Eye-catching, large ferns play an important role in any shaded garden planting scheme. Shaded areas are often difficult to plant due to soil conditions created by trees or buildings. Being woodland plants they are ideally to these planting locations and can provide year round interest, wonder and delight.
Being the oldest of all plant species, ferns add a tropical, exotic look to garden borders. Planted as a single specimen plant or grouped together in drifts the foliage on large ferns add a stunning leaf contrast with most garden plants.
One of the most versatile species of plants, ferns will grow in a variety of different conditions. From dry shade to wet, waterside planting there is a fern just waiting for your garden. Garden ferns are tough, extremely low maintenance requiring only minimal maintenance per year. Perfect for the time restricted gardener whatever your level of expertise. Go on, plant a large fern today!
All ferns are winter hardy and details of where you can buy these large fern species can be found here.
My Top 10 Large Garden Ferns
Ok, lets start my top 10 list of large ferns with the daddy of them all. The Australian Tree Fern!
If your pockets are deep enough this fern is an absolute show stopper in any garden. A big gnarly trunk and a crown of fronds 6 to 8ft across.
Some care needs to be taken in winter to protect the crown and its budding fronds but absolutely worth the time. Consider planting in a central, shaded location and under-planting with other species fern for that dramatic, tropical rain forest look.
The genus Dryopteris includes some 250 named ferns originating mostly from the northern hemisphere with the highest species found naturally in Eastern Asia. Most available Dryopteris species for sale in the UK tend to like the same growing conditions. Plant in a partial shade position with plenty of well rotted organic matter, leaf mould etc.
One of my personal favourites. will grow to a height of 1m and a spread of 70cm. Beautiful fronds emerge in spring to form a shuttlecock of foliage spreading slowly to form a stunning rosette of foliage.
Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata The King’
A real show stopper of a fern. Deep green fronds that can reach to a height of 90cm appear in Spring and keep looking tidy throughout the summer months. A very good looking shuttlecock fern that keeps it vase shaped form through out the year. This fern is more tolerable of a bit of sun once established (providing they get some water)
Sending up new, copper coloured fronds this fern creates its own contrast in leaf colour. The copper contrasts with the older green foliage beautifully. Nature is just such a wonderful thing!
Will growth to a height of 60cm, well suited to the front of border planting or to soften a path edge. Erythrosora does like some sun and not that suited to very shaded spots.
Common names : copper fern, autumn fern
Dryopteris filix mas
Another semi evergreen fern in the Dryopteris genus growing to an eventual height of 1.2 m with a plant spread of 50cm to 1m. If your like your ferns to look stout with the classic shuttlecock form then this fern should be high on you list.
Common names: male fern; basket fern
A truly wonderful fern! My absolute favourite for planting in reliably moist soil. It will thrive in a semi shaded to full shaded position in all soil types, clay, loam and sand. It will reach a height of 1.5 metres in a couple of growing seasons but what makes this fern a truly amazing species is that it will form well contained colonies of ferns from the parent plant via underground roots.
If your looking for a tropical look no further than this beauty.
Common name: ostrich fern
A very small group of ferns in this genus with only 5 – 10 named species. Worth noting that this genus goes all the way back to the triassic period, that’s about 250 million years ago to you and me!
Found naturally in the swamps, bogs and wet woodlands of the Americas and Eastern Asia. O .cinnamomea is a gorgeous fern that is ideally suited in bog garden in the UK.
Growing to a height of 1 to 1.5m the new fronds shoot up, tightly folded and copper in colour until they unfurl. A real spectacle whilst it lasts, you can almost watch the new fronds growing in height daily.
Common names: cinnamon fern ;buckhorn; fiddleheads
A truly splendid giant large fern. Its common name ‘the royal fern’ should tell you everything needed. Grow in boggy ground, perhaps marginal planting next to a pond or stream and this large fern will grow to 2 m in heightr an a whopping spread of 4 m, give it plenty of space!
Common names : royal fern; blooming fern; bog onion; buckhorn; brake; common flowering fern; ditch fern; herb Christopher ;hog onion; kidney fern ;king fern ;osmund royal ;osmund the waterman ;royal osmund fern ;rusty fern;