Ferns create a beautiful, lush tropical feel to your garden. A great place to relax and unwind after a hot summers day. Given the right conditions ferns can grow well in our climate. There are many different ferns available. From low growing varieties, tall tree ferns, plants suitable for hanging baskets and for growing indoors. Ferns need a shady spot with protection from strong winds and frost. A well composted, friable, slightly acidic soil covered with thick mulch is ideal. By implementing a good watering system, your fern garden will thrive all year round. Ferns can make even the hottest day feel cooler.
Adiantum – Maidenhair Ferns
Finely foliaged, evergreen plants that grow from underground rhizomes. Maidenhairs need to be kept moist, like a very shaded position outside and a brightly lit position indoors. Keep away from draughts and feed regularly with a weak fertiliser solution, such as Powerfeed or Nitrosol. If Maidenhairs dry out their fronds will very quickly go brown. Remarkably though they can come back from what looks like certain death. There are hundreds of species of this attractive plant, but only a small selection is regularly available.
Adiantum aethiopicum – Common Maidenhair Fern
|Spreading clumps of fronds to 45cms found growing by creeks and open forests. Fairly easy to grow inside or out, in hanging baskets or terrariums.
Adiantum fulvum – New Zealand Maidenhair
Erect fronds to 30cms. Hardy fern for indoors or in the shade outside.
Adiantum hispidulum – Rough Maidenhair Fern
Hardy slower growing fern to 55cms. New growth is pink turning green. Found in rocks, rainforests or open forests. More tolerant of sun and drying out than other Maidenhairs.
Adiantum raddianum ‘Elegans’ – Fine Maidenhair
Erect spreading fern to 50cms. Will grow in shady gardens or indoors.
Adiantum raddianum ‘Fragrans’
Probably the most widely grown Maidenhairs. An excellent plant for indoors.
Adiantum raddianum ‘Pacific Maid’
Hardy erect fern with large leaflets and black stems. Grows indoors or outside in the shady garden.
Asplenium – Spleenworts
A large grouping of highly variable ferns that require a cool shady position with ample water and humidity. Hardiness can vary from plant to plant, many being frost tender. Spread by rhizomes and rarely developing a trunk, growing mostly from a single crown. Many species are epiphytic. (A plant that grows upon another plant i.e. a tree and gets its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris accumulating around and in it. They use their host tree for physical support but do not necessarily harm them like parasitic plants do).
Asplenium australasicum – Bird’s Nest Fern
A hardy reliable native that can grow in trees, on rocks, in pots or in the soil. Its large fronds emerge from its central stem and can reach a diameter of 3metres. It likes plenty of moisture but must have good drainage to avoid rotting off. Tolerates moderate frosts and filtered sunlight. Makes an excellent container plant for indoors or outdoors.
Asplenium australasicum cristatum – Crested Bird’s Nest Fern
Similar to the Birds Nest Fern but has unusual crests at the ends of the fronds that grow to a metre. Shade loving, great in a pot and tolerant of dryish positions.
Asplenium australasicum lasagne – Lasagne Bird’s Nest Fern
This Bird’s Nest fern has lovely wavy edges looking just like wavy edge lasagne. Hence the name. Grows to about 1 metre.
Asplenium australasicum nidus – Bird’s Nest Fern
A tropical Bird’s Nest preferring warm humid conditions. Will perform better if grown in a glasshouse or indoors.
Blechnum – Water Ferns
Most species tend to have very short creeping rhizomes or erect stems with rosettes of fishbone-type fronds. Occasionally they form a short, scaly trunk. They grow in a semi-shaded to shaded position, with regular watering.
Blechnum gibbum – Silver Lady
Attractive fast growing dwarf tree fern to about 1metre high. Develops a short trunk with age. Great container plant.
Blechnum minus – Soft Water Fern
A short creeping fern to about 40cms found along creeks and open forests. Frost hardy. New fronds have a pinkish tinge.
Blechnum nudum – Fishbone Water fern
A tufted creeping fern of wet habitats. Can grow up to a metre tall and is found along creek banks and in rainforests eucalypt forests in eastern Australia. Older plants form a black fibrous trunk.
Blechnum patersonii – Strap water fern
An attractive, water-loving fern with hanging lobed fronds which are pinkish-brown when new. Slow growing to about 40cms, resents being disturbed. Great in a pot or hanging basket. Needs to be kept moist.
Cyathea – Tree Ferns
Mostly terrestrial ferns with course slender brown trunks topped by a crown of fronds. They can grow in various habitats from cool temperate forests to tropical rainforests and prefer well-drained acidic soils rich in organic matter. They will look and grow much better with regular watering and fertilising. With our hot summers they appreciate a shady position, although some varieties may tolerate small amounts of sun. Cyathea tree ferns must be dug up to transplant not cut in half like you can do when transpalnting Dicksonia tree ferns.
Cyathea australis – Rough Tree Fern
An attractive cold-hardy tree fern that may tolerate small amounts of sun as long as it is well watered. Fertilise with well-rotted animal manure or organic fertilisers, and mulch well. A very tall tree fern, with older specimens in the wild growing up to 10 metres tall. Makes a great specimen plant in a pot and is tolerant of salty winds.
Cyathea brownii – Norfolk Island Tree Fern
Vigorous tree fern very similar to C. cooperi, and probably the largest tree fern species in the world. Endemic to Norfolk Island, it is reported to reach more than 20 metres in its natural habitat. Likes well-drained, organic rich, neutral to slightly acidic soils with frequent watering needed to keep this fern at its best. Prefers shelter from the hot sun, and is tolerant of very light frosts only.
Cyathea cooperi – Lacey or Scaly Tree fern
A popular fast growing and highly variable tree fern to around 15metres in its natural habitat. Prefers a protected, shady, well-watered position. Heavy frosts may kill fronds but the plant usually recovers quickly. Fertilise with well-rotted animal manure or organic fertilisers, and mulch well.
Cyrtomium falcatum – Holly Fern
Native to eastern Asia where it grows in rock crevices and along stream banks. A popular hardy ornamental plant for the fernery. With its large leathery holly-like fronds it makes an attractive indoor plant tolerating cooler, dryer air than other ferns. Water and fertilise regularly to keep it looking its best.
Davallia species – Hare’s Foot Fern
Ideal for hanging baskets where their rhizomes growing over the sides of the basket resemble Rabbit or Hare’s feet. Sheltered, shady position in the garden. More tolerant of lower humidity than other ferns.
Dicksonia antartica – Soft Tree fern
A popular majestic tree fern native to eastern Australia. This fern thrives in cool, moist conditions and will tolerate a small amount of sun if well-watered. Forms a large fibrous trunk up to 15metres in its natural habitat. With their large canopy of fronds they provide shelter and shade for smaller ferns. Mulch and water well. Unlike the Cyatheas they can be cut in half to transplant, and will occasionally be available for sale as stumps of various sizes in Garden Centres.
Doodia aspera – Prickly Rasp Fern
Beautiful, spreading, tough little fern to about 35cms. The new growth is bright pink to red, and is undemanding as far as soils go, but must have good drainage. Tolerant on some sun and dryness once established.
Doodia media – Common Rasp fern
A great small clumping fern for shady rockeries or as a groundcover. Reddish new growth. Likes a well composted soil with good watering.
Dryopteris erythrosora – Autumn Fern
A cold tolerant hardy small fern native to east Asia, China and Japan, where it thrives in deep shade to dappled sun positions in a range of soils where the drainage is good. The new coppery/bronze growth contrasts beautifully with the older green fronds. The new growth may be red in colder conditions. A very adaptable fern which also makes a good pot specimen.
Nephrolepis – Boston Ferns, Sword Ferns
An extremely popular genus of ferns grown extensively around the world. A very adaptable group of ferns that will grow in sun or shade, boggy sites and hot dry locations. They do prefer a well-drained, friable, acidic soil. They can be grown in pots or hanging baskets and make a fantastic hardy indoor plant. They can cope well with being pot bound as long as they are watered well. Fertilise during the warmer months, avoiding putting fertiliser on the fronds.
Nephrolepis cordifolia – Fishbone or Sword Fern
Hardy, spreading, shade loving fern in the temperate regions but will take full sun in the tropics where it is regarded as a weed. With its ability to grow in soil, rocks, as an epiphyte, in pots, hanging baskets and indoors, it is no wonder that it is such a widely distributed fern. The erect growth reaches about 80cms.
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’ – Boston Fern
A vigorous graceful fern which is well suited to a hanging basket, where the long arching fronds, that can reach up to 1metre, boldly hang. Makes an excellent indoor plant in a location with good light, avoiding temperature extremes. A bathroom with its high humidity is an excellent place to grow your Boston fern. Water well during the warmer weather.
Pellaea falcata – Sickle Fern
Commonly growing in the eastern states along the coast and ranges, in eucalypt forests and rainforests. A variable, spreading fern up to 60cms that will happily grow in shady to partial sun positions in well-drained soils. Likes plenty of water especially when grown as a container specimen.
Pellaea rotundifolia – Button Fern
A popular small fern from New Zealand only reaching a height of 20cms. This shade loving fern with its small round leaflets makes an excellent indoor plant, or grows well in an acid, humus rich soil in the garden.
Phlebodium aureum – ‘Blue Star’
An interesting fern with wavy blue-green foliage. Makes an attractive indoor plant for a pot or hanging basket. They will grow happily in the garden if given plenty of shade, well-drained soil and regular watering.
Platycerium – Staghorn and Elkhorn Ferns
There are about 18 species in this family of ferns native to tropical and temperate areas of Australia, Africa, Southeast Asia, New Guinea and South America. Staghorns and elkhorns are some of the most amazing-looking plants and, despite their exotic appearance, they are relatively easy to grow. The reason they look so different from most other plants is that they have adapted to survive in the treetops. Stags and elks are epiphytic, which means that they grow high up in the rainforest canopy. Stags and elks have minimal root systems (just enough to anchor them to the tree) but they have adapted to catch leaves, debris and rainwater falling from above. Unlike most other plants, which absorb water and nutrients through their roots, these ferns survive by capturing sufficient quantities of moisture and nutrients form the surrounding air.