The more than 100 species in this genus are found in many parts of the world, though only a few are generally offered by garden centers. Use them in shade or woodland gardens, where their fronds contrast nicely with the bolder foliage of other perennials, especially such large-leafed plants as hosta and hydrangea. They prefer rich soil with adequate organic material and moisturebut as a rule they are rather forgiving, making them good choices for beginning gardeners. Some species tolerate drought and less-than-ideal soil. They are seldom bothered by deer or other pests.
D. afnis. SCALY MALE FERN. Semievergreen. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Europe and southwestern Asia. To 35 ft. high and wide. Finely cut fronds are chartreuse green with light brown scales when they unfold, dark green later. 'Cristata' ('Cristata The King') is more compact, with 3-ft., arching fronds with crested tips. 'Crispa Gracilis' is an evergreen dwarf form to only 612 in. high and wide.
D. carthusiana (D. spinulosa). SPINULOSE WOOD FERN, TOOTHED WOOD FERN, SHIELD FERN. Evergreen. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. A native of Europe, Asia, and North America. Clumps reach 1 ft. across. Coarsely cut yellowish green fronds to 618 in. tall, half as wide, have shaggy black scales on frond stem and lower part of midrib. Tolerates bog conditions.
D. celsa. LOG FERN. Semievergreen. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to moist woods and bogs in eastern U.S.; often found growing on rotting logs in the wild, hence the common name. Upright habit to 34 ft. high, 12 ft. wide. Deeply cut, glossy, deep green fronds with darker stems and midribs.
D. complexa 'Robust'. Semievergreen. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Sometimes sold as D. filix-mas 'Undulata Robusta', this hybrid has 3- to 4-ft.-long, dark green fronds that are deeply divided, with undulating edges. Vigorous and easy to grow.
D. dilatata. BROAD BUCKLER FERN. Evergreen. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to many areas in Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Grows to 12 ft. tall, possibly much taller; spreads a little wider than it is high. Finely cut, dark green, widely spreading fronds. 'Jimmy Dyce' has blue-green, upright fronds.
D. erythrosora. AUTUMN FERN. Evergreen. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to China and Japan. Erect growth in tuft to 2 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide. One of the few ferns with seasonal color variation. Expanding fronds in spring are an attractive blend of copper, pink, and yellow; they turn green in summer, then rusty brown in autumn. Bright red spore cases are produced on leaf undersides in fall; they become a handsome winter feature. Takes some drought. 'Brilliance' has especially bright coppery red new growth.
D. lix-mas. MALE FERN. Evergreen, sometimes becoming deciduous. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to much of Northern Hemisphere. Grows 25 ft. tall and wide, with nely cut medium green fronds to 1 ft. wide. 'Linearis Polydactyla' has very narrow leaf divisions with spreading, ngerlike tips.
D. goldiana. GOLDIE'S WOOD FERN, GIANT WOOD FERN. Evergreen in milder climates, deciduous in colder-winter areas. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to North America. Robust grower to 4 ft. tall, half as wide, with arching, light green fronds to 1 ft. wide.
D. marginalis. MARGINAL SHIELD FERN, LEATHER WOOD FERN. Evergreen. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From eastern North America. Grows 24 ft. tall and wide. Finely cut, dark blue-green fronds. Takes some drought.
D. wallichiana. WALLICH'S WOOD FERN. Evergreen. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to India, China. Stately fern 35 ft. high, not quite as wide. Fronds have scaly brown stems, turn from bright golden green to dark green with maturity.