Swap out your classic Boston fern for these bright, shade-loving fronds.

By Southern Living
July 02, 2019
Credit: 1MoreCreative/Getty Images

You'd be hard-pressed to find a Southern porch without a hanging basket (or two) filled with ferns waving in the breeze. Some of the most popular ferns to plant in the South are Nephrolepis exaltata, or sword ferns. The New Southern Living Garden Book describes sword ferns as tropical species that will grow big and full, some reaching sizes of "up to 7 feet high and as wide." They're handsome plants and can be grown indoors or out. One selection in particular has caught our eye this season, and it's a little different than the rest. ‘Rita's Gold' is a selection of the ubiquitous sword fern species in an unexpectedly bright (practically glowing!) chartreuse hue.

About ‘Rita's Gold' Ferns

‘Rita's Gold' is a relative of the better-known Boston fern (a.k.a. Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'), which you're likely to see hanging from the rafters of every Southern porch you encounter. This is an equally easy-to-grow choice, but it adds a bit of unexpected visual interest thanks to its fronds, which are bright lime green. They are so bright that they can be mistaken for pure gold, hence the name. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, " ‘Rita's Gold' has 18- to 24-inch fronds of bright lime green, demanding shade but giving the illusion of light wherever it grows."

Growing ‘Rita's Gold' Ferns

‘Rita's Gold' is a hardy, heat-tolerant planting that can be tended indoors or out. It thrives in the shade and requires regular water. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, it "benefit[s] from well-drained soil, frequent misting, and monthly applications of a general-purpose liquid fertilizer from spring through fall." In milder climates, these ferns can be planted as ground cover as long as they're situated in shady areas without much full sun.

Other Sword Ferns

In addition to Nephrolepis exaltata, its relative Nephrolepis cordifolia (a.k.a. Southern sword fern) is also a popular fern planting in the Southern states. Nephrolepsis biserrata is also known as giant sword fern and is usually grown as an annual or in container gardens.

WATCH: Shade-Loving Fall Planter with Buffy Hargett

Do you have hanging baskets filled with sword ferns on your porch or deck? Have you ever had a ‘Rita's Gold' sword fern?