Five Different Ways to Use Native Ferns in Gardens

Five Different Ways to Use Native Ferns in Gardens

Ferns are a vibrant plant species that have been around for millions of years and exist in various shapes, sizes, and textures, making them a versatile option for any garden. Native ferns, in particular, make an excellent addition to any outdoor space as they are adapted to local climates and conditions, making them easier to care for.

In this blog post, we present five different ways to use native ferns in your garden. Whether you want to create a low-maintenance garden, add texture to your landscape, or attract wildlife, native ferns can help you achieve your goals. From ground cover to focal points, many creative ways to incorporate ferns into your garden design exist. So let’s dive in!


  • Groundcover

  • Groundcover refers to low-growing plants that cover the ground, providing a layer of vegetation that protects the soil from erosion, suppresses weed growth, and conserves moisture. Groundcover plants can also help to improve soil health and provide a habitat for beneficial insects and other wildlife.

    Using native ferns as a ground cover in your garden can offer several benefits. Native ferns are adapted to local conditions and require less maintenance than non-native species. Their unique textures and foliage can also add visual interest to your garden. Additionally, ferns can help to improve soil health by adding organic matter to the soil as they decompose.

    Types of Native Ferns Suitable for Groundcover

    Several native fern species are suitable for ground cover in gardens. Some of them include the Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina), Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), and the Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)

    Tips for Planting and Maintaining Fern Groundcover

    Prepare the soil by removing weeds and improving drainage. Native ferns prefer moist, well-draining soil, so consider mixing organic fertilizer into the soil before planting.

    Plant them close together to promote ground cover growth and minimize weed growth. Once planted, water ferns regularly, especially during hot and dry weather. You can use a layer of mulch around the ferns to help retain moisture in the soil.


    To maintain fern ground cover, remove any dead or damaged fronds as needed, but be careful not to damage the plant's crown. You can divide ferns every few years to promote growth and prevent overcrowding.

  • Shade Garden

  • A shade garden is an area of the garden that receives minimal direct sunlight, typically less than three hours per day. This type of garden can offer several benefits, including providing a serene and peaceful retreat and supporting a variety of shade-loving plants that may not thrive in full sunlight.

    Types of Native Ferns Suitable for a Shade Green

    Native ferns are an excellent choice for planting in a shade garden. Some popular native ferns ideal for this purpose include Christmas, Lady, and Maidenhair ferns. These ferns are adapted to grow in low light conditions and can add a lush and green element to your garden design.

    Tips For Planting Ferns in a Shade Garden

    When planting ferns in a shade garden, it is crucial to prepare the soil by adding organic matter, including compost or leaf mold, to improve soil health and drainage. Ferns prefer moist, well-draining soil, so water them consistently, mainly when the weather is dry and hot.

    For maintenance, remove any dead or damaged fronds as needed, but be careful not to damage the plant's crown. Add a layer of mulch around the ferns to help retain moisture in the soil.

  • Borders and Edging

  • Garden borders and edging are design elements that define the edges of garden beds and pathways. They provide a clean and organized look to a garden and help to prevent plants from spreading. Native ferns can be a great addition to garden borders and edging, providing a unique and natural look. 

    Types of Native Ferns Suitable for Borders and Edging


    Some popular native ferns perfect for borders and edging include the Autumn, Hayscented, and Ostrich ferns. 

    Tips For Planting Ferns As Borders and Edging

    Choose a location that provides the appropriate amount of sunlight and moisture for the fern. Ensure the soil is well-draining and amend it with organic matter if necessary. Space ferns appropriately to allow for proper growth and air circulation. When planting, ensure the top of the fern's root ball is leveled with the soil surface. Water regularly and mulch to retain moisture and prevent weed growth. 

    Remove any dead fronds as needed to promote healthy growth. With the proper care, native ferns can add a beautiful and functional element to your garden design.

  • Container Gardening

  • Container gardening is where plants are grown in containers instead of on the ground. Several advantages come with this sort of gardening, including adaptability in location, a lower chance of infections transmitted through the soil, and simplicity in upkeep. Native ferns can be a great option for container gardening, giving your outdoor space a distinctive and refreshing appearance. 

    Types of Native Ferns Suitable for Container Gardening

    These include the Cinnamon fern, northern maidenhair fern, and Wood fern. Other options include Rabbit's Foot Fern, Staghorn Fern, and Holly Fern, all of which are renowned for their low maintenance requirements. Whether you have a shady balcony or a sunny patio, there is sure to be a native fern that fits your container gardening needs.

    Tips For Planting and Maintaining Ferns in Containers

    Utilize a pot with drainage holes and pour a well-draining potting mix. Ensure that the fern receives the right amount of sunlight and moisture for its specific type. Make sure to water regularly and fertilize during the growing season. As the fern grows, you may need to transplant it into a larger container. Get rid of dead fronds to ensure proper growth. With regular care, ferns can thrive in containers and enhance the beauty of your open space.

  • Focal Points

  • Garden focal points are key elements that draw the eye and create visual interest in a garden. They can be a variety of features, such as sculptures, fountains, or certain plants. Native ferns can also be used as focal points due to their striking appearance. They can breathe life into your garden and give your outdoor space a natural touch.

    Types of Native Ferns Suitable As Focal Points

    The popular types of native ferns include the Royal, Maidenhair, and Cinnamon Ferns.

    Tips For Planting and Maintaining Ferns As Focal Points

    Consider their size and growth habit, ensuring they will not become too large and overwhelm the garden. Go with a location that will allow the fern to be viewed from multiple angles, and consider adding other plants or design elements to enhance the focal point. Also, in order to keep ferns healthy and bright, regular watering and the removal of dead fronds are necessary.


    All-in-all, native ferns offer a versatile and unique option for garden design. They can flourish and improve the attractiveness of your outdoor space if you choose the right one for the area and use the right planting and maintenance practices. They can also provide environmental benefits by improving soil health and attracting beneficial wildlife. Don't be afraid to experiment with different types of native ferns and creative ways to incorporate them into your garden. So go ahead and try adding some ferns to your garden, and enjoy the natural beauty they bring!