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Origin and origin

Ferns literally belong to the dinosaurs among the green plants. Already about 400 million years ago, the huge tree ferns formed dense forests with their fronds. Thus, they are not only one of the first plant species, but also one that has survived to this day. The remains of these large fern forests can be found today as lignite again. Not surprisingly, the ferns have spread over the world over the millions of years. The largest specimens can be found today in shady, warm, humid places, especially in the tropics, but even in cooler climes feel ferns well and present themselves as real stars in the shade bed.

Appearance and growth

Ferns grow herbaceous. Most specimens develop a highly enduring rhizome that can last for many decades. The characteristic fern fronds impress with their filigree shape. From the midrib branch laterally fiddles. In the youth stage, these feathers are curled and unfold slowly in the spring. The leaf fronds of the numerous fern species and varieties are rich in variety in color, shape and size of the leaves. Their graceful growth and their rich green make ferns even without flowers to first-class candidates for shady garden corners. Wintergreen species such as the stag-tongue fern adorn the garden even in the cold season.

Shield ferns (Polystichum)

Shield ferns (Polystichum) unfold their rich green fronds in a funnel shape

habitat requirements

Ferns are the perfect choice for shady garden areas. They like to stand in loose-humus soil, as it naturally occurs in the forest. In the garden, you can mimic this effect of the litter layer by leaving autumn foliage. As an additional mulch layer, the foliage also provides winter protection and improves the soil. Most ferns feel most comfortable in garden areas where the sun does not penetrate directly, preferably in the shade of trees. But even on normal garden soil, wherever it is not too hot and dry, ferns can also cope. Some ferns prefer stony terrain. These include the ferns (Asplenium ceterach), stag tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) and ribwort (Blechnum spicant). These species feel comfortable in the rock garden. Brown Striped Fern (Asplenium trichomanes) and Potted Fishes (Polypodium) are even satisfied with narrow gaps in walls. However, with the exception of the ferns, the stone garden ferns need sufficient moisture and shade, so they should be planted in the shade of shady stones.

The fern (Blechnum spicant) can grow up to 75 centimeters in height. He is a typical forest dwellers and prefers moist, acidic, lime-free soil and a high soil and humidity. In the garden, the ferns grow best in the light shade under deep-rooted trees. In the rib fern, the slightly narrower, stiffer spur-bearing fronds protrude from a rosette of evergreen fronds. So he gets an elegant, full-bodied look.

Young fern fronds

The young fern fronds unroll in the spring like little snails

Even taller than the ferns, the deciduous fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), also known as funnel fern, is 80 to 130 centimeters long. He prefers very moist, low-lime, gritty-sandy soil. Its large fronds grow in an upright, compact rosette, which is why it is best expressed in groups. Of course, the creeping rhizome of the Funnel Fern grows straight ahead, which is why the ferns are ranked in nature. Its optimal place is along ponds or in damp rock garden in the light partial shade of shrubs. Already in April, the bright green fronds unroll and are such an attractive companion for spring bloomers.

Among the classics among the garden ferns is the deer tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium). The wintergreen becomes medium high with ten to 40 centimeters. The leathery leaves are shiny dark green in the damp shade and bright with increasing light. Unlike most ferns, the Deer Tongue Fern has no pinnate leaves. In addition to smooth varieties, there are also those with wavy fronds. Its original home can be found in the sparse mountain forests. Therefore, the deer tongue fern likes the soil rather sparse and calcareous and is a good candidate for the greening of a shady corners in the rock garden.


The venison tongue fern has large, continuous leaves

Polypodium vulgare also bears the common name "angel sweet" and is wintergreen. His long-stalked fronds are about 30 inches high and spread extensively through their rhizome. The Tüelfelfarn prefers lime-free soil and thrives on sand or in crevices. The small species of fern is extremely persistent and easily withstands dry periods and night frosts.

A real giant on the other hand is the stately king Fern (Osmunda regalis).This fern, up to two meters high, is best displayed in an individual position in an exposed position. Its location may be clay / peaty and slightly stunned. He likes nutrient-poor, acidic soil environment. Unlike the remaining ferns, the royal fern has brown sections on the tips of the sterile, green pinnate leaves on which the spores are planted. In autumn, the fronds of the royal fern die off.

King Fern (Osmunda regalis)

King Fern (Osmunda regalis) provides primeval forest character

As a room fern for beginners, the Saumfarn (pteris) is very good, because this is usually easier to keep in the normal room than many of his conspecifics. The genus contains a variety of varieties with green or variegated fronds that can be smooth or curly. Since the hemisphere grows very slowly, you should grab the purchase equal to a larger copy.
Attractively and also robust is the Knopffarn (Pellaea rotundifolia). He likes to stay cooler over the winter months (around 15 degrees). The New Zealand species is most likely to cope with dry room air. As it grows flat, this fern is also suitable for planting larger potted plants as well as ground cover in winter garden beds.
The large group of sword ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) contains various varieties with differently feathery, wavy or twisted leaves. Sword ferns are elegant, but also very adaptable house plants due to their overhanging, up to one meter long fronds. Of all the ferns the sword fern needs the most light, so it should be very bright, sometimes sunny.

The Nestfarn (Asplenium nidus) belongs to the Streifenfarngewächsen and is originally distributed in the tropical rainforests in Asia, Africa and Australia. There it grows high up in the treetops, where it only feeds on nutrients that it collects in its rosette. Its bright green, glossy leaves are similar to the deer tongue fern not divided and are in a narrow rosette. The variety 'Osaka' bears wavy leaves. Nest fern feels comfortable in a warm, partially shaded place. Like all ferns, he is happy about an occasional drop of water from the spray can.

Very popular are also tender-leaved species such as the maidenhair fern (Adiantum). The dainty fern with the light green, delicate leaves on wiry, dark shiny shoots, however, is a somewhat demanding houseplant. Since the maidenhair fern needs a high humidity and prefers indirect light, it fits perfectly into bright bathrooms. He is about 60 inches high and 40 inches wide.

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum)

The fronds of the maidenhair fern (Adiantum) are particularly tender

Figures with ferns

In the realm of the gloomy partial shade, the fern is a special contouring agent. Its filigree, feathered fronds create a mysterious mood between shadow perennials such as forest goatee, heart flower and Eisenhut. Graceful but reserved ferns set distinctive spots in the perennial border, as a woody undergrowth or at the pond. With their luminosity and their delicate foliage ferns are wonderful perennial companion, because their quiet greens give flowering plants the perfect background. Its green veil gives onion plants, blossom and even leaf perennials a playful lightness. But not all ferns wrap themselves in a subtle green. The Japanese rainbow fern (Athyrium niponicum 'Metallicum') shines with metallic silver-gray fronds and illuminates dark garden corners in its very own way. The cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) turns golden yellow in autumn.

Ferns on a wall

Ferns, as rock garden plants, can also green wall joints and stairs

When designing with ferns, you should therefore consider the individual advantages: The majestic royal fern looks great as a soloist in particular. In contrast, the small peacock fern is recommended for shady niches in rockeries. The worm fern (Dryopteris filixmas), on the other hand, is a nice partner to leaf perennials such as the funnies and purple bells in the flower bed. Thanks to its upright growth, the ostrich fern is an ideal companion of large leaf perennials such as the record sheet (Rodgersia podophylla). Giant ferns are often used as groundcover. But not only with other plants you can combine ferns. For example, the fine fronds can be decoratively placed on water courses or between large stone blocks. But also as marginal flaming the overhanging fern fronds show talent and make strict bedding edges appear alive. If you like it a bit natural, you can have walls and plant pots covered in moss fern.

Planting and care

Not all ferns are easy to care for. But if they are in the right place and feel comfortable, you will soon be rewarded by the sight of the shadow stars. The best time to plant ferns is spring, but potted trees can be planted all year round. Since most ferns are forest dwellers, the soil should be prepared accordingly before planting and improved with humus. Before planting, immerse the fern in a bucket of water until no more bubbles appear. Then carefully remove the fern from the pot and place it a little deeper than before in the ground.(Rhizomes of ferns move up in time with the exception of creeping species such as maidenhair fern or spotted fern). Then press the soil all around and sprinkle well. To make the fern feel good you can cover the planting place with bark mulch or leaves. Ferns are usually hardy, some species such as the Ribwort (Blechnum), Deer Tongue Fern, Spotted Fungus and most Shield Ferns (Polystichum) are even wintergreen. Fertilization is not necessary beyond a single composting addition.
Maiden ferns are placed in peat-free and nutrient-poor potting soil. Compost and coconut fibers provide slowly released nutrients and loosen up the soil. Wet-sensitive varieties are mixed in addition a little sand under the ground. Water ferns regularly, rootballs should not dry out or suffer from waterlogging.

Cut ferns

Whether summer or wintergreen: In the spring ferns can only be seen dead. Then the time has come to cut off all the ferns near the ground to make room for the fresh sprouts. Although you can remove the dried-up fronds in the summer green species already in the fall, but we recommend to leave them until the spring on the plant. Because in winter they form a kind of protective layer for the sensitive power train. Our tip: Put the cut fronds into the shredder and then mix them with some ripe compost. This mixture then sprinkle around your ferns again - so the plants are protected against dehydration and at the same time supplied with nutrients.


Ferns are so-called vascular spore plants, that is, they do not form seeds, but spores on the undersides of the leaves. From this initially develop so-called pre-germs. These are fertilized and then form only the new fern plants. Do not be alarmed if you see brown pustules on the underside of your fern. These are not pests, but the spore carriers of the fern. Species such as king fern (Osmunda), shield fern (Polystichum) and white fern (Asplenium ceterach) must be propagated by sowing. To do this, sprinkle the dusty spores onto a prepared seedbed and keep them moist. Do not cover with earth! Alternatively, you can cut off some of the spore-bearing leaves and tack them down to the ground with the underside of the leaf. With a lot of heat and high humidity, the pre-germs form after a few weeks. In turn, when fertilization works, young fern plants mature. Once two or three small fronds have developed, they are placed in their own pots. Continue to ensure high humidity and constant temperatures.


The spores are sitting on the undersides of the fern leaves

But the simplest way to multiply ferns is to divide. It works in all ferns with widely branched rhizomes, which have several rhizome heads (attachment points for the fronds) or shoot buds. Small ferns are split in the spring with the spade, by hand-sized pieces with at least two shoot buds. In larger ferns (for example, ostrich fern), the rhizome is released in early spring and cut into several pieces with at least one shoot bud. Then plant the pieces individually in pots with low-nutrient potting soil and keep them moist. Winterize the pots brightly and frost-free and plant the ferns in the garden again next spring.

Video Board: Jerry Seinfeld & Cardi B: Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis.

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