Ferns for UK Gardens

Ferns can transform difficult shady areas, where few other plants will thrive. They also make ideal partners for other shade loving plants.

Ferns were extremely popular in Victorian Times when there were thousands of varieties to choose from, many of which are still available today. Many fern species are evergreen and are therefore perfect for brightening up the winter garden. Ideally ferns need a humus rich soil but are happy in most habitats apart from heavy clay or badly drained conditions.

Ferns come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and varying shades of green. There are around 50 fern species native to Britain, all of which are perfectly Hardy. Most ferns need a shady area and a relatively humid atmosphere to grow well, although their are several that are well adapted to dry conditions. Other plants that thrive in similar conditions mix well with ferns such as hostas and primulas.


Wood Fern

common polypody fern

Polypodium vulgare
Common Polypody


Polystichum aculeatum
Hard Shield Fern

Thelypteris marsh fern

Thelypteris palustris
Marsh Fern

To show them off to thier best, ferns should be grown far enough apart to prevent their fronds from intermingling. Ideally they should be grown individually or in small groups to allow the form and shape to be seen. The space between ferns can be filled with low growing perennials or ground cover plants. Some ferns grow well in dappled shade and are good choice under trees, whilst other types of fern will thrive in dense shade and dripping water.