Creating a Fern Garden

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.

Woodwardia Ferns

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.

Mother Fern

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 fimbriata

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.

Woodwardia unigemmata

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 Rabbitโ€™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.

painted fern.jpg

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.

Tassel Fern

Autumn Fern

autum fern

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.

fern stump

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

Sword Fern

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.

sword fern

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.

sword larger.JPG

Lady Fern

lady fern

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

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

green fern.jpg

Group Photo of My Fern Garden

Say Chesse! April 2, 2018

group photo ferns.jpg

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

pop up green houses

Updated February 4
The ferns did not have enough room so we created a larger fern garden. Later on in the year some died of heat and in the winters some die from cold or being over wet in the wet cold winter. We is my boyfriend Ricky and myself.

4 thoughts on “Creating a Fern Garden

  1. What zone are you growing in? I assume they do well in places like Florida? I think they need high humidity Florida is zone 11, but I live in zone 9A, but humidity is low here. I would like to have a sunroom (glass room). I had to move some of ferns into pots indoors because winter is too cold here.


  2. Hello there Macy, I now have 6 of these ferns in my greenhouse and after a slow year they are finally starting to show their joy for life. I got 8 little baby ferns off of a neighbors fern. I have 3 Angiopteris evecta ferns that took me 5 years of searching to get and they are also getting BIG. The biggest has a leaf that is 10 feet long. but anyway…. Since I have the need for different when I saw it at first, with all of the thousands of babies on hers, I HAD to have one, and since I didn’t get the right name I had no idea what to order or look for. . She called it a grandmother fern, and mother of millions fern. I looked and looked and still looked till finally one day I ran across a picture of that fern with the same babies on it on line and finally found its name. But in the mean time she wouldn’t let me have any…. not even ONE tiny plant. She always said they wont grow, they wont grow I have tried it. I can imagine after seeing the extremely sad dehydrated state of her big fern was. So After 2 years of seeing her fern I was in the back yard and I looked down and there were only a handful of rather large babies laying on the ground already fallen off of the leaf. All but just a handful of tiny ones were also gone. I couldn’t even find any spore to pilfer. I was so overwhelmed that I just lunged when she wasn’t looking and grabbed them and even a very small rather sad looking baby still on the leaf. I made an excuse for a fast get away and ran home. I planted them in very organic potting soil and added a little peat moss. Planted them all, watered them and covered them with glass. They are in the greenhouse under glass and kept very well watered. I live in Daytona Beach and my greenhouse is on the HOT side also. Funny the tiny baby plantlet survived, and five of the other bigger ones also did. But they did very little this first year except they lived. It took a couple months for me to see anything coming out of the center but they all managed to send out a new leaf…. then nothing…… this went on all of this last summer. The funny thing about them also is that they all put out new leaves at the same time. Perhaps because they are all rescued and started a good life at the same time. I have no idea if it is because of the cooler temps in the greenhouse since the turn of the sun in the fall and winter, or just the bigger they get the faster they get big…..But they are doing great now. I am going to make it a point to bargin with Jane and take as many of her tiny babies and see if I can manage to nurture as many as I can so I can share them with as many people as I can. They are definitely a special gorgeous fern. And I love to share…. ๐Ÿ˜€ But back to your question….. I have no idea what I did expect for give them GREAT growing medium, and lots of moisture and they GREW,…..


  3. Hello ,

    I saw your tweet about animals and thought I will check your website. I like it!

    I love pets. I have two beautiful thai cats called Tammy(female) and Yommo(male). Yommo is 1 year older than Tommy. He acts like a bigger brother for her. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I have even created an Instagram account for them ( ) and probably soon they will have more followers than me (kinda funny).

    I have subscribed to your newsletter. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Keep up the good work on your blog.



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