Tough and easy to grow, these are the most widely used of all ferns. Where winters are cold, they're popular houseplants, benefiting from well-drained soil, frequent misting, and monthly applications of a general-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer from spring through fall. In frost-free areas, they make splendid ground covers for shady areas. Not usually browsed by deer.
giant sword fern
- Native to the tropical Marquesas islands, this species is known primarily for the selection 'Macho'.
- Arching fronds grow 3 4 feet long and 67 inches wide, making a plant 56 feet wide.
- Bright shade or morning sun is ideal.
- Often grown as a summer annual.
- Container plants fill their pots quickly; daily watering is necessary.
southern sword fern
- Native to many tropical regions of the world.
- To 23 feet tall, 5 feet wide.
- Tufts of bright green, narrow (2 inches-wide), upright fronds with closely spaced, finely toothed leaflets.
- Roots often have small, roundish tubers.
- Plant spreads by thin, fuzzy runners and can be inva- sive.
- Will not take hard frosts but is otherwise adaptable, tolerating poor soil and erratic watering.
- Good in narrow, shaded beds; can thrive in full sun with adequate water.
- Good in pots and hanging baskets.
- Often sold as Nephrolepis exaltata.
- Lemon Buttons grows to 1 feet tall and wide with short, rounded leaflets, making the frond only an inch wide.
- It's named for its scent, not its color.
- Like Nephrolepis cordifolia, this is a tropical species, but it grows larger (to 7 feet high and as wide) and has broader fronds (to 6in.
- Most common are named selections grown as houseplants.
- Best known is 'Bostoniensis', Boston fern.
- Growing about 3 feet high, it is the classic parlor fern, with spreading, arching habit and graceful, eventually drooping fronds broader than those of the species.
- Among the many forms with more finely cut and feathery fronds are 'Fluffy Ruffles', 'Rooseveltii', and 'Whitmanii'.
- Ritas Gold' has 18- to 24 inches fronds of bright lime-green, demanding shade but giving the illusion of light wherever it is grows.
- From northwestern Australia.
- Grows to 3412 feet high and wide.
- Similar to Nephrolepis cordifolia but has darker green, somewhat narrower fronds.
- Used mainly as a houseplant.
- Habit is stiffer and more erect than that of Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis', and plant is more tolerant of low humidity and both high and low light conditions.
- Selections include 'Kimberly Queen' and 'Western Queen'.
- Medusa grows about half the size of the species, with compact fronds that tend to curve, creating the illusion of tangled hair.