Most tropical ferns need to be grown in a green house or as a house plant. Ferns will grow in a sun room, but they need humidity and they don’t like dry indoor air. Here is a look at some cold hardy ferns you can use to create an outdoor fern garden in zones 10 to 5.
I have planted three different types of Woodwardia Ferns.
My favorite is Woodwardia orientalis. This fern is the hardiest to grow unless you live in a mild moist climate like Florida or Hawaii. This fern loves the hot summer weather as long as its watered a lot, but it hates cold. Woodwardia orientalis will start to turn black and die back in the cold. The fronds are very delicate and subject to damage from wind or cold. It may not come back from its winter dormancy. I found that placing a plastic pop up green house is helpful in the winter. I am in zone 9. I would suggest green house growing, but this is a big fern with 6 foot fronds that look better not in a pot but in the ground. This Fern is called The Mother Fern. It makes baby ferns on its mature fronds. I have never been able to get the babies to live. If you have done it please comment and tell me how you did it. I would like to start selling these ferns. No just kidding, but I want to know how to have enough for myself, in case this one dies. This is my third attempt to grow Woodwardia orientalis.
All ferns love heavy amounts of my homemade compost which is the best in the world. Contact me for how too tips. I used to have some how to compost blogs online, but there is so much disagreement among composters (people who compost), and it can fail very easily. I don’t want to give advice and lead you into a mess. You could have problems with insects and especially ants and fungus gnats. One hand, its easy to compost things, but it’s hard to create quality compost.
Woodwardia fimbriata is a very easy fern to grow as it native to California, but it’s boring. The fronds don’t turn interesting colors. It is almost a weed and is hard to kill even. It is the perfect fern for a black thumb. Mine grew huge. Try this fern if all else fails to grow.
Woodwardia unigemmata is my newest Woodwardia. I have purchased one at Regan Nursery and I will see how it goes. I assume it will be similar to orientalis, but the fronds look tougher. I assume, therefore, it will be easier to grow then orientalis. My specimen is extremely pot bound. I hope it can survive. It is also said to be a Mother Fern.
List of all Woodwardia Ferns that you can buy for your garden
Woodwardia areolata (Netted Chain Fern) (Native to the USA)
Woodwardia fimbriata (Native to California)
Woodwardia japonica (I can’t find any info on this fern, but japonica means Japanese)
Woodwardia radicans (European Chain Fern)
Woodwardia unigemmata (Jeweled Chain Fern)
Woodwardia virginica (Native to Virginia)
Woodwardia orientalis The Mother Fern (This fern is so hard to grow, it is not grown very often, and is hard to find)
Other Ferns I am growing
Phlebodium pseudoaureum, also known as the Blue Rabbit’s Foot Fern, or the Virginia Blue Fern, is a fairly large growing fern. I got mine at The San Francisco Botanical Garden
It was a rip off. The fern was large, but it had been grown in a cell and quickly transplanted to a bigger pot. I removed the fern for planting, and the root was the size a small cell about one inch by one inch or whatever the size of a very small cell is. I worked and prayed over it, but I think it dies in the winter as I bought it at the sale on July 8, 2017 and on 12/7/2017 it turned black and died back. I do not yet know if it will come back to life yet. I can’t even find a photo of it. I had only two fronds and it failed to perform.
Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum)
A medium sized fern that needs a pop up green house in the winter or it will die in zone 9. No issues. Likes mild weather, easy to grow, can survive hot weather with a lot of water.
Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum) also medium sized with no issues. It likes a pop up green house, but can survive in zone 9 without one.
The first Autumn Fern I got at Half Moon Bay Nursery, but it could not make the transition to the outdoors in San Francisco. I got a second one in 2012, at Shell Dance Orchid Nursery It did survive. I am not sure what made the difference. I have not grown any Autumn Ferns in Ukiah, yet. They are easy to grow, and they start out with red to brown fronds. Reported to survive up to Zone 5.
My first Autumn Fern in San Francisco in my garden
Other plants in the photo are the Chinese Ever Green, hostas, and Garnet Glow Calla Lily.
California Native Ferns
These ferns will come to your garden via spores like a weed. I found the sword fern growing in the at the bottom on drain pipe. It became the drain pipe fern.
I took care of it. I tried to make the neighbors stop blocking the light with garbage cans. When my husband had terminate cancer. I forgot about it. I stopped watering it and it had lost all its fronds. I thought it was dead. But, then it made a rally. I started to water it again and give it compost. When I moved I dug it up, and transplanted it. It really wanted to live. Here it is today.
I had three of them and I planted them in the shade of my San Francisco Garden. They grow very big, but then they got aphids. I could not kill the aphids they would not die. I had to destroy the ferns. I dug them up and placed in the green waste bin.
Lady Ferns also grow like weeds or volunteers. They will die back in the cold, but then they come back in the summer. They are easy to grow and grow very fast.
Lady Ferns Growing under a palm tree
Polypodium scouleri Leathery Polypody came from Harmony Nursery
This is a very small evergreen fern, that grows naturally in Santa Cruz, California
Group Photo of My Fern Garden
Say Chesse! April 2, 2018
Back to Front
Lady Ferns, Painted Fern, Leathery Polypody (can barely be see), Tassel Fern, Woodwardia unigemmata
Pop Up Green Houses with Frost on the ground Winter/Spring season 2017 to 2018
Updated February 4
The ferns did not have enough room so we created a larger fern garden.