Stunning Large Ferns for the Garden

Last Updated on 05/07/2023 by Barney

collection of large ferns

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 suited 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 to 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 and require  only minimal maintenance. Perfect for the time restricted gardener, whatever your level of expertise. Go on, plant a large fern today!

All ferns listed are winter hardy and details of where you can buy these large fern species can be found here.

My Top 10 Large Garden Ferns

Dicksonia antarctica

Ok, lets start my top 10 list of large ferns with the tallest fern of them all, the Dicksonia antarctica , otherwise known as 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 measuring 6 to 8ft across make the Dicksonia antarctica an absolute bemouth.

Some care needs to be taken in winter to protect the crown and the 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.

 Dryopteris Ferns

The genus Dryopteris includes some 250 named evergreen & deciduous ferns. These originate mostly from the northern hemisphere with the highest species found naturally in Eastern Asia.

Most available Dryopteris species for sale in the UK will like the same growing conditions. Plant in a partial-shade position with plenty of well rotted organic matter, leaf mould etc.


Dryopteris wallichiana

One of my personal favourites. A semi evergreen fern that grows to a height of 1m and a spread of 70cm. Beautiful unfurling fronds emerge in spring to form a shuttlecock of bright green foliage, spreading slowly to form a stunning rosette.


Dryopteris affinis ‘Cristata The King’

A real show stopper of a evergreen fern. Deep green fronds that can reach to a height of 90cm appear in Spring and keep looking great throughout the summer months.

A very good looking shuttlecock fern that keeps it vase shaped form through out the year also makes this a great evergreen fern for pots. It can tolerate of a bit of sun once established (providing you keep an eye on soil moisture).


Dryopteris erythrosora

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 grow to a height of 60cm. Suited to the front of border planting or to soften a path edge. Erythrosora does like some sun and not suited to very shaded spots.

The copper shield fern also makes a fantastic evergreen fern for pots.

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 the Dryopteris filix mas fern should be high on you list.

Common names: male fern; basket fern  


Matteucia struthopteris

A truly wonderful deciduous fern! My absolute favourite for planting in reliably moist soil. It will thrive in a semi shade 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

Osmunda Ferns

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!


Osmunda cinnamomea

Found naturally in the swamps, bogs and wet woodlands of the Americas and Eastern Asia. O .cinnamomea is a gorgeous deciduous 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


Osmunda regalis

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;
water fern

Polystichum polyblepharum
My list would not be complete if I did not include my favourite species of Polystichum. 
Polyblepharum has everything most would expect from a large garden fern. Foliage which forms into a sturdy, shuttlecock appearance. An eventual height of 80cm and spread of a 1m. It’s evergreen, low maintenance , hardy and will grace the garden will year round interest.
Common name: Japanese tassel fern 

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for an easy way to add a touch of drama and intrigue to your shaded garden, consider adding a large fern.

These plants are perfect for filling in spaces between taller deciduous or evergreen shrubs or trees, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit nearly any landscape. Plus, ferns are low-maintenance plants that don’t require much care beyond regular watering. So if you’re ready to take your garden up a notch, go ahead and buy one of these beautiful specimens today.