Guide to low-maintenance gardening

From low-water plants to simple projects, our guide to easy gardening will make a green thumb out of anyone

Best ferns for a low-water garden

These luxuriant ferns don’t need to drink a lot to be happy. Get our tips on the best types to plant and how to care for them

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Male fern
Photo by Thomas J. Story; written by Janet Kinosian

Male fern

Species: Dryopteris filix-mas

Found in: Much of the West and beyond, where it grows in forests, upland pastures, and rocky slopes.

Grows to: 2 to 5 feet tall and wide. Semievergreen.

Why this fern? The subtle evolution of its fronds: They start out light green in spring, then darken to a rich emerald green in summer.

Sunset climate zones: 2–9, 14–17

More: All about Dryopteris filix-mas


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