Glossy leaves of the British native fern Asplenium scolopendrium

10 ferns to grow

Discover 10 gorgeous, low-maintenance ferns to grow in a shady spot.

With their interesting foliage and textures, ferns are easy to grow and require little maintenance. Some species are evergreen, giving year-round interest, while others die back in autumn and produce new shoots (also known as croziers) in spring.

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At BBC Gardeners’ World Live we chose 10 varieties – some well-known, some more unusual – that are well worth growing if you have the right conditions.

Many thanks to fern specialists Fernatix, who provided us with information on the plants in this feature.


1

Adiantum venustum

This evergreen Himalayan maidenhair fern, Adiantum venustum, does well in shade or dappled shade; its delicate, light green fronds darken with age. Protect from wind. Height: 22-38cm

Delicate fronds of the Himalayan maidenhair fern
Delicate fronds of the Himalayan maidenhair fern
2

Asplenium scolopendrium

You often see British native Asplenium scolopendrium growing wild – if you spot it in your local area, it will probably grow well in your garden. It’s evergreen, and needs very little care – just a little tidying in spring. Height: 45-60cm

Glossy, strong leaves of Asplenium scolopendrium
Glossy, strong leaves of Asplenium scolopendrium
3

Asplenium scolopendrium Crispum Group

A cultivar of Asplenium scolopendrium, Crispum Group is an eye-catching evergreen that has distinctive wavy edges that become more pronounced as the plant matures. Height: 30-60cm

Crinkley-edged leaves of Asplenium scolopendrium, Crispum Group
Crinkley-edged leaves of Asplenium scolopendrium, Crispum Group
4

Athyrium niponicum

Deciduous painted Japanese fern Athyrium niponicum is flushed with silver and burgundy, making it an unusual, eye-catching choice. It’s growth is more prostrate than upright; it likes moisture. There are several pretty cultivars. Height: 30-38cm

Delicate, silver and burgundy leaves of the painted Japanese fern
Delicate, silver and burgundy leaves of the painted Japanese fern
5

Dryopteris erythrosora

Known as the autumn fern, Dryopteris erythrosora is an unusual fern has red new growth in spring, which eventually turns bronze and then green. It’s evergreen and just needs a little tidying up in early spring. Height: 60cm

Bronze fronds of the autumn fern
Bronze fronds of the autumn fern
6

Dryopteris wallichiana

In spring, deciduous fern Dryopteris wallichiana unfurls to produce striking fronds that are 90cm high. If you have the space, it looks particularly effective planted in a group. Height: 90cm

Tall fronds of Dryopteris wallichiana
Tall fronds of Dryopteris wallichiana
7

Matteuccia struthiopteris

The shuttlecock fern, or ostrich fern Matteuccia struthiopteris is not a British native, but has naturalised in parts of Britain. It sends up bright green ‘shuttlecocks’ in early spring and develops into a handsome plant. It prefers a moist soil. Height: 1-1.5m

Bright-green fronds of the shuttlecock or ostrich fern
Bright-green fronds of the shuttlecock or ostrich fern
8

Onychium japonicum

This delicate fern, Onychium japonicum, is known as the carrot fern, as its foliage resembles that of a carrot top. It hails from Japan, Thailand and India so isn’t fully hardy in the UK, although it should come through the winter in an unheated greenhouse. Height: 10-45cm

Fine fronds of the carrot top fern
Fine fronds of the carrot top fern
9

Osmunda regalis

Also known as the royal fern, Osmunda regalis is a deciduous fern with a stately look, that can reach quite a size. Its foliage turns bronze in autumn. It likes a damp spot. Height: 1.5m

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Pale-green fronds of the royal fern
Pale-green fronds of the royal fern
10

Polystichum polyblepharum

Polystichum polybelpharum is an easy-to-grow evergreen, also known as the Japanese tassel fern. The tips of the fronds are covered in golden hairs which give it an alternative name of the golden tassel fern. Height: 45-60cm

Golden tassel fern fronds
Golden tassel fern fronds