Different Types of Ferns

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern
Himalayan Maidenhair Fern

The incredible resilience of ferns towards unfavorable conditions means that they make excellent low-maintenance house plants.

You can grow them outdoors in partial shade, or under light indoor as long as they are not placed in direct sunlight. On top of that, ferns are also much less susceptible to diseases and infestations.

 Himalayan Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum venustum)

A member of the adiantum genus, the maidenhair is a largely evergreen fern that turns deciduous under -10℃. It is also known as black Hansraj in India, due to its black stalks at the fronds.

Easily identifiable by its broad, triangle-shaped fronds adorned with small fan-shaped segments.

It typically grows from 15 to 25 centimeters tall, and up to 90 centimeters wide. Cultivated as an ornamental subject in temperate regions, it is extremely resilient as long as temperatures stay above -20℃, moisture stays relatively high, and there is no direct sunlight.

The maidenhair blooms from late winter throughout spring. The plant creeps, which makes it perfect for shade gardens and underplanting.

Hart’s Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)

This member of the Asplenium genus is an evergreen fern quickly identifiable by its simple, undivided fronds. The leaves resemble the tongue of a hart, which leads to the fern’s name.

Considerably hardy, the fern stays lush year-round, even during the winter, which would make a great addition to your garden if you’re looking to have something evergreen in it.

That, and the fact that it is fairly drought resistant. The fern can grow from 45 to 60 centimeters tall.

Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum)

Ferns are non-flowering vascular plants that reproduce using spores. They possess true roots and stems and have complex leaves.

Having over 10,000 known species, they are astonishingly diverse in their habitats, shape, and size ranging from a centimeter to 25 meters tall. 

The majority of fern species love warm and humid conditions, such as those found in tropical climates. That being said, they are incredibly resilient, often growing in crevices on bare rocks and other harsh environments such as marshes where forest vegetation can not grow. 

Types of Ferns

Ferns have over 10,000 known species, estimated to be up to 15,000 total. Here, we will look at some of the most popular species that are generally cultivated. We will look at the general types of ferns first.

Evergreen Ferns

As the name implies, evergreen ferns do not die back to the ground even during winter, meaning that you can enjoy greenery throughout the year, even when it is not the growing season.

When looking for an evergreen fern, you want to look for a variety that suits the particular climate and habitat you aim to grow it.

Deciduous Ferns

Unlike evergreen ferns, deciduous ferns lose their green growth every winter. The plant stores chlorophyll, ensuring that it can produce enough energy to grow back come spring.

While they lose their green every winter, deciduous ferns are still a good option for anyone looking to brighten up their space.

Semi-Evergreen Ferns

Semi-Evergreen ferns are placed in between truly evergreen and deciduous ferns based on their life cycle, since they do shed their foliage but only for a short period, or do not lose the foliage in its entirety.

They may also shed their foliage in extreme weather conditions. They don’t go into dormancy for the entirety of winter as deciduous ferns do. 

Herbaceous Ferns

Herbaceous ferns are a little like deciduous ferns in that they lose their green during the winter. Unlike the latter though, herbaceous ferns die down completely to the root during the winter, since they have no permanent woody stem.

This may be slightly problematic for some people, as you can forget where you have planted your fern. It is recommended you mark the ground atop the roots when your plant dies down, so you don’t accidentally dig it up or plant something else on top of it.

Outdoor ferns

Native to eastern Asia, this deciduous fern can grow from 30 to 100 centimeters long. It thrives in shady garden conditions and produces bulky colonies of gray-green fronds with reddish midribs.

The rare color of the fern lends it loads of flair, making it a tasteful addition to any garden. They can grow quite a lot, so make sure to keep them in check with pruning as needed.

Autumn Fern/Japanese Shield Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)

Native to East Asia from China and Japan in the South to the Philippines, this fern thrives best in the woodland shade on low mountains or hills.

The fern is semi-evergreen in cooler climates and grows from 30 to 70 centimeters tall. The plant is fairly drought-resistant but favors moist, humus-rich soil, and likes to be away from direct sunlight.

The young fronds display a mix of copper red and gold and appear papery during the growing season which is spring.

As the ferns grow through summer, the color turns into a deep green. And unlike other ferns, they can grow in colder regions. Plant in humus-rich soil on borders.

Indoor ferns

If you choose to grow your ferns indoors, the options are again very broad, so you can have your pick of the range depending upon your particular tastes and needs.

Ferns make sense as easy to maintain plants that make it easy to lift up your living space with minimum effort required.

Be mindful of the fact that they require more humidity than the average household atmosphere has, and direct sunlight is harmful to the plant.

Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)

Occurring primarily in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere in central and northern Europe, northern Asia, and northern North America.

The fronds often grow up to five feet in length, with the leaves growing in an upward sweep resembling a vase.

The plant thrives in moist soil and shade. Water them occasionally at ground level, avoiding the delicate leaves and you should not have a problem with your ostrich ferns.

You can hang up the plant in a plastic pot so it doesn’t lose moisture quickly, and be sure to keep it away from direct sunlight.

Australian Tree Fern (Cyathea australis)

This fern grows up to about 30 feet tall, with eight-foot fronds. Commonly found in rainforests in New Zealand and Australia, it loves heavy precipitation, humidity, and warm temperatures, so be mindful of the climate you plant it in.

Growing it indoors will require some space, so be mindful of that. Australian tree ferns make good driveway plants.

Asparagus Fern (Asparagus setaceus)

Despite being called a fern, Asparagus Fern is not a true fern. It is called one because its leaves resemble those of ferns.

Native to Southern Africa, this is a scrambling perennial herb with tough green stems and leaves, which can reach several meters in length. The plant blooms from spring to autumn.

They thrive best in bright light and proliferate explosively so be mindful of that. Grown indoors, they can be easily made to creep up walls, brightening your living space. The fern is slender with thin leaves and looks great when mounted on a wall.

Bird Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)

Native to tropical southeastern Asia, eastern Australia, Hawaii, Polynesia, India, and eastern Africa, the fern thrives in warm, humid areas in partial to full shade. Fairly hardy, bird nest ferns can survive in rough conditions with temperatures as low as 10℃. 

They can also grow on rocks and trees, as well as in soil. The plant does well as long as humidity doesn’t fall too low, so use plastic pots instead of clay when planting indoors. Place against dark backgrounds to add a pop of color to your living space.

Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum)

This fern is native to the Americas and eastern Asia and naturally occurs in swamps, bogs, and moist woodlands. It requires a lot of water to grow and isn’t exactly drought resistant.

It is deciduous and the fronds grow anywhere from 20 to 150 centimeters long with non-fertile ones being longer and green, while the fertile spore-bearing fronds are shorter, erect, and cinnamon-colored. They make excellent plants to grow in your backyard, or on a ledge or sill.


Where do fern grow best?

There is no one answer to this question because the best place to grow ferns depends on what type of fern you have and what your environmental conditions are like. However, generally speaking, ferns do best in partial shade and well-drained soil. They also require frequent waterings, but require little maintenance overall.

Do ferns need shade or sun?

In general, ferns will do better in partial shade than in full sun. The best place for most ferns is in dappled or filtered light, or partial shade. While many ferns can grow well in some sun, it is important to keep in mind that all plants will eventually start to decline and get leggy in too much sun. If you want a fern to stay healthy and attractive, it is best to plant them in filtered sun.

Do ferns grow back if you cut them?

Yes, ferns do grow back if you cut them. Fertilize your ferns regularly with a balanced fertilizer at ½ the recommended strength to maintain a healthy plant and improve its appearance.


Ferns are easy to cultivate, low-requirement, low-maintenance plants that can quickly and easily liven up things in both your outdoor garden and living spaces, with something for every mood and taste with so many species and cultivars available.

Written by Chris Buckland

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