Hardy evergreen ground ferns
Ferns can help create a tropical exotic looking garden. These evergreen ferns will provide year round greenery and are great for planting under larger plants and filling those difficult dark shady spots.
They are one of the few types of plant that do not flower but make up for this with a variety of fronds from delicate feathery to prehistoric looking. You are not limited to just for using them to fill awkward gaps, many of the larger varieties can become architectural features in their own right.
Coppers, pinks and reds on new growth
Most ground ferns are various shades of green but there are a few types that produce other colours on new frond growth. The types of colour available are usually in the pinks to reds range and so can provide additional colour especially in the colder months when fewer plants are in flower.
Ferns generally love moist soil and shade
The types of condition they thrive in tend to be shade to partial shade and generally moist soil but you can find ones that will tolerate dry spots. You will find that they are not troubled much by pests or diseases so in that respect are quite low maintenance. This makes them suited to being grown in shady spots where most other plants will become leggy and struggle.
Take a look at some of the types of fern you can grow in the UK
Similar to the Autumn Fern but with more triangular and glossier fronds. Reportedly hardy to -10°C and should remain evergreen in all but the worst UK winters.
D.lepidopoda will remain quite a small fern keeping to under 50cm and suits a partially shady moist soil. Ideal for for a shady spot under other larger plants as it's new growth colour will brighten up the area. New growth occurs through summer and not just in spring.
Also known as the Autumn fern, Rosy fern and Copper shield fern are more or less evergreen in the UK. The nice thing about this little fern is that the new fronds are often a coppery pink colour as they emerge.
Erythrosora can grow to about a metre in height and have fronds up to about 60cm in length. It's relatively easy to grow in shade or full sun as long as the soil stays moist.
The Hart's Tongue fern is evergreen in the UK and provides year round interest and also happens to be a native. It can produce fronds to about 75cm but the plant itself stays about 50cm in height. This unusual looking fern also loves shade.
If you're looking for something a little smaller and with ruffled serrations then the variety Angustifolia is an interesting alternative.
Also known as the Jewelled Chain fern is well worth growing. It is an evergreen so will remain with fronds all year round, reported to manage as low as -15°C. It can produce fronds of up to 2 metres in length and grow to the same height. As a bonus the new fronds appear as a red colour making an interesting foliage plant.
The Oriental Chain fern is very similar to the Jewelled Chain fern but many reports say it's slightly less hardy possibly surviving down to -10°C. The new fronds are reddish when they first appear and then turn a fresh green colour. Under the right conditions this can grow to a very large size to about 1.5 metres high.
The Soft Shield fern Setiferum makes a great large specimen that can grow to over a metre in height. It is evergreen and hardy although its soft lacy tufted fronds make it look delicate but it is tough. Polystichum in general prefer part to full shade but as far as soil conditions and exposure go they can pretty much handle anything.
Polystichum setiferum 'Plumosum Densum'
Another hardy evergreen Setiferum with a moss like appearance with it's dense layered fronds. Also known as the Mossy Soft Shield fern and this is also a UK native. Its look reminds me a little of parsley but with a harder look and structure that gives it more depth to the fronds. A relatively small fern reaching about 45cm.
Polystichum setiferum 'Congestum'
A dwarf version of Setiferum, Congestum due to the overlapping leaflets or pinnae that give the fronds that congested look. The Congested Soft Shield fern is a British native and grows to about 30cm so quite small by fern standards and requires partial or full shade. This is hardy and evergreen.
The Korean Rock fern is an evergreen low growing with holly like tips. It loves cool dark shade and prefers a sheltered spot as although it is evergreen it is not as hardy as most other Polystichums. Would suit a sheltered north aspect to keep it cool in summer. It only grows to 35cm so would be great for planting under larger plants.
Dryopteris x Complexa
A very hardy evergreen which can be quite large growing to around 120cm is the Robust Wood fern. It is actually a cross between Dryopteris Filix-mas and Dryopteris Affinis and is an excellent large specimen that likes moist cool conditions. If given the right spot it will tolerate most conditions from full sun to shade. Its large size will make this an excellent specimen plant.
The Common Polypody is a native evergreen, a low growing spreading fern that will reach to a height of about 30cm but can produce fronds of up to 50cm. This hardy variety will produce dense ground cover and prefers drier soil. It can be ground in rockeries, wall crevices and even attached to trees. Will struggle in a limey soil.
Polypodium vulgare 'Bifidomultifidum'
This evergreen Vulgare is a crested form that produces leathery deep cut fronds. Once established it can handle full sun and drier locations than most ferns so is great if you want to squeeze in another fern but have run out of shady spots. It grows to about 30cm.
The Japanese Tassel fern grows to about 60cm with delicate looking leaflets and a yellow lime green appearance on the new foliage. A pretty hardy evergreen that develops bristles and add some year round texture. This is a favourite of many fern growers.
This is one huge and much sought after Chilean Tree fern with fronds reaching 2 metres in length. In it's native Chile it will develop a trunk but in the UK will usually remain a ground fern. The underside of the fronds is a light grey almost blue colour. It can grow up to 3 metres, is evergreen in the UK and withstand temperature reported to be as low as -5°C to -15°C.
Dryopteris wallichiana Wallich's Wood Fern
The Wallich Wood fern has to be one of my favourites with its deep burgundy red veins and stem with green leaflets. It is evergreen down to about -12°C in the UK and provides attractive year round foliage although the fronds do tend to lay down in winter rather than remaining erect unless in a sheltered spot.
You are able to buy Dryopteris wallichiana as a small plant or in more mature sizes online as this fern can grow to over a metre in height with its metre long fronds. The new spring growth is a light green and darkens with age as they unfurl and stiffen. As a woodland fern it will grow in partial or full shade and tolerate a level of dry soil once established.
Woodwardia fimbriata (Giant Chain fern)
By all means a potentially massive ground fern growing up to 2 metres in height and with a similar spread. Potentially hardy and evergreen to -10°C depending on how sheltered a position it is in.
This Giant Chain fern has long arching fronds ranging from a light to mid green in colour. It can take as long as 10 years to reach its full size and would look great under planted by smaller ferns.
List of UK evergreen ferns
Whilst not an exhaustive list this is probably the largest list of evergreen ferns that are available in the UK. They vary in their requirements from deep shade to full sun tolerant and many can even grow in dry ground, great for those dry shady areas in your garden.
venustum - Himalayan Maidenhair
x tracyii - Tracy's Western Hybrid Maidenhair
davalliaeformis - Shiny Bristle Fern
simplicior 'Variegata' - Variegated Holly Fern
scolopendrium - Hart's Tongue Fern
scolopendrium 'Crispum Group' - Crisped hart's-tongue Fern
scolopendrium 'Laceratum Kaye' - Lacerate Hart's Tongue Fern
scolopendrium 'Marginatum' - Narrow Hart's Tongue Fern
scolopendrium 'Undulatum' - Undulate Hart's Tongue Fern
trichomanes - Maidenhair Spleenwort
appendiculatum - Hammock Fern
chilense - Chilean Hard Fern
penna-marina - Alpine Water Fern
penna-marina subsp. alpinum
penna-marina subsp. alpinum Paradise Form
spicant 'Redwoods Giant' - Redwoods Deer Fern
wattsii - Hard Water Fern
caryotideum - Dwarf Holly Fern
falcatum - holly Fern
fortunei - Hardy Japanese Holly Fern
fortunei var. clivicola - Arching Japanese Holly Fern
macrophyllum - Big-leaf Holly Fern
affinis 'Crispa' - Golden Scaled Male Fern
bissetiana - Beaded Wood Fern
celsa - Log Fern
championii - Champion's Wood Fern
crassirhizoma - Thick Stemmed Wood Fern
cycadina - Shaggy Wood Fern
cystolepidota - Manta Winged Autumn Fern
dickinsii 'Crispa' - Crisped Shaggy Wood Fern
dilatata 'Crispa Whiteside' - Crisped Broad Buckler Fern
dilatata 'Jimmy Dyce' - Upright Broad Buckler Fern
dilatata 'Lepidota Cristata' - Lacy Crested Broad Buckler Fern
dilatata - Broad Buckler Fern
erythrosora - Autumn Fern
erythrosora var. prolifica - Prolific Autumn Fern
erythrosora var. prolifica 'Whirly Top' - Dwarf Prolific Autumn Fern
formosana - Limelight Wood Fern
formosana - Formosan Wood Fern
indusiata - Indusiate Wood Fern
lepidopoda - Sunset Fern
marginalis - Marginal Wood Fern
polylepis - Scaly Wood Fern
pseudofilix-mas - Mexican Male Fern
pycnopteroides - Japanese Wood Fern
remota - Scaly Buckler Fern
scottii - Scott's Wood Fern
sieboldii - Siebolds Wood Fern
stewartii - Stewart's Wood Fern
sublacera - Textured Wood Fern
uniformis - Uniform Wood Fern
uniformis 'Cristata' - Crested Uniform Wood Fern
wallichiana - Wallich's Wood Fern
wallichiana subsp. nepalensis 'Molten Lava' - Orange Croziered Wallich's Wood Fern
x australis - Dixie Wood Fern
x separabilis - Separate Wood Fern
quadripinnata - Chilean Ground Fern
glycyrrhiza - Licorice Fern
polpodioides - Resurrection Fern
vulgare 'Bifidomultifidum' - Crested Polypody
vulgare - Common Polypody
acrostichoides - Christmas Fern
aculeatum - Hard Shield Fern
andersonii - Anderson's Sword Fern
braunii - Braun's Holly Fern
makinoi - Makinoi's Holly Fern
munitum - Western Sword Fern
neolobatum - Long-eared Holly Fern
polyblepharum - Tassel Fern
rigens - Prickly Holly Fern
setiferum - Soft Shield Fern
setiferum 'Barfod's dwarf' - Proliferous Dwarf Soft Shield Fern
setiferum 'Congestum' - Dwarf Congested Soft Shield Fern
setiferum 'Congestum Cristatum' - Dwarf Crested Soft Shield Fern
setiferum 'Divisilobum type' - Divided Soft Shield Fern
setiferum 'Fairy's Feather' - Dwarf Setose Divisilobe
setiferum 'Plumoso-multilobum' - Plumose Soft Shield Fern
setiferum 'Plumosum Densum'
setiferum 'Rotundatum cristatum' - Crested Soft Shield Fern
sp.(alpine form of neolobatum) - Spiny Holly Fern
tsus-simense - Tsu Shima Holly Fern
xiphophyllum - Sword Leaved Holly Fern
bigelovii - Bigelow's Spikemoss
borealis var. compressa - Twiggy Spikemoss
moellendorffii - Gemmiferous Spikemoss
wallacei - Wallace's Spikemoss
fimbriata - Giant Chain Fern
orientalis - Oriental Chain Fern
radicans - European Chain Fern
unigemmata - Jewelled Chain Fern
Garden centres tend to sell a few seasonal varieties but will unlikely have much in the way of selection. You may find a local nursery that will have more choice but the largest variety of hardy evergreen and rarer species can be found at these specialist nurseries that offer online sales.
Shady Plants - http://www.shadyplants.net
Crocus - http://www.crocus.co.uk
Bentley Ferns - http://www.bentleyferns.co.uk
Gardening Express - http://www.gardeningexpress.co.uk
Fernatix - http://www.fernatix.co.uk
Simply Ferns - http://www.simplyferns.com
Fern Nursery - http://www.fernnursery.co.uk
Plants For Shade - http://www.plantsforshade.co.uk
Postage can often be quite high especially if you are only buying one plant. Many online nurseries often have a single postage fee or free delivery if you spend a certain amount. It is usually more cost effective to buy several plants rather than one at a time.