Last Updated on 07/07/2023 by Barney
Growing evergreen ferns in pots on a shaded patio, balcony or porch is a sure fire way to add evergreen colour & structure to areas where other plants can often fail.
With upright & arching fronds positioned by a window they’ll provide winter interest when other perennials have died back for the year.
Cared for correctly , planting a fern in a pot will give you years of pleasure with very little maintenance needed.
Let’s crack on with my best ferns to grow in pots along with a growing ferns planting & care guide.
My Top 7 Evergreen Ferns for Growing in Pots
#1. Hard Fern (Blechnum spicant)
The ‘Hard Fern’ is a small evergreen fern garden variety with attractive leathery fronds that have a delicate & glossy appearance.
Thriving when positioned in dappled to full shade in either exposed or sheltered place on the patio. The Hard Fern will reach an eventual size of 40cm x 40cm.
Being a small fern it is ideal for planting in a small planter where the stunning rosette of fronds can be enjoyed from above. Pair with other shade loving plants for a delightful display.
#2. Japanese Lace Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)
One of the best ferns For those that like upright ferns with lush fronds arranged with the classical shuttlecock appearance the Japanese Tassel fern does not disappoint.
When new fronds emerge they are covered in reddish hairs further adding to this beauties charm. The textural hairs remain of the ferns midriff throughout the year, adding a lovely contrast.
Being a large fern with an eventual size of 80cm x 80cm it is particularly useful as a focal point in a large pot or as part of a pot display with other shade loving plants and flowers.
Polystichum polybleharum thrives when placed in full or dappled shade on the garden patio
#3. Hart’s Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)
The Harts Tongue fern lives up to its name. The fronds differ as the appearance is that of solid foliage and not divided.
Dark green, glossy beauties unfold into narrow, long wavy fronds. Giving the common name ‘Hart’s Tongue Fern’. These can be up to 45cm in length.
A true British native fern this Asplenium doesn’t require anything special to thrive as long as it is positioned in a full to dappled shade position.
Whilst being a hardy evergreen the foliage can look a bit tatty after a hard winter. Cut this back to the crown in late winter and watch the new, lush foliage emerge.
Planted in the ground the Hart’s Tongue fern is tolerant of dry shade. In a pot or container keep the soil moist and ensure good drainage good drainage.
#4. Fortune’s cyrtomium . (Cyrtomium fortunei)
A true gem of unusual hardy fern with eye catching foliage and Given enough room for the roots to grow it will reach an eventual height of 1m.
Grow as a specimen focal point or as a display behind other ferns. The contrasting leaf textures makes for an interesting composition.
Hard winter frosts can damage existing foliage. If this occurs cut the damaged foliage back to the crown. Cover with a horticultural fleece will prevent this from occurring, I rarely bother however.
Position in full to dappled shade in a sheltered position to allow this beauty to thrive
#5. Soft Shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum)
A large, tough, hardy, British native fern Polystichum setiferum is possibly one of the most commonly planted ferns in mixed shaded borders.
Commonly known as the soft shield fern it sports large, evergreen, arching fronds that are light green in colour reaching approx. 50cm in length.
Exceptionally easy to care for. Prune out damaged or tired looking foliage back to the base to keep looking great.
Position in semi to full shade. Whilst most ferns thrive in a damp soil this fern will tolerate dry soil for a period of time.
With arching foliage the Soft Shield fern can be planted in hanging baskets.
#6. Autumn Fern – Copper Shield Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)
An unusual, semi evergreen fern with striking foliage. New fronds appear in Spring. Initially pink, turning to a coppery red and then green later in the year.
Also known as the Japanese Shield fern, Autumn fern & Copper Shield fern, Dryopteris erythrosora is one of the few ferns that as well as thriving in partial shade can also tolerate full sun
The fern is low maintenance, easy to care for, and looks fab in glossy black pot.
#7. Tree Fern (Dicksonia antarctica)
An absolutely stunning large fern. The Australian tree fern makes a focal point wherever planted.
With the hairy brown truck and fronds that can reach 2 meters in length this tree fern will make an eye catching statement on the patio.
Slow growing , the trunk will put on around 10cm of growth per year creating a lovely display when position behind other shade loving plants & ferns.
Some say this fern is deciduous but I have been growing them as an evergreen for years. The fronds can die back in winters where the temperature drops below -8 degrees. but these are replaced in Spring with new growth.
To be on the safe side I always protect the crown to avoid frost damage. Avoid direct summer sun and cut back old fronds that are looking tired.
#8. Japanese Holly Fern (Polystichum falcatum)
Glossy, holly shaped leaves arranged in opposing pairs along a central rib makes this a stunning plant. Pair with other ferns or companion planted with Heucheras for example for a great composition.
The eventual size of this fern is smaller than that of Fortune’s cyrtomium featured above very close in appearance.
Can be affected by harsh winter frosts. If damage occurs cut old fronds to the base.
Eventual size approx 75cm x 75cm
Learn the Basics of Growing Ferns in Containers
Choosing the right pot for your fern
Ferns aren’t fussy about the pot they are planted in as long as the container it is large for the root system to develop.
Start off with a pot with a diameter around 25-30cm and transplant to a larger pot when necessary. Transplanting in Winter when the fern is dormant.
Ferns look fab in a terracotta pot however terracotta wicks the moisture out of the potting soil quickly. This is fine if you’re a diligent with frequent watering, I however prefer to spend my time doing other things, like having a G&T on a sun lounger.
Recently I have started planting in the recycled plastic pots from Elho. The contrast between pot and planter highlights the stunning fronds.
The lime green version really ‘pops’ out and brightens up a shady spot on the patio.
Whichever pot you choose ensure it has a drainage hole. If one is missing use a drill and make 3 or 4 holes in the base.
Preparing your potting mixture
The right potting mix is essential for ferns to thrive. One that holds the right amount of moisture and texture similar to that in the wild.
All of my ‘best ferns for pots’ are happy in a neutral pH soil, no need to buy a bag of ericaceous compost that you may only use some for planting.
Ideal Potting mix
- 3 parts organic matter or multi-purpose peat free compost
- 1 part John Innes number 3
- 1 part horticultural grit or perlite.
- Mix thoroughly in a garden trug or large bucket.
For an even distribution mix in water retaining granules if using.
Watering Your Ferns
When growing ferns in pots a moist soil is required. Being in the shade the pot will not dry out as quickly as one positioned in the sun.
A good watering once a week will suffice. In exceptionally hot periods twice a week could be needed.
Ferns are the ultimate low maintenance plant. No deadheaThe right potting mix is essential ding, staking or continual fertilizing needed.
Simply cut tatty & tired foliage to the base to maintain its gorgeousness.
It’s a wrap from me
These are my top ferns for container gardening. Chosen for simplicity and availability they are all stunning ferns when grown in pots.
Growing ferns in a pot is ridiculously easy and very low maintenance. Just be sure to pot them up in a good potting mix and you’ll be watching these ferns grow for years to come.
Liking similar growing conditions ie shade consider creating a stunning display with evergreen shrubs and other shade loving perennials.