If you’ve ever walked through a moist forest, passed by a forest edge or examined the mossy rocks along the Niagara Escarpment, you’ve probably noticed a variety of native ferns. Their size and shapes range from the metre-high vase-shaped Ostrich Fern to the low growing delicate Northern Maidenhair Fern.
One interesting difference between ferns and most other plants is the way they reproduce. They don’t produce flowers or seeds. Instead, ferns produce spores on the underside of their fronds. The spores are then spread by wind. Like some other plants, they can also spread underground through a type of root known as a rhizome.
Ferns are one of the earliest land plants, appearing almost 400 million years ago. They dominated the landscape for millions of years until seed plants evolved.
These ancient plants can bring remarkable texture to your garden but like any plant, each species has certain requirements in order to thrive.
Most ferns prefer loam or sandy soils. Try Marginal Wood Fern or Christmas Fern to create a backdrop for woodland groundcovers and Northern Maidenhair Fern along a stone border. If you have clay soils, give Ostrich Ferns a try as long as the location is moist.
Want a fern to be a focal point? Try Cinnamon Fern for its cinnamon-coloured fronds that grow straight up in the centre of its vase-shaped green fronds.