Four Easy to Grow, Shade Loving Alternatives to Hostas

By: Julie Day
Ferns growing in garden.

Hardy ferns add a lacy look to your garden.

Shade Loving Plant #1: Hardy Ferns

I love hardy ferns because there are so many native options. Growing and spreading quite happily in woodlands and near streams, ferns are a low-maintenance addition to your shady garden.

Hardy fern varieties range from 1’ to 6’ tall, so there’s a fern that’s just right for every spot! They also tend to be more deer-resistant than hostas, while providing a gorgeous delicate texture with an arching, elegant look.

Growing Tips for Hardy Ferns

  • Light: Full to part shade, with protection from afternoon sun.
  • Maidenhair fern growing in garden.

    Maidenhair fern.

  • Water: At least 1” of water per week with mulch to keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Soil: Rich, humusy soil, similar to a forest floor, with lots of organic matter and compost. Most ferns prefer somewhat acidic soil.
  • Division: Divide clumps in fall or early spring.
  • Size: Range from 1’ to 6’ high. Some ferns spread through runners, more like a groundcover, while others grow in tidy clumps. Make sure to choose a fern that fits your design.
  • Climate: Cold hardiness of hardy ferns varies depending on the type.
  • Fertilizer: Feed in the spring with a balanced, organic slow-release fertilizer. Don’t over fertilize.

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