Skip to main content

For the best results, here’s where to plant your ferns outdoors

Ferns are a popular plant to grow both indoors and outdoors. However, it can be a bit tricky to know where to plant them within your landscaping. When caring for them indoors, you have more control over what they’re exposed to, when they get water, and how much light they get. When outside, you’ll have to find a spot that provides them with what they need rather than giving it to them yourself. So here’s how to know where to plant your ferns where they can thrive and grow into big luscious plants as you see in the forests across the world.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

What are ferns?

Ferns have elegant long leaves with delicate growth patterns that have been associated with mossy mountainsides and luscious forests for years. There’s even a valley in California called Fern Valley where they shot scenes for Jurassic Park! These plants are often associated with prehistoric times and might be a fun way to add some decor to your garden.

Ferns are found in the wild almost everywhere, but we don’t see them implemented into landscaping as much as they should be. They are relatively easy to care for; they are long-lasting and come in a wide variety of greens, sizes, shapes, and growth patterns. Ferns are a great plant to add behind flowering plants to give the blooms a lovely luscious green backdrop. They’re also disease-resistant and aren’t usually bothered by deer or rabbits. Ferns are ideal plants to use if the location you’re trying to fill is shady and moist, where most plants don’t want to be.

What soil do they need?

As you might have guessed, ferns like their soil to be more moist than dry. Find a location in your landscaping where the soil doesn’t dry out too quickly, and your fern will be happy there. If you want a fern in an area that seems a bit too dry, you can add some peat moss to the soil before planting to increase its ability to hold water. While you’re at it, add some compost or slow-release fertilizer to ensure the fern has plenty of nutrients to pull from.

What kind of light?

While some ferns can handle a bit of sunlight, as long as their roots have plenty of water, usually, you’ll want to avoid full sun when finding a location for your ferns. These are plants that grow in the under-canopy of rainforests and around the mossy creek beds of mountain valleys. They get partial shade to dappled sunlight at best; that’s where they’ll be most happy. Find a spot where a giant tree grows or where other taller plants will protect the fern from the harshest sun exposure. If you just have to have your fern in a sunnier spot, be sure to provide it with enough water and be prepared to prune off browned leaves in the middle of summer.

fern in landscaping
Samantha Gades/Unsplash

What are their water needs?

A fern’s water needs will depend greatly on where you’ve put them. If they have a nice shady spot where the soil doesn’t dry out too quickly, you won’t need to water your fern at all. However, if they’re in a sunny spot, you’ll likely need to water the plant more often, especially during the hot summer days. To combat this, you can add peat moss to the soil, cover the ground with a protective cloth, or plant taller plants around the fern. Just keep an eye on the plant as the summer days grow hotter, and if you notice browning leaves, bump up your watering schedule.

It’s always intimidating to take on a new plant you’ve never cared for before, but you’ve taken the best first step by educating yourself on the needs of a fern. Remember to find a shady spot for your ferns, or at least provide them with enough water if they’ll be exposed to more sunlight than they typically like. You also might want to consider adding peat moss to your soil to help with water retention. However, the best spot for a fern is under a big tree and surrounded by a few of its fern friends or other shade-loving plants.

Editors' Recommendations

Rebecca Wolken
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rebecca's has written for Bob Villa and a Cincinnati based remodeling company. When she's not writing about home remodeling…
Spider plants are hardy hydroponic plants – here’s how to grow your spider plant in water
Tips for growing new spider plants in this unique way
Spider plant with spiderettes

Spider plants are wonderful plants. They’re often touted as great plants for beginners, forgetful plant parents, and college students. As they're easy to care for and hard to kill, there’s a lot to love about spider plants. They’re also very easy to propagate, making them great gifts.

If you’ve just received a spider plant as a gift, or are thinking of getting one for yourself, then this article is for you. Read on to learn everything you need to know about growing spider plants and keeping your spider plant in water.

Read more
Here are some fun and easy DIY plant wall ideas
Setting up your own DIY plant wall
Hanging planters made of a recycled tire and bucket.

If your home could use some extra greenery, but doesn't have much space to spare, then a DIY plant wall might be just the thing you need. Plant walls come in a lot of sizes and designs, and building one yourself lets you create it to fit your individual space. They’re perfect for sprucing up that wall in your living that you just don’t know what to do with or for creating a privacy screen between you and your neighbors.

If you’re in the business of small deck gardening, vertical plant walls and setups can grow just about anything, from herbs and flowers to fruits and vegetables! Want to get started building your own DIY plant wall?  Here are our recommendations for you!

Read more
What are water globes, and why should you use them for plants?
Tips and tricks for using water globes
An iridescent pink water globe under a holly plant.

Not being able to water your plants doesn’t have to mean instant death for them! Whether you’re going away for vacation or find yourself too busy to consistently water your plants, water globes for plants can be a reliable source of hydration for a few weeks. Plus, there are tons of colorful options, so no matter what your personal aesthetic is you're sure to find one that work for you. How useful are these gardening tools, and are they more effective than other watering methods? We'll answer all your questions and even recommend some of our favorite water globes!

What is a water globe?
The idea of a water globe is straightforward. Essentially, you have a sphere made from glass, plastic, clay, or metal with a long, thin neck. At the end of the neck, you'll find a small opening that slowly dispenses water after you fill up the globe and stick it into your soil. When your soil dries out, air gets into the globe, which pushes a small amount of water out of the stem.
Pros of water globes
Water globes are great if you’re going away for a while or find yourself without much time to tend to your plants. They can usually keep your soil moist for between seven to 14 days. If you’re out of town for a week or two or have a particularly thirsty plant, a water globe can be a quick and relatively affordable solution. It’s especially ideal for water-loving plants such as ferns and calatheas, which appreciate moist soil.
Cons of water globes
There are some matters to consider, of course. A globe can be fragile, especially if you get a glass one. Also, the amount of water dispensed can be variable, depending on how you stick the globe into the soil, the size of the sphere, and your home temperature conditions. While water globes dispense water slowly and don’t waterlog your soil, they aren't the best choice for plants that prefer to fully dry out between waterings, such as cacti and succulents.

Read more