Ferns are found in plenty in the wild, yet it’s rare to see them growing in a home landscape in Westchester County, NY. That is unfortunate, because these graceful plants have so much to offer! They come in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes, which can make a huge impact on the appeal of your landscape. They are easy to grow, have long lifespans, and need very little additional care. In the wild, ferns carpet the ground in woodlands, gather around stream banks and springs, decorate old stone walls, and cascade over rocky outcroppings. Ferns are among the earth's most ancient plants—one of the reasons people find them so appealing. They give an impression of untamed wildness and a sense of magic.
Using Ferns in Your Yard
Ferns tend to do well in shady areas or areas with dappled sunlight. They can be used as focal plants or for background plantings. Ferns make good companions to other shade-loving plants like dicentras, caladiums, hostas and astilbes. Ferns can also be a good lawn substitute, providing greenery while doing away with the need for mowing. Whatever the setting, there is an assortment of ferns available to add beauty to any spot in the yard. Shade-loving ferns do well in evenly moist organic soil. For heavy soil, compost or other organic matter can be added to help balance it out.
Evergreen ferns do need to be have their older fronds trimmed in late winter or early spring in order to do best. Deciduous ferns require trimming in late fall and early winter. The ease of maintenance and versatility of ferns make them an essential part of any well rounded yard. Here are some specially selected to suit the Westchester County, NY, climate.
Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
The ostrich fern gets its name from its showy, long and lacy fronds that resemble ostrich plumes. When planted, the fronds sprout at the base of the plant, curled up like a fiddlehead, and slowly unfurl to their full length of between 3 - 6 feet in height. Ostrich ferns spread out by underground rhizomes, and grow to form large, dense colonies. They grow best in sheltered locations shielded from summer heat.
Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
The fronds of the Christmas fern are dark green with a long, narrow shape. The Christmas fern is low in height, reaching up to 30 inches in height. It grows rapidly and is suitable for planting in moist, well-drained soil that’s relatively acidic.
Lady in Red Ferns (Athyrium filix-femina)
The Lady in Red fern is well-loved for its showy red stem color and fine, delicate leaves. Stem color intensifies as the plant continues to matures. It is suitable for planting in full to part shade, but the plant tolerates sunlight if the soil stays moist. Lady in Red ferns complement well with other shade loving plants and are an excellent ground cover. The foliage makes a great filler, which can be ideal in flower arrangements.
Ghost Fern (Athyrium 'Ghost')
This fern is a blend of lady fern and Japanese painted fern. Ghost ferns have an upright habit and silvery grey fronds with burgundy accents. They are suitable for planting in moist soil all season long.