brighter Japanese painted ferns. And after that Ill probably getanything I run into thats interestingthat I can afford! I cant really think of any I wouldnt like to at least try

Some are evergreen and some are deciduous! And theyll ALL do better if you improve the soil with a LOT of peat or other really good, loose, well-draining organic matter. Tho you may want to keep it on the clay-y side for the ones that are supposed to be aggressive/invasive! Natural invasion control! ;-)

Here are a couple really good hardy fern sites. Start with this one, which is a quick reference for height and hardiness, and then you can check them out more here once you know the Latin name!

And heres a list of ones you should be able to find locally at Paulinos, and probably Timberlineand probably any other "real" garden center! (Some of these come in multiple varieties that are slightly different from each other!)

Adiantum pedatum - maidenhair
Athyrium nipponicum - Japanese painted
Athyrium filix-femina - lady fern
Dryopteris erythrosora - Autumn Fern
Dryopteris filix-mas - male fern
Dryopteris marginalis - leatherwood fern, Eastern wood fern
Matteucia struthiopteris - ostrich fern
Osmunda cinnamomea - cinnamon fern
Osmunda regalis - royal fern
Polystichum acrostichoides - Christmas fern

You can, as I did, find some types of bare root ferns at the big box stores in spring, and if you do that, go thru the packages "feeling" the root to find the biggest one you can get! And be sure they havent been sitting out in the hot sun somewhere! As with anything else, plant wise, that you buy at a BB store, consider the conditions in which its been kept up until the time you find it!

Thats a start! If you have any questions, let me know. I may or may not be able to answer them!

When I was up in Waterton Provincial Park (Glacier/Waterton, Montana/Alberta) a few years ago, I collected spores from some ferns that were growing up there, and some day I hope to start them. Also have spores from some of the ones we had for sale when I was working in the green industry. Way back in the late 60's I did actually successfully start some (tender) ferns from spores I got from Parks! It was fascinating to watch them develop!

Any other Fern Fanatics around here?


P.S. Wish I had some pictures to post, but mine still haven't been big enough to bother taking pics of! Hope to get some this year!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Ferns!

I adore ferns, as well -- but was under the impression that they didn't like it out here on the dry, windy Front Range. Was I mistaken?

(I have several lovely Java ferns, aka Microsorum pteropus, but they're kept in an aquarium)

RE: Ferns!

I like ferns, but I've had terrible luck with them. The one that ended up doing the best, was also one that I think is just an amazing looker: Japanese Painted Fern. The one I had, had almost silvery foliage with the dark, purpley center.

I'd like to try an ostrich fern again, but the last time I tried it, I had bare-roots that I planted, but the fern never showed :(

Here is a link that might be useful: Painted Fern - Pictum

RE: Ferns!

Wow--thanks for all then names--I'm going to print it and carry it in my car. You never know what you're going to find at the big box. I've seen so many plants that I know are definitely not hardy that I haven't wanted to invest in ferns. We ammended tons of soil last fall and I'm ready to start adding plants! It's still only a tiny fraction of what I would like to do, but if I can fill my current beds then just continue expanding out into the woodlands with future divisions. I have lots of patience, but don't think I could raise ferns from spores--seems like it would be hard.

RE: Ferns!

Skybird - I'm so glad you started this thread. I've been trying to get more variety in my shade areas & looking at all the photos online of other peoples gardens, I really wanted some ferns. So, I bought a dozen of them from Springhill this year - received them a few weeks ago & potted them up.

While I was waiting for my order it occured to me that ferns may not do good in Colorado, so was wondering how I would get them to survive. I have a bad habit of planting things in the wrong place just because I like them. But it sounds like most should do OK here...that's great news. I'll read up more on the links you posted & hopefully get mine to do well. Some are showing there curly little heads now so I'm hopeful...

- Sherri

RE: Ferns!

For those of you who may want to try them, the more organic matter you have in the soil, the more likely they are to do well. When you find them growing naturally, and walk into the area where theyre growing, youll usually find the soil is soft and almost spongy from all the debris thats decomposed around them over the years. Now theres no way were ever going to get that kind of soil in our yards, but adding a lot of organic matter will really improve your odds of success. And then theres the lite factor! With our high altitude sun, they should be kept completely out of anything even approximating "midday" sun! The only midday sun that might work would be if its HEAVILY filtered thru a tree or bush. Intermittent midday sun wouldnt work because the sunny "half" of the intermittent would burn them. So shade or heavily filtered sun, or some early morning or late afternoon direct sun will work.

Mine are against the north side of a two-story hours. The only direct sun they get is the early morning and late afternoon type, and they seem to like the conditions.

So put them in some pretty good soil, with bright indirect lite or the right sun conditions, keep them moist to wet all the timethey WAY do not like dry soiland they really shouldnt be that hard to grow.

Mine are all up and looking good this year, but they really havent gotten much bigger than when they were first put in because I didnt have any "good" compost yet, and they were planted in way too much clay. When I have time I want to dig each of them up, mix in LOTS of my yummy homegrown compost, and replant them, but I dont know when Ill get around to itand the ostrich fernthat one, I think, is gonna stay in the clay!

You CAN grow ferns out here, and I dont know what the genus and species are, but they do grow wild out in the hills. Years ago up near Steamboat I saw huge fields of them one time, and Ive seen them other places too.


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