Shade Loving Plants

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Ferns are probably the shade loving plants we're most familiar with, and possibly the most unappreciative. To begin with, there are about 12,000 species of the ancient plant, from tiny moss-like varieties to 80-foot tree ferns. Some are tropicals suitable for terrariums, indoor conditions, and greenhouses.

Some are hardier, well suited to any number of outdoor garden situations. Ferns couple especially well with astilbe, whose foliage is itself fernlike and whose delicate plume-like blossoms range from pale pink to a vibrant dark red. Hydrangea and hosta are also very good pairings, as is bleeding heart. Evergreen ferns work well as foundation plantings, and to border shrubs and hide their woody stems.

Light, soil, and moisture are the three factors to take into account for healthy fern growth and gardening. Ferns are shade loving plants, of course, but some species are surprisingly tolerant of partial sun. Soil will ideally be either neutral or slightly acidic, with a pH of between 6.5 and 7. With their shallow root systems, ferns are particularly sensitive to soil erosion. Moisture is good for these shade loving plants, but ferns do not like saturated soil.

Shade Loving Plants: Fern Varieties

Hart's tongue is a distinctive evergreen fern that thrives in moist, slightly chalky soil. Its fronds are bright green and tongue-like. Ostrich feather fern, which will grow about three or four feet in home gardens, is a hardy but tough deciduous plant that develops a circle of yellow-green feathery fronds. Maidenhair is also deciduous and is easy to grow in both sun and shade in temperate zones.

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