How to Grow Healthy Ferns in a Dark Corner of Your Yard

How to Grow Healthy Ferns in a Dark Corner of Your Yard

How to Grow Healthy Ferns in a Dark Corner of Your Yard


Growing ferns in a shady corner of your yard can add beautiful greenery and texture to an otherwise dull area. With their lacy fronds and prehistoric appeal, ferns thrive in low-light conditions that challenge most other plants. Follow these tips to successfully cultivate lush, vibrant ferns in the shaded nooks of your landscape.

Choosing the Right Fern Varieties

When selecting ferns for dark corners, focus on varieties that naturally grow in shady woodland environments. Great options include:

  • Japanese painted fern – With silver-blue fronds accented by red veins, this variety adds striking color. It does best in zone 5-9.

  • Cinnamon fern – Named for its cinnamon-colored spores, this hardy fern thrives in zones 2-10. It spreads nicely to form a lush colony.

  • Lady fern – Delicate, bright green fronds make this fern a refined option for zones 3-8. It grows 2-3 feet tall.

  • Christmas fern – Evergreen in zones 3-9, this fern keeps its deep green color all year long. It’s an excellent choice for all-season interest.

Avoid sun-loving ferns like the sword fern, which require more sunlight than a dark corner provides. Stick to shade-dwellers for the highest chance of success.

Preparing the Planting Area

Ferns thrive in rich, moist soil. Before planting:

  • Loosen the soil and mix in several inches of compost or other organic material to improve drainage and nutrient content.

  • Test the soil pH. Ferns prefer acidic soil with a pH between 4.5-6.5. Adjust if needed.

  • Improve drainage if your site tends to stay wet. Consider creating a raised planting bed filled with amended soil.

Caring for Your Ferns

  • Water regularly – Ferns should never dry out. Water daily in hot weather and 2-3 times per week in average conditions.

  • Mulch annually with 2-3 inches of shredded bark or leaves to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

  • Fertilize a few times each season using a balanced organic fertilizer or aged manure. Avoid over-fertilizing, which can damage fern fronds.

  • Remove dead fronds as needed to maintain an attractive appearance. Cut back any ground-level fronds that look tattered or worn.

  • Divide overcrowded ferns every 2-3 years in early spring. Replant divisions to expand your fern patch or share with gardening friends.

Enjoying Your Shade-Loving Ferns

With proper selection and care, ferns can transform a dark, difficult corner into a lush retreat. Their graceful forms and vivid hues bring softness to shady spaces. Each year, your ferns will return bigger and fuller, creating a serene, inviting feature in your landscape.