September 2008
Home Grown Tomatoes

Consider Hardy Ferns for Your Garden

By Kenn Alan

When I owned a retail nursery I stocked all kinds of ferns during the heavy buying period. Hanging basket ferns like Boston Massii, rabbit foot and asparagus ferns were top sellers every year. Since I had the only complete nursery in the immediate area I also stocked hardy ferns which were hot sellers from mid-March until October.

The most common ferns found in the wild in Alabama seemed to be the most popular sellers in the retail store.

Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides) grow naturally in wooded parts from Mobile to Huntsville. Cinnamon ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea) are found, with a few exceptions, throughout the state. The Southern Wood ferns (Dryopteris ludoviciana) can be found in several southern counties. The Southern Shield fern (Thelypteris normalis) is widely distributed throughout the central part. You can find the Common Maidenhair ferns (Adiantum capillus-veneris) along rocky banks of streams in several counties.

It’s fun to identify these ferns in the wild, but if you are going to plant hardy ferns in your garden, please buy them from your local nursery and leave the naturally occurring ones in Mother Nature’s space.

When planting hardy ferns in your garden, it pays to do a little research before you buy them. Make sure you have the right growing conditions for your new plants by comparing your landscape to the wild. Will the ferns survive a lot of sun exposure, moisture or total shade? These are things to consider when planting.

Here are a few other choices for you to consider for your garden:

Selanginella or spikemoss comes in several varieties and makes a great groundcover for shaded areas. This can also be planted in hanging baskets.

• The Japanese painted fern (Athyrium goeringianum), Holly fern (Polystichum falcatum) and Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) are great for full shade and offer color diversity to an otherwise plain landscape.

• The Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) is a good one to use for height in your shade garden; growing as tall as three feet.

There are hardy ferns for most landscape situations in your yard. Most of the ones I mentioned are evergreen too. There are dozens of varieties of ferns in nurseries just waiting on you to take them home!

Remember, plant several of each variety to make a statement in your garden. Use them to highlight a focal point or to accentuate a feature. Let me help you choose ferns for your planting projects this fall! E-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Also remember to celebrate the autumn holiday, Autumnal Equinox, which occurs at 04:51, Central Time on September 23rd.

Friend me at and watch HGT on our live video feed at

I hope you’ll all tune in each Saturday from 1-3 p.m. CDT for Home Grown Tomatoes on our new flagship station, WAPZ Montgomery. If you aren’t in the local coverage area then tune in on the Internet at and follow the links to listen live!

For more on these and other gardening tips log on to Home Grown Tomatoes at