Ferns: deer resistant, evergreen, beautiful

Ferns have stolen our hearts at B. B. Barns. If there is an opportunity to learn more about them or grow new species, we literally can't resist. Our gardens are quickly becoming fern gardens and we love it. 

'Autumn' fern gets 2'-3' tall x 2' wide. it looks like it belongs in Jurassic Park with it's sweeping fronds and new bronze color. It is evergreen and likes dry shade. 

Ferns existed prior to flowering plants and depending on type, reproduce with spores, rhizomes, offsets or stems, which is not the topic of this blog, but if you're interested in that sort of thing, click here. This post focuses on deer resistant ferns and evergreen or semi-evergreen ferns: Ferns that add beauty to your garden.  

Ferns are easy to grow and many are native (Lady, Log, Hay Scented). Most prefer a shady, moist area, but not all. Autumn Ferns, for example, can handle dry shade. They grow right up against your trees. Some ferns reproduce quickly, providing groundcover for large areas in short order (Ostrich). Some can handle a bit of sun (Cinnamon) and some dense shade (Leatherwood). Their best attribute is adding texture, softness and even color to the garden--not all ferns are green (Ghost fern is silver, Lady fern has red stems). Their sizes can be large (Cinnamon, Ostrich, Autumn) or small (Japanese Painted, Korean). For Western North Carolina where shade wins the garden turf wars, ferns fit nicely in woodlands gardens. Another huge plus? Deer resistant, few pests (an occasional slug) and many are drought tolerant. Their maintenance level is zero, dividing and transplanting is the only chore necessary. Ferns prefer bright shade to shade and moisture with rich, organic soil. Below are complied lists of both deer resistant and evergreen ferns. . 

Deer Resistant Ferns Hardy in Zones 4-9 (native ferns are Noted with *)

Japanese painted fern is light grey with pink veining, an ornamental fern that does well in dry shade and adds color to the front of the border. 

Cinnamon Fern has large brown "cinnamon" colored fronds that make this fern very showy. Reaching to 3'-4' tall it grows in an upright habit. Keep moist if in a sunny spot. 

  • Adiantum capillus-veneris*
    • Southern Maidenhair
  • Athyrium filix-femina*
    • Lady Fern
  • Athyrium filix-femina 'Frizelliae'*
    • Frizelliae Lady Fern
  • Athyrium nipponicum 'Burgundy Lace'
    • Burgundy Lace Painted Fern
  • Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum'
    • Japanese Painted Fern
  • Athyrium nipponicum 'Silver Falls'
    • Silver Falls Painted Fern
  • Athyrium nipponicum pictum 'Ursula's Red'
    • Ursula's Red Painted Fern
  • Cyrtomium falcatum
    • Japanese Holly Fern
  • Dennstaedtia punctilobula*
    • Hay-scented Fern
  • Dryopteris erythrosora
    • Autumn Fern
  • Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance'
    • Brilliance Autumn Fern
  • Dryopteris marginalis
    • Wood Fern
  • Matteuccia struthiopteris*
    • Ostrich Fern
  • Onoclea sensibilis*
    • Sensitive Fern
  • Osmunda cinnamomea*
    • Osmunda, Cinnamon Fern
  • Osmunda claytonia*
    • Interrupted Fern
  • Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis*
    • Royal Fern,
  • Polystichum acrostichoides*
    • Christmas Fern
  • Polystichum polyblepharum
    • Tassel Fern
  • Thelypteris kunthii*
    • Southern Shield Field

Ostrich fern lining a shady sidewalk. It is planted with Solomon's Seal, hostas, and Virginia bluebells. 

Evergreen and Semi-Evergreen Ferns (native ferns noted with *)

Ostrich fern unfurling. Ostrich fern can take a fair amount of sunlight and is an aggressive spreader. 

  • Blechnum spicant*
    • Deer Fern
  • Crytomium falcatum ‘Rochfordianum’
    • Japanese Holly Fern
  • Dryopteris cycadina
    • Shaggy Shield Fern (semi-evergreen)
  • Dryopteris intermedia
    • Fancy Fern
  • Dryopteris labordei
    • Golden Mist Fern
  • Dryopteris marginalis
    • Leatherwood Fern
  • Dryopteris remota
    • Remote Wood Fern (semi-evergreen)
  • Dryopteris x complexa
    • Robust Male Fern (semi-evergreen)
  • Drypoteris celsa*
    • Log Fern (semi-evergreen)
  • Polystichum acrostichoides*
    • Christmas Fern
  • Polystichum polyblepharum
    • Tassel fern
  • Polystichum tsus-simense
    • Korean Rock (semi-evergreen)

'Lady in Red' fern is delicate with beautiful red stems. Reaching 2' tall, it spreads to 2'-3' and likes bright shade. 

Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach and blog writer.

B.B. Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, Tennessee and upstate South Carolina.