There was a time I struggled to grow ferns, but no more!By adding lots of organic matter to the planting hole of each fern, by mulching, and by being diligent to keep the soil moist, I have boosted my success rate. Now I rarely lose a fern. I also fertilize in spring with fish emulsion, and in July I treat them to my "summer tonic," a mixture of 2 Tbs. of epsom salts and 2 Tbs. fish emulsion per gallon of water, used to soak the ground beneath each fern.
Fortunately we get plentiful rainfall in my area, but sometimes we have dry weather during summer or fall. I do have a homemade sprinkler system of sorts that I use in the woodland garden during excessively dry periods. The woodland garden is a large area, so hauling hoses or buckets of water around can be an enormous chore. I created this system by burying two long industrial hoses under mulch. The first hose begins directly across the drive from the house and runs through the woodland garden to a staked impulse sprinkler, which is connected in tandem via the second hose to another staked impulse sprinkler. The two sprinklers together can water a large portion of the woodland garden, including all my ferns and native azaleas. A third hose stays attached to the faucet on the side of the house. We use this hose for washing cars, etc, but when the woodland garden needs watering, I simply pull it across the drive, connect it to the woodland hose and turn on the water.I acquired my ferns from different sources. Some were gifts. Many I purchased, and others I transplanted from other parts of my property, including the wild valley behind our house, an area rich in native ferns, but an area that is difficult to access, so I doubt I will ever develop it. Many of the ferns down there are growing in thin, hard soil. Most of them look scraggly. When I transplant them and give them my usual care, they usually respond by becoming healthy and lush.
The following is a sampling of the ferns in my garden. I have others, and there are more I would love to own! As you see, there are many types of ferns, which offer a variety of textures and colors:1. Bird's Nest Fern, Asplenium nidus. This fern is not hardy. It is in a pot and comes inside for the winter.
2. Peacock Fern, Selaginella uncinata. Its foliage has a turquoise iridescent sheen.
3. Lady fern, Athyrium filix-femina. I love its feathery fronds.
4.Southern River Wood Fern, Thelypteris kunthii. Wood ferns can grow up to 3 feet high.
5. Arborvitae Fern, Selaginella braunii. This is one that likes plenty of water.
6. Japanese Painted Fern, Athyrium niponicum. It's silvery fronds brighten dark spots in the woodland garden.
7. Japanese Holly fern, Cyrtomium falcatum. Evergreen in frost free areas, it loses its fronds in colder climates.
8. Autumn fern, Dryopteris erythrosora. Emerging fronds are copper colored, then gradually turn rich green by mid-summer.
9. Resurrection Fern, Pleopeltis polypodioides. This native fern appears to die during dry weather but quickly revives when rain returns.
10. East Indian Holly Fern, Arachniodes s.'Variegata.' This evergreen fern has prominent yellow variegation and will grow in zones 7-10a.
11. Southern Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum capillus-veneris. A beautiful fern with many clustered fronds (large, divided leaves) on wiry black stems.
12. Virginia Blue Fern, also called Blue Rabbit's Foot Fern, Phlebodium pseudoaureum. My newest fern, I could not resist its chalky blue color or the oddly shaped fronds. It is hardy in zones 8-9.
13. Lady in Red Fern, Athyrium angustum forma rubellum 'Lady in Red.' Lacy light green foliage radiates out from the red stems.
14. Christmas Fern, Polystichum acrostichoides. This evergreen native fern grows in abundance in the valley behind my house.
Finally, I can not leave out my Boston Fern, Nephrolepis exaltata. It is not hardy at all, but every year I put one in the large urn in the middle of my arbor garden.
Have a great week! Deb