All You Need to Know About Planting Fall Ferns

These ferns are perfect for fall planting!

Last week I got to visit my friends over at Thunderwood Farms and talk about ferns with Lanie! I love love love ferns in all shapes and sizes and Lanie was the perfect person to share in my excitement for these beauties. Fall is the very best time to plant ferns because it gives the plants a chance to establish their roots before the leaf growth of spring and summer. Most ferns are evergreen and will stay beautiful throughout the fall. Also, ferns are, for the most part, deer resistant! Yes, if they are hungry enough, they might nibble, but most ferns can stay untouched by your forest neighbors. Our motto for ferns is “the more you love them, the less they love you”. Ferns need little attention, especially during the fall and winter. Once planted in the fall, your fern will want some space as it focuses its attention on creating a stable root system. Once spring and summer roll around, then it’s time to give a little fertilizer and love to give it a jump start into the new season.


Our first fall fern is the Southern River Wood or Southern Shield Fern. In my video on these guys, we actually highlight two variations, both called the Southern Shield Fern. It is an evergreen, giving you great green shades throughout the winter’s cold temps. These ferns, and most that we highlight, thrive best in Zone’s 7-8 and below, as they don’t need to get below zero degrees Fahrenheit. If you are growing these beauties further north, they do well as an annual plant or in a container. They don’t require much water, and really thrive in a shady corner of your garden. They can handle a little sun, but not too much! The more sun they get, the lighter the leaves will become. In the ground, they can grow waist high, up to 4 feet tall! I grow these ferns in container by my back door and they just thrive with little attention. Whenever I need them, they are there to provide great clippings for arrangements!


The Ribbon Fern is another favorite, and really thrives across Zone 8A. They can get very large if you let them! Fern expert Lanie remembers her grandmother having a giant one of these and she would leave outside during the warm months and then enjoy indoors during the winter! As the seasons change, the green on these gorgeous leaves will adjust their colors accordingly.


Next up is the Autumn Fern, with the perfect name to be on our fall ferns list! This one is a favorite among landscapers due to its wide frond base and large size. This one can grow up to four feet tall! It is also an evergreen but, in the spring, its leaves can take on an orange-y bronze hue. The Autumn Fern is great for beginning gardeners and also makes for great layers in a container garden.


The Holly Fern is a gorgeous emerald green beauty and again its name lends to its affinity for the winter season. It’s easy to grow and lasts as a bright green garden addition throughout the colder months. It can grow larger as well, it just will depend on the size of the container it is in. The clippings of Holly Ferns make for great clippings to add to your holiday arrangements.

Ferns are the garden addition you need to plant now! As the temps continue to drop, get your fern in the ground before that first frost to allow it time to root itself before growing to new heights. Watch my full video on youtube for all the fern details and follow Carmen Johnston Gardens on Instagram and Facebook for daily garden tips!