A.  Ferns have a reputation of being difficult to maintain but are easy-growers if they like their surroundings.

The outdoor ferns grow naturally in slightly shaded, open areas in the woods.  While most flourish in mildly acid soil with generous amounts of organic matter, some can tolerate an alkaline condition.  The key is moisture and light shade.  The soil pH should be 6-5 1/4.

Native ferns are beautifully suited to Houston landscapes and some varieties will stay green all through a mild winter.  Best adapted to our area the holly fern (Crytomium falcatum) and the wood fern (Dryopteria patens).

Ferns may also be used as house plant but need a cool temperature (55 degrees-65 degrees) and very moist air and soft light.  Give the leaves frequent shower baths.  Considered best for indoors are the Hares-foot-fern, Holly fern and Bird-nest-fern and the small "table ferns" (Pteris) which are usually grown in dish gardens.

For those who want to add to the different varieties, there are: Southern maidenhair (Adiantum cappilusveneris) is a native low evergreen.  Its file-textured foliage and light green color looks attractive planted among rock, walkways and walls.

Microlepia strigosa is a greener, medium sized foundation fern with a greater tolerance to the cold.

Christmas fern (Polypodium polypodioidea) is one of the favorites for rock gardens with its small, course fronds.

Japanese climbing fern (Lygodium japonicison) works well on a trellis.

Leather-leaf fern (Polystichum adiantifoisna) is a dark evergreen that is a nice border plant.

Royal fern (Osmunda regalia) a deciduous native makes an ideal choice for a background plant since it grows to three or four feet. 

Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) makes a good ground cover with its medium sized course fronds, also deciduous.

Narrow-leaf chain fern (Lousiseria areolata) a native deciduous medium-sized fern with course fronds works well as a companion plant in mixed beds.

Lady fern (Athyrium Felix-fermia) a deciduous small-to-medium-sized native fern with soft, compact growth that works well along borders, a woodland garden or among plants and shrubs.

There are some of the most popular but there are well over one hundred to choose from.

The novice may choose to start with one variety. They may have to be moved around until you find the perfect spot.  Try to duplicate the soil in the woodlands made of roots, decomposed leaven and sticks and they will reward you by multiplying.

 


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