Color is one way to add interest to your landscape, but don't forget about foliage. Ferns provide graceful textures, thanks to their fronds.
The native sword fern works great as a groundcover, spreading easily and requiring little maintenance.
For a truly impressive statement in the landscape, try planting a tree fern. These primitive plants are suited to Central and South Florida and can grow to between 15 and 30 feet tall.
Another favorite is the staghorn fern, so-called because of its distinctive antler-shaped fronds. It works well in hanging baskets or nestled in the trunk of a tree.
Holly fern, named for the pointy tips on its leathery leaves, is a drought-resistant plant that's ideal for shady areas under trees. As an added bonus, holly fern is deer-resistant as well.
Holly ferns form loose two to three-foot tall clumps of deep green feathery leaves. They can be used in partially sunny to fully shady spots as a border plant, ground cover, or in a woodland garden. They can also be kept in pots on covered patios. It makes an excellent understory plant beneath old reclaimed plants like camellia, sweet olive, and other large shrubs which have had their lower branches removed.
The maidenhair fern makes a delicate, airy addition to shady spots in your landscape or inside your house. The light gray-green foliage adds a soft feeling to the garden, especially around water features. This fern is best used in mass plantings, but can also be used as an edging or specimen plant. And it makes an excellent groundcover, never getting taller than a couple of feet. There are many kinds of maidenhair fern, so pick a type with foliage that most appeals to you.
Ferns typically do best in shady, moist settings that are protected from freezes, so make sure that you have the right spot picked out before you plant them. In North and Central Florida, fronds may be damaged by cold weather. Cut them back before new spring growth begins. Buy several and plant them in broad sweeps or cover the ground underneath a shady tree.
- Acrostichum danaeifolium, Giant Leather Fern
- Adiantum spp., Maidenhair Fern
- Florida Plant ID: Cyrtomium falcatum, Holly Fern
- Native and Non-Native Ferns in Florida
- Acrostichum danaeifolium, Giant Leather Fern (PDF)
- An Overview and Informal Key of the Ferns of Florida
- Dryopteris erythrosora Autumn Fern, Japanese Shield Fern
- Natural Area Weeds: Distinguishing Native and Non-Native "Boston Ferns" and "Sword Ferns"
Also on Gardening in a Minute
- Australian Tree Ferns
- Bird's Nest Fern
- Footed Ferns
- Invasive Sword Fern
- Perennials for the Shade
- Resurrection Fern
- Southern Shield Fern
- Staghorn Fern