Here in the Pacific Northwest, you can’t walk in a straight line without bumping into a fern. So I have always taken them for granted.
Sometimes, they just pop up in unexpected places in my garden, like this delicate beauty that planted itself in the middle of some mondo grass.
I never really gave ferns much thought until recently when my mom, Erika, started collecting a variety for her sunroom. And then we visited The Spheres – where ferns from tiny to huge, and from delicate to rugged, were thriving.
So now I’m fascinated with ferns. And today, I am sharing some of my favorites.
Southern Maidenhair Fern
Southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) has a subtle, airy quality. It is a houseplant, but it can thrive outdoors in moderate climates or seasons. It is enchanting in mixed container gardens.
It looks so beautiful fresh from the nursery. But, as the tag said on the first one I bought, it “can be a challenge.”
I found out for myself that you can’t just treat it like an ordinary houseplant. I originally had mine on the counter in my dressing room.
It had filtered, indirect light, which was a good call. I watered it regularly. But it started crashing anyway. So I watered it more. Then I moved it. Then I started misting it. But it was too late.
I bought a fresh one to put in one of the DIY moss pouches I made a few months ago. It was tiny when I planted it but, unlike the first fern, this one has thrived.
And I think I know why: It’s the moss pouch. I water the fern not only from the top, but from the bottom by adding water to the glass saucer that the pouch sits on.
Then the water wicks up into the soil. I water it every couple of days, so the bottom of the moss pouch is always a bit moist. It could be that the plant likes the humidity caused by the moist moss, or maybe it likes having damp roots. Whatever the reason, this seems to be working.
It’s a bit of extra work, but it’s such a charming plant.
I took what was left of the first maidenhair fern I bought, the one that was crashing, and put it into a burlap pouch that I’d made for it. So, that one is also getting the damp-pouch treatment right now. The burlap pouch doesn’t look nearly as nice as a moss one, but it seems to be working. The fern is finally making a comeback.
Himalayan Maidenhair Fern
This is a delicate and beautiful outdoor fern with triangular fronds. Last summer, I got a small Himalayan maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum) to tuck into a shady part of my garden.
Then, in about February, I noticed that the plant had grown quite a bit – and was still looking fresh and amazing – in the dead of winter!
So I moved it to a large pot on my front porch.
It quickly rewarded me with a gorgeous display of new, coppery-pink fronds.
And it still looks amazing now. It gets morning sun and then shade for the rest of the day.
It makes a wonderful statement plant. I love the way the fronds drape around the rim of the pot.
This plant also likes regular watering but, unlike the Southern maidenhair fern, not so much water that it needs a soggy pouch.
Last spring, I put a fun DIY garden sphere together for my front porch. It was planted with New Guinea impatiens.
This year, I wanted a plant with a woodsy and structural look rather than something that flowered.
So I chose an Albo lineata feather fern (Pteris cretica albolineata). I underplanted it with baby tears.
I love the fronds poking through the sphere. They are fun and interesting.
This plant needs ample water and bright, indirect light. It’s actually more of a houseplant in my region, so when the weather cools in fall I will bring it inside.
Crispy Wave Fern
Last but not least we have the Crispy Wave Fern (Japanese Asplenium nidus). The name says it all: The fronds are wavy – and surprisingly crispy to the touch. Not what you would expect from a fern.
It’s a very unique houseplant – and a real superstar as far as oxygen production.
Since it tolerates low light, it sits near a north-facing window in my house. Its rumpled, spiky structure is fun and different.
When I remember, I water this plant a little more often than my other houseplants. But if I forget, it doesn’t seem to matter. For a fern, this one is fairly low-maintenance.
I have re-potted it several times now, and it quickly grows to accommodate the new pot. The pot it’s in now is actually fairly large, but I’ll probably move it to an even larger pot at some point and let it get even bigger.
So these are my four fantastic ferns, and the best part is that all of them were affordable and easy to find at local nurseries.
The garden books that I have don’t begin to cover all the different ferns out there – let alone how to care for them or decorate with them. I’m coveting this book by Mobee Weinstein, fern guru and frequent guest on Martha Stewart Living.
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