How to care for outside ferns

Written by sarah terry
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How to care for outside ferns
In a shady, moist environment, outside ferns grow well with little care. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Numerous types of outdoor or "hardy" ferns with varying colours and foliage are available to plant in your landscape. Ferns can add interest and attractive foliage to your plant beds, and hardy ferns can tolerate cold winter weather. They grow well in shady, moist spots that other plants may not prefer, but most ferns still need well-draining soil to look their best. In the right environment, your outdoor ferns can thrive with little or no care.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Garden hose
  • Organic mulch
  • 14-14-14 NPK or complete organic fertiliser

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Plant your outdoor ferns in a shaded, moist spot in your landscape. You can plant the ferns in a wooded area or among taller, larger plants on the north-facing side of a building or house. The planting site should have protection from high winds and strong sunlight.

  2. 2

    Water your outdoor ferns once each week when rainfall is less than 1 inch. Provide water to evenly moisten the soil around the plant, extending out to the area below the frond tips.

  3. 3

    Spread a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of organic mulch on the ground around your outdoor ferns in the spring and again in the fall. You can use pine straw, leaves or a similar material for mulch.

  4. 4

    Feed outside ferns once each year in the spring, right after new growth emerges. Apply a slow-release 14-14-14 NPK fertiliser or a complete organic fertiliser, following the instructions on the label for the proper application method and amount.

Tips and warnings

  • When planting ferns outdoors, ensure that the soil drains well. If you have sandy soil, mix in a 2-inch-thick layer of organic material, such as compost or sphagnum peat moss. If you have heavy clay soil, mix in a 2-inch-thick layer of organic material, such as composted pine bark. Mix the soil amendments into the ground to a depth of about 10 inches.
  • Ferns enjoy a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0, so you may need to amend your soil with pelletised lime if the pH is 5.5 or lower. When planting, allow plenty of room for your ferns to grow up to their mature size and to multiply.
  • Beware of slugs and snails infesting your ferns, which are the most common fern pests. Because ferns are sensitive to insecticides and other chemicals, you can control slug and snail problems by placing shallow dishes of beer around the plants.

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