In the wild, ferns have a remarkably diverse range of habitats, ranging from species which live in water to species which survive in desert like conditions. So it goes without saying that in the majority of cases there is a fern that will thrive in your garden. Most of the ferns on our list have a preference for a shady or semi shady site, and would benefit from either peat or leaf mould being dug in around their roots.
Planting your new plant
Once you have decided where to plant your fern dig a hole larger than the plant and add either some peat or leaf mould, un-pot your fern and place it in the hole, making sure that you don’t plant it too deep and that the crown is going to be level with the original soil level. Back fill the hole and then water well. As with all newly planted plants, if the weather is dry, water well at least once a week for a few weeks. In the autumn leave dead and old foliage on the plant until spring as it helps to protect the crown, and if it’s a deciduous fern identify where it is! Ferns suffer from harsh drying winds so benefit from being planted in amongst shrubs or under trees.
Ferns suffer from remarkably few diseases, and pests are fairly minimal as well, it’s worth mentioning that aspleniums do suffer from Vine Weevil. (On the nursery we treat all the ferns with biological controls twice a year). Loose plants in the spring and notches in the fronds in late summer are an indicator that they are present. There are chemicals on the market which will control them, but a more satisfying and eco-friendly way is to gently dig up the plants in late winter pick out any of the white maggoty grubs from between the roots and either squish them or put them on the bird table for the robins .Replant after and treat as a newly planted plant.
Dryopteris ethrosora and athyrium nipponicum seem to be very attractive to rabbits as a food, in fact if there was a choice between lettuce and these two ferns they would probably choose the ferns! Netting with chicken wire is probably the best solution, it does seem that once they’re established the rabbits lose interest in them.