Maidenhair fern. Semi-evergreen to evergreen ferns growing to 12” or more and preferring semi-shade and moist, neutral to acidic soils. New fronds are tinted red on emergence. Good air circulation and constant moisture are recommended; remove fading fronds regularly. Lacy and delicate, the following are favorites with us and make exceptional container subjects. Hardiness varies. Cosmopolitan, but particularly tropical and temperate North America.
capillus-veneris: Common maidenhair or Southern maidenhair. Tough and durable fern growing to 12” tall with dainty, triangular, light green fronds on black stems. Requires warm season moisture and is useful cascading over a moist bank or edging a pond. Allow for dormancy where winters are cold. Hardy to 20F. North America.
pedatum: Five-fingered maidenhair fern. Tallest and boldest of the Adiantums, growing to 18” tall with clumps to 2’ in diameter, creeping by stout rootstocks. Dainty, divided, green fronds are produced on wiry, chocolate stems. For best effect, place near constant moisture around a pond or near a stream. Hardy to below 0F. California.
Squirrel’s foot fern or Hare’s foot fern. Finely divided fronds 12” long and 6” wide rise from furry, brownish-red rhizomes that resemble squirrel’s feet creeping over the soil surface. Useful as a small-scale groundcover in partly shaded areas, it is also effective in hanging baskets. Plants are best in partial shade with less water than other ferns. A surprisingly enduring, drought tolerant fern, it has survived extended periods of drought in our garden and now forms attractive patches in woodland shade. Provide moderate to occasional water. Hardy to 28F. Tropical Asia, Malaysia.
Coastal wood fern or California wood fern. An evergreen native fern with dark green, finely cut, airy fronds, 2-3’ tall spreading slowly by rhizomes. A bit challenging to establish, but once settled makes a strong, reliable garden subject. Plant in partial to full shade and provide only occasional water once established. Remove fading fronds for a cleaner appearance. Hardy to 0F. Washington to Southern California.
Roundleaf fern or Button fern. A small, evergreen fern with 12” spreading fronds and small dark green leaflets that are nearly round (hence the common name) and somewhat leathery. Requires filtered shade and moderate water, and is an attractive selection for contrast with finer-textured ferns. Place in raised beds, hanging baskets or containers. Hardy to 32F. New Zealand, Australia.
Western sword fern. A coarsely-textured evergreen fern with dark green, leathery fronds to 2-4’ tall. The sword-shaped fronds form symmetrical upright clumps and thrive in light to deep shade in soils rich in organic matter. A durable native species, this is the most common fern in redwood forests. Exceptional choice in mixed woodland plantings with other native species such as Carex tumulicola, western azalea or flowering currants. Use in shady beds, along walls, or massed as a groundcover. Moderate to occasional water. Hardy to 0F. California to Alaska.
Leatherleaf fern. Evergreen fern with triangular, finely cut, glossy green fronds to 3’. A vigorous fern for full sun along the coast or partial shade elsewhere, it will spread rapidly in favorable sites by long-jointed creeping rhizomes. Another exceptional choice for woodland gardens combined with New Zealand sedges such as Carex testacea, dipsacea, or comans. The leathery fronds are often used as filler in floral arrangements. Hardy to 24F. Cosmopolitan, Southern Hemisphere.
Giant chain fern. Large native fern, potentially growing to 9’ tall, though usually much smaller in a garden setting. A vigorous, fast-growing species with coarse, light green fronds rising from a woody basal clump, the giant chain fern makes a strong upright silhouette that offers dramatic flair against a shaded wall. Suitable beside ponds or streams or for understory plantings with other woodland species; lilies growing up through the fronds make for an alluring combination. Best in part shade, but well-watered specimens will tolerate a surprising amount of sun. In shaded positions established plants are quite drought tolerant. Cut older fronds to the base to encourage lush springtime growth. Hardy to 10F. Western British Columbia to Southern California.