With their interesting foliage and textures, ferns are a must for any garden. Easy to grow and low-maintenance, they’re particularly useful for a shady spot. Some are evergreen, giving year-round interest, while others unfurl beautifully in spring.
At BBC Gardeners’ World Live we chose 10 varieties – some well-known, some more unusual – that deserve a place in your garden.
Many thanks to fern specialists Fernatix, who provided us with information on the plants in this feature.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Pale-green fronds of the royal fern
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