Did you know that several different types of ferns make excellent closed terrarium plants, and you can grow them both indoors and outdoors? Ferns are also one of the oldest plants on the planet, and they date back hundreds of millions of years. They’re extremely popular for use in shaded areas, and they do very well when you put them in low-light conditions. In turn, they bring splashes of greenery to daker or dull corners of your landscape design, yard, or garden. Ferns don’t produce flowers, but they have fronds that will unfurl to reveal an attractive plant. You can’t create more using stem cuttings or seeds, but they use spores.
This gives different types of ferns a reputation for being hard to grow, and many gardeners shy away from them. However, once you understand the different types of ferns and their specific growing conditions, it’s easy to grow them all over your yard, or even inside. You will need an area with higher humidity and moisture, but you can achieve this by sunlight and quick misting once a day. I’m going to outline several types of ferns for you below. You can use the guide to mix and match types of ferns to create beautiful and eye-catching arrangements both indoors and out.
1. Crocodile Fern
The first type of fern on the list hails from Australia, and it is very well-suited for a space in the bathroom when you remodel it. This fern has mid-green leaves that have darker green veins that give the appearance of crocodile skin, and this is where it gets the name. It’ll die at the slightest cold conditions, so make sure you regulate your temperatures. It needs very humid conditions, so either put it in a room with high humidity or put it on a pebble tray with water. The growing medium should have bark to help retain moisture, and it’s very forgiving if you saturate it. Don’t fertilize it or dilute it heavily because it’s very sensitive.
2. Staghorn Fern
This type of fern doesn’t grow in soil because it’s an epiphyte. They grow in trees or other plants if you find them in their natural habitat, and they grow in the style of antlers, hence their name. They need low or medium light with high humidity to grow well, and they’ll need bright but indirect lighting. You should water this plant moderately, but you will need to mist it to increase the humidity levels every day or two. They can grow up to three feet high and two feet wide under the correct conditions, and you can easily pass them down as heirlooms due to the long lifespan.
3. Boston Fern
The Boston Fern is one of the best types of ferns you can have for hanging baskets, and it’s immensely popular for indoor and outdoor growth due to the easier growing requirements. It’s only hardy in zones 9 to 11 for outside growth, but you’ll put it in a spot that gets indirect but bright sunlight with higher humidity levels and constant moisture to keep them growing. You can give them a daily mist spray, put them by a humidifier, or put them on a pebble tray. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and don’t let it dry out. Don’t use fertilizer, and use a well-draining soil medium.
4. Holly Fern
This type of fern does well outdoors if you plant it in a place that falls in zones three to nine, and it is a native species to the Eastern United States. They have very tough green leaves that persist well into the winter months, and this is where it gets its name. You can cut them for Christmas decorations. When you clip the leaves off, you’re getting it ready to bloom in the spring again. Plant it in an area with well-draining soil that gets partial sun. You don’t want to fertilize it because it’s too sensitive for it, and you should make sure it has enough water.
5. Kangaroo Paw Fern
Another Australia native, this type of fern produces very long and slightly thicker fronds. If you live in zones 9 to 12, you can grow it outdoors. Otherwise, you want to move it inside. You want to keep it in partial shade conditions, and this makes it great for planting around the trees in your yard. You can grow it in soil, but it also does well in rocks or on trees. You get a glossy, leathery texture on the fronds, and it enjoys higher humidity levels. You should keep your soil consistently moist but not soggy, and the soil should drain well between watering sessions without drying out.
6. Tatting Fern
If you’re looking for an odd-looking type of fern to add to your yard or garden, try the Tatting Fern. Instead of the typical long fronds with small leaves, you’ll get spherical balls or leaflets that dot a slightly bigger pale green stem. It can look like lacy beads on a thicker string, and this is a very eye-catching element to your yard. This is a dwarf type of fern, and this means that it only grows around a foot high at the most. However, it’s a hardier species that can grow in zones 4 to 10 without a problem. It likes to have dappled sunlight with moist but well-draining soil and higher humidity.
7. Western Sword Fern
The Western Sword Fern is one of the most reliable and robust types of ferns you can have, and thrives in zones 5 to 10 as part of your forest garden. It does best in coastal settings, and it’ll grow very deep and glossy green fronds that can reach up to four feet tall and four feet wide. This can help you fill in any blank areas in your yard with a few plants, and each frond can have up to 100 leaves. You’ll want to put it in a place that has well drained soil that is rich with bark or other medium to help retain the moisture, and it should get dappled and indirect sunlight.
8. Hay-Scented Fern
Another unique type of fern to add to your garden, the Hay-Scented Fern is native to the eastern portion of the United States, and it’s hardy to zones three to eight when you plant it outside. You’ll get arching yellowish-green fronds with this plant, and they can grow up to three feet tall by three feet wide. They spread very quickly, and this makes them a great groundcover for shaded areas with high humidity levels and consistent moisture. When you crush the leaves on this plant, it releases a pleasant scent that smells like a freshly mowed hay field, and it’ll linger in the air for hours.
9. Lady in Red Fern
Anyone who wants to create a climbing garden with trellises should look at this type of fern. The Lady in Red fern has a fast vertical growing habit, and it can grow up to 24 inches high and three feet wide. It has bright red stems with a pale green feathery foliage to help it stand out, and it’s able to grow outside in zones three to eight. As a bonus, this species is more drought-tolerant than other species, and it likes moist and rich soil that drains very well. It grows best in bright but indirect sunlight, and you’ll always err on the side of caution and water it when it gets dry out.
10. Ostrich Fern
This is another large type of fern that has fronds that can get up to five feet long, and this gives the fern a very wide shape. It can take over other plants around it and get unruly, so be careful when you plant it. It usually stays around three feet high and three feet wide, but it can grow bigger with the correct conditions. It likes rich, moist soil that you don’t let dry out, and it does best in the shade. I can tolerate a little sun if you make a point to keep the soil moist, but it’ll scorch in direct light. You can grow it in zones three to eight, and this makes it a fairly cold-hardy type of fern.
11. Leatherleaf Fern
The deep green, glossy leaves on this type of fern make it very popular for landscapes and groundcover. The leaves also have a surprisingly leather texture to them, and you should keep them in moist but not soggy soil that drains well and is rich with bark and other mediums. It can get up to three feet high with a similar width, and you can have it in partial shade or deep shade without a problem. Just make sure it’s not in the direct sunlight because this can lead to scorching. It’s native to the southern hemisphere, so it prefers warmer conditions in zones 8 to 11.
12. Lady Fern
This type of fern is dainty and beautify, and they come in several different structures and sizes that makes them easy to place around your yard, garden, or in pots indoors in your sunrooms You can get types that spread around, or they sit strongly upright and don’t take up a lot of space. As a bonus, these types of ferns are also very tolerant of dry soil and sun, and they’ll drop their leaves in the fall before blooming again in the spring. They like full shade, but they can grow in partial sun, and you should keep the soil moist without saturating it or letting it dry out completely.
13. Maidenhair Fern
This type of fern has a very airy and delicate look to it, but it’s a very tough species. Every wiry stem has broad leaflets, and this gives the fern an umbrella-like appearance. They look best planted in a group in your yard or in a container garden, and different species need different growing conditions. Some are hardy in zones five to eight, and others are hardy in zones 7 to 10. They love a lot of heat and a high humidity level with enriched soil that drains very well but you keep consistently moist.
14. Autumn Fern
This type of fern has a beautiful copper-red foliate that will turn into green and gold as the season changes, and this makes it a stunning addition to your garden. During the fall months, it turns a rust color. In warmer climates that don’t get frost, this is an evergreen type of fern that stays pretty all year-round. It is hardy from zone five to nine, and it can grow up to two feet high by two feet wide. You can get different cultivars of this plant, and this allows you to choose ones that produce even more vivid coloring. It likes humidity and moist soil like most ferns, but it can survive slight droughts.
15. Osmunda Fern
The Osmunda fern is another of the biggest types of fern that you can get to fill in areas around your pond or in the backyard. It’s native from everywhere east of the Mississippi, it needs very moist soil to do well. The top of the plant looks like a small group of flowers, and it can be hardy to zones three to nine, depending on the species. Some are reddish-brown color and can grow up to five feet tall, and others will grow three feet tall by six feet wide. The soil should be rich with growing mediums, and it likes partial shade or deep shade to thrive.
16. Silver Falls Japanese Painted Fern
This type of fern is a slight anomaly in the fact that it does very well with a few direct hours of sun every day. You should put it in an area with partial shade where it gets morning sun while being protected from the scorching afternoon sunshine. It can scorch in the afternoon sun. It has purple veins, pink stems, and stunning silvery-colored foliage that stands out. Keep the soil moist without saturating it, and don’t get water on the leaves. It does best in zones five to eight, and you should be very careful with any fertilizer because it’s very sensitive to it.
17. Interrupted Fern
The Interrupted Fern is one type of fern that will stand up to six feet wide by three feet tall, and it’ll take up a decent amount of space in your rock garden or by your fencing. This is a deciduous fern that has leaves that it’ll drop in the fall, and this could leave a gap in your landscaping. It grows brown leaflets that seem to interrupt the green ones on the fronds. It’ll grow well in zones three to six, and it likes wet or heavily moist soil with a lot of shade. It brings a brilliant green coloring to your landscaping, and it can add height and texture to give you a cohesive focal point.
18. Cinnamon Fern
These types of ferns can reach up to six feet high, and they have two different colored fronds that lend their name. There are brown-orange hued upright fronds in the center that form plumes that can reach up to three feet high. The pale green fronds on the outer edge can be twice as big as the center ones, and it thrives in wet conditions around ponds. It likes full or partial shade, but it can tolerate hours of direct sunlight if you plant it directly in the water. It’s hardy in zones four to nine, and this means that this fern can easily grow in a variety of environments.
19. Wood Fern
Wood ferns are beautiful and tough, and these types of ferns are very drought-tolerant once you establish them. This makes them great for planting on your rooftop garden or in large planters. You can get cultivars that are evergreens, and others will drop the leaves come the fall months. You should divide the clumps every three years to help them maintain their forms or they’ll get unruly and unattractive. They do best in zones three to eight, and they can get between 18 inches tall and wide to 18 inches tall and two feet wide. Some have a vase shape, and others are wider all of the way through with a variety of colors. Keep them in moist soil in full or partial shade.
20. Birds Nest Fern
This type of fern goes by the scientific name of Asplenium nidus, and it produces leathery, strappy fronds that grow up from the center of the plant in tight shapes. They’ll unfurl to create a bird’s nest or vase-like shape. It’s a slow-growing species that can reach up to seven feet high in a greenhouse or in the right environment outdoors. When you grow them inside, they stay around two feet tall. It’s drought-tolerant, and it can grow with less humidity if you keep the soil moist.
21. Button Fern
This is another type of fern that is very easy to grow indoors, and it’s native to New Zealand. Due to the small size, this plant works well for companion planting, and it’ll get between 12 and 18 inches tall at full maturity. You’ll get very slender stems with small, round leaflets that add a whimsical look and feel to your space, and you’ll have to have higher humidity. So, set it by a humidifier or set it in a tray of water and pebbles. The growing medium should be rich but drain well, and it does best in partial to full shade with indirect sunlight. Too much sunlight will scorch it.
22. Silver Brake
This is another low-maintenance type of fern that is very good for beginners to try and grow. It has green foliage with attractive silver-colored stripes on the fronds. The fronds can grow up to two feet tall and two feet wide at full maturity, and it works well in hanging baskets or pots around your house. They like when the daytime temperatures hover between 68 and 72 degrees F, but they like the nights to be a little cooler at 50 to 55-degrees F. Keep them in moist soil out of the direct sunlight, and don’t fertilize them as they are very sensitive and it can burn.
23. Crispum Group
Anyone who wants to add a little texture to their garden should look into this type of fern. It would do very well in and around a hot tub enclosure, and the fronds have distinct waves to the edges that get much more pronounced as it matures. It can get up to two feet all and wide, and it has slightly thicker fronds. You’ll want to keep the soil consistently moist but not saturated, and you want to plant it in an area that won’t get a lot of sunshine because this can burn the leaves and cause the plant to die. It doesn’t need any fertilizer or pruning to keep it looking nice.
24. Carrot Fern
Better known as Onychium japonicum, this type of fern has very feathery fronds that look delicate and dainty in your landscape. This fern comes from India, Thailand, and Japan, but it’s also naturalized in parts of the UK. It’s not fully hardy to colder temperatures in the United States, so you should put it in an unheated greenhouse before the first frost hits and keep it there until spring. Keep the soil lightly moist and watch your humidity levels. It should be in a well-draining soil that you enrich with mediums like bark, compost, or peat moss to help retain the moisture and give it a nutrient boost.
25. Royal Fern
The final type of fern on the list is the Royal Fern, and it works well for those damp areas of your yard. This is a deciduous fern that drops the leaves in the autumn months and blooms again in the spring to bring splashes of bold green foliage to your yard. It can get large, so it can take up a nice portion of your balcony and fill it in, and you want to put it in indirect lighting because it’ll scorch in full sun. The foliage turns a nice bronze color in the fall months before dropping off to give you spots of color. This fern can grow up to be five feet tall and several feet wide.
These 25 types of ferns can easily fill in the open spaces in your yard and introduce pretty green foliage and texture to your landscaping. You can mix and match several different types to create unique looks throughout the shaded areas in your yard, and this brings a lush feel to the space. I invite you to take look at my list, pick out a few that you like, and watch them liven up your yard.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.