Ferns are an excellent type of plant that do well in shady spots which is one of the reasons they are so popular.
They’re also known for the ability to remove pollutants from the air so make fantastic house plants.
But there are so many varieties to choose from so if you’re looking to create a beautiful and hardy fern garden, you’re in the right place.
Table of Contents
1 – Hay Scented Fern
The hay scented fern is a great winter variety of fern that’s incredibly hardy and thrives best in part or full shade.
It’ll grow to around 30 inches and is brilliant regardless of the type of soil as it’ll even do well in drier conditions.
However, you should keep in mind that this one can get quite aggressive so it’s probably best not to plant it alongside other plants.
When the fronds are cut, they give off the aroma of fresh hay which is where the plant gets its name.
2 – Japanese Painted Fern
If you’re looking for a fern that will give the aesthetics of your garden a boost then there isn’t much quite as effective as the Japanese painted fern.
This variety has fronds that are colored in all sorts of shades including burgundy and silvery or even pink and blue.
This is a smaller variety of fern, growing up to around 15 inches bit will do well in several conditions and is very tolerant to drought.
It does well in full shade but if you want the brightest colors then try to give it a spot in the morning sun.
3 – Holly Fern
The holly fern takes its name from the similarities between its fronds and the holly plant.
It’s a mid sized fern that will grow up to 30 inches in a variety of different conditions.
It does especially well in zones 6 to 10 and can cope in both full and part shade.
If you live in a coastal area then you’ll find that the holly fern is very tolerant of the conditions here.
It’s an excellent addition to your borders but also provides great ground cover.
4 – Northern Maidenhair Fern
This is a native variety of fern that does well in moist soil.
Out of all of the ferns on this list, it’s one that’s a little less tolerant as it won’t do well in wet soil but also cannot be left to dry out.
If you don’t want a plant that you’ll have to remember to water, this might not be a good choice.
However, the Northern Maidenhair fern is a stunning plant whose foliage comes in green and black creating a gorgeous contrast.
Give it full or part shade and it’ll do just as well, growing up to 24 inches.
5 – Southern Maidenhair Fern
Another maidenhair variety is the southern which is a little smaller at a maximum of 20 inches and slightly more hardy than its northern counterpart.
It’s resistant to animals like deer and likes to be in well drained soil but can sit in part or full shade.
The southern maidenhair fern is a delightful looking plant that can be found growing wildly among limestone.
This means that a lot of people choose it for rockeries but it’s also great for ground cover. Just make sure it gets enough water.
6 – Interrupted Fern
The interrupted fern does very well in all positions including full shade and full sun so it doesn’t matter where you place it.
It’s also one of the bigger ferns on this list, growing up to 40 inches.
The interrupted fern has leaflets that bear spores during the beginning of summer and is incredibly fertile.
This native plant is very flexible and isn’t all that dissimilar to the cinnamon fern which we will look at later.
7 – Male Fern
Another tall fern is the male fern which can grow up to 60 inches and thrives in zones 6 to 8.
It does require a good amount of water so it’s important not to let it dry out and while it is very easy to care for, you should ensure that it has good protection from the wind.
What’s great about the male fern is that it is evergreen.
In colder areas, only semi-evergreen but still. It’s great if you have clay soil in your area as it does well even in these harsher conditions.
8 – Japanese Tassel Fern
The Japanese tassel fern is another semi evergreen fern variety and is brilliant for gardens as it is not at all aggressive.
What’s more, if you have problems with animals like rabbits and deer, it’s resistant to them.
It’s not a huge fern and will grow up to 36 inches but has a unique and appealing appearance with fronds that have copped hued hairs.
Plant in part or full shade and your plant will do very well.
9 – Autumn Fern
The autumn fern adds a pop of color to the garden throughout the year which is one of the reasons it is such a popular variety of hardy fern.
It does best in zones 4 to 9 and can be grown in both full and part shade.
The fronds have a frilly appearance and have a rusty pink hue that makes them one of the best looking types of fern on this list.
These colors change across the year, turning a rich bronze color in the fall.
10 – Broad Beech Fern
A smaller variety of hardy fern, growing up to just 24 inches is the broad beech fern.
It’s great as it will spread very rapidly so if you’re looking for fast cover then it’s a good one to choose.
However, you should keep in mind that it doesn’t do as well through winter and will die back a little.
The way this plant grows is rather unique where ferns are concerned.
Under the ground, there are long rhizomes and these put up single fronds along their entire length.
11 – Southern Shield Fern
The southern shield fern has brightly colored green fronds and is one of the most classic looking ferns on this list.
They are deer resistant and will do well in several different conditions including high humidity and heat. This makes it perfect for zones 6 to 9.
The southern shield fern grows to around 36 inches at its max and is a brilliant choice if you’re looking for a ground cover plant.
However, do keep in mind that it is prone to frost damage.
12 – Royal Fern
If you want a fern that is going to get very big then the royal fern will be right up your street as it can get as large as 72 inches.
Not only this but the delicate green fronds have a slightly silver hue to them making this an exceptionally nice looking fern variety.
It grows well across zones 3 to 9 and doesn’t mind being in the sun provided that it remains well watered.
Even more interesting is that it’s almost impossible to over water this fern as it will even grow when placed in a shallow pool.
13 – Ebony Spleenwort
Moving on to a much smaller hardy fern variety, we have the ebony spleenwort.
This may not look like a fern at first glance and doesn’t always behave like one either, but it is.
It will grow in all kinds of conditions including full sun and part shade and does well in zones 3 to 8.
The spleenwort is a winter variety of fern and does best in drier soil as well as among rocks.
As the plant gets older, the stems turn a deep black color which is how the fern earned its name.
14 – Marginal Wood Fern
The marginal wood fern has very deep, grey to green fronds that have a leathery texture.
It’s great for smaller spaces as it won’t spread and only grows up to around 24 inches at most.
What’s even better is that this is an evergreen fern so it’ll give your garden a splash of color all year round and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance.
15 – Western Sword Fern
The western sword fern is better saved for larger spaces as it can grow up to 72 inches.
However, it’s incredibly hardy and a great option for arid regions as it does exceptionally well in dry soil.
Do keep in mind however, that this doesn’t apply to younger plants and they need to be well established before they’ll become as resistant.
The western sword fern can be grown in part sun or full shade and features beautiful glossy dark leaves that are truly a sight to behold.
16 – Korean Rock Fern
For those who don’t want a massive fern taking over their outdoor space, the Korean rock fern is an excellent choice since it only grows to around 15 inches but usually just 10 inches.
This makes it ideal as a border plant placed among other plants.
The Korean rock fern does well in zones 7 to 9 but you should be aware that the plant is toxic to pets so keep them well out of the way.
It’s a beautiful type of fern with richly colored green leaves that shine in the light.
17 – Ostrich Fern
Looking for a fern that’s going to make a statement?
The ostrich fern grows up to 72 inches and gives your garden a beautiful tropical vibe.
It’s a winter fern that’s very hardy and easy to take care of.
However, owners should keep in mind that these ferns are quite aggressive so they will need lots of space.
18 – Christmas Fern
A mid sized fern that grows to around 36 inches, the Christmas fern boasts a rich, dark appearance that doesn’t dwindle as the year goes by.
It’s this evergreen nature that earned the plant its name and you can grow it in almost any position but it prefers full or part shade.
The Christmas fern won’t take over an area so it makes a brilliant border plant and won’t interfere with anything growing nearby.
It’s also rabbit and deer resistant and will put up with drought much better than a lot of other types of ferns.
19 – Southern Wood Fern
The southern wood fern has lighter colored fronds than many of the other varieties on this list and has a much more bushy appearance.
This one does well in zones 6 to 10 but keep in mind that it does like wet soil and lots of humidity.
This type of fern is moderately sized and will get to no more than 48 inches, with 36 being about average.
One of the main reasons that this type of fern is so popular is because of how well it provides ground cover.
20 – Lady Fern
The lady fern is a larger type of fern that will grow up to 60 inches when well taken care of.
There are different sub varieties of this fern that do well in the northern and southern parts of the country respectively so be sure to choose one that’s suitable for where you live.
These ferns love part or full shade but it is important to keep in mind that they are not very drought tolerant.
If you want your plant to thrive then you will need a strict watering schedule.
21 – Cinnamon Fern
The last hardy fern variety on our list is the cinnamon fern which can grow very tall; up to six feet if the conditions are right.
It will need plenty of water and likes to be in wet soil.
It’ll give your garden a nice pop of color thanks to the rich green fronds and little fiddleheads, which can be eaten.
The cinnamon fern is tolerant of a variety of positions so try growing it in full sun or full shade and you’ll still get great results.
What’s very interesting about the cinnamon fern is that it can grow underneath the black walnut tree which is a location that a lot of other plants struggle in.
Ferns are excellent in a shady garden or among rocks and they come in so many different varieties.
You’ll want a variety that is hardy and will withstand various conditions like the ones you see on this list.