Bob Vila Radio: Ferns

Ferns remain popular with homeowners and renters alike, thanks to the ancient plant's attractive fronds and forgiving care requirements.

By Roseann Foley Henry | Updated Apr 22, 2014 2:37 PM

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Leafy, green, and graceful, ferns bring drama and texture to the garden. They are attractive in rock gardens and make effective background plantings and ground covers. Their frilly fronds, some with subtle variegations, lend character and color to shady spots. If chosen wisely, a fern can enhance your landscape for many years.


Listen to BOB VILA ON FERNS or read the text below:



Ferns have an ancient lineage. They first appeared on earth more than 300 million years ago and have over time adapted to a diverse range of environments. Although you can find a fern suited to almost any conditions, they generally prefer shady, moist locations and loose soils with a high concentration of organic matter.

One of their big attractions is that ferns are easy to grow and maintain. Once established, they need little care. They typically don’t require fertilizer, they’re unattractive to pests, and they’re not subject to disease. You’ll have greatest success, however, if you stick with ferns that are suited to your region. In colder climates, plant ferns in the spring; in warmer areas, in the fall. Water regularly—don’t let the soil dry out—and mulch to help the plant retain moisture.

One caveat: Tempting though it may be, don’t collect ferns from the wild—you could mistakenly end up with highly endangered or highly invasive species, and you shouldn’t have either in your garden.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.