Quick facts and care essentials
• Foliage perennial
• Zones vary
• Water needs vary
Among the countless ferns sold, you’ll find excellent choices for every zone. The two below are widely grown.
Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina). Zones 1-9, 14-24, 31-43. Deciduous. An excellent choice for wet, shady corners of the garden; it will also take some sun in cool-summer climates as long as it receives the ample water it prefers. Delicate, lacy, arching fronds rise to 2 to 3 feet; they’re broader at the base, narrowing toward the tip. Divide every 3 to 5 years.
Sword fern (Polystichum munitum). Zones 2-9, 14-24, 36-38. Evergreen. Extremely easy to grow. Leathery, shiny dark green fronds emerge from the clump’s center and reach 2 to 4 feet long. Each plant eventually reaches 2 to 4 feet wide. Needs rich, well-amended soil. Prefers regular water but is not as thirsty as many other ferns once established, making it a good choice for shady but somewhat dry areas. This fern isn’t a candidate for division, but the small new plants growing near the base of established clumps can be removed and planted elsewhere.