How to Grow a Tatting Fern

Written by colleen de koning
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Tatting ferns, Athyrium filix-femina, also called lady ferns, are delicate deciduous ferns named for their distinctive green fronds that have the appearance of tatted lace. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture Zones 3 to 8, they commonly grow 2 to 3 feet in height, naturalise well and require little care. Their bright green foliage adds whimsy and character to the garden and pairs well with low-growing ground covers, other ferns and rhododendrons. Plant tatting ferns near a pond or walkway to provide visual interest, texture and movement to your garden.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Tatting ferns
  • Spade
  • Organic commercial potting soil
  • Humus
  • Garden hose
  • Organic fertiliser formulated for ferns

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  1. 1

    Clear a planting area in a location that has well-draining slightly acidic soil and receives morning sun and partial afternoon shade. Apply a 2-inch layer of humus to the soil and turn the soil with the spade to incorporate.

  2. 2

    Remove the plant from the pot, taking care not to damage the roots. Using the container as a guide, dig a hole as deep as the pot and twice as wide. Set the plant in the hole and backfill with soil, pressing firmly. If planting a bare rhizome, dig a hole 2 inches deeper and 2 inches wider than the rhizome. Place the rhizome in the hole and fill in with soil. Water thoroughly.

  3. 3

    Space tatting ferns at least 2 feet apart. They do not like competition, and if they are planted too closely, they will soon need to be thinned out. There are several varieties of tatting ferns; follow the specific label instructions for your variety.

  4. 4

    Water frequently through the spring and summer to keep soil moist, but not waterlogged. Fertilise once in the spring, using an organic fertiliser formulated for use on ferns. Apply according to the manufacturer's directions.

  5. 5

    Allow the fern fronds to turn brown and die back in the late fall. Remove the dried fronds when they pull off easily. The ferns will sprout again in the spring.

Tips and warnings

  • Tatting ferns may stay green year-round in some climates.
  • The fern fronds are toxic. Keep them away from children and pets.
  • Wear gloves when handling tatting ferns. Their fronds cause skin irritation in some people.

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