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Top ground ferns for dry shade

One of nature’s resilient marvels – ground ferns – are perfectly suited for the challenging conditions of dry shade. In the often overlooked corners of gardens, where sunlight struggles to penetrate and moisture is scarce, these remarkable ferns thrive against all odds, adding a touch of lush greenery to even the most shaded areas.

Discover a carefully curated selection of five ground ferns, each uniquely adapted to thrive in dry, shaded environments. Prepare to be enchanted as we uncover the secrets of these elegant ferns, demonstrating how they can transform the dimmest corners of your garden into thriving oases of natural beauty.

Join us as we celebrate the wonders of nature’s resilience and discover the captivating world of ferns that flourish in the most challenging conditions.


Cyrtomium fortunei ‘Clivicola’

Cyrtomium fortunei ‘Clivicola’

With fronds that resemble holly branches, the Holly Fern is a distinctive evergreen fern with pale foliage that can thrive in the deepest shade so long as the soil is moist.

The ‘Clivicola’ cultivar, also sometimes known as ‘Clivicolum’, can be differentiated from the species by its more compact size, more horizontally arching fronds, and its slightly larger and more lanceolate, light yellow-green pinnae.


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Polystichum tsus-simense

Polystichum tsus-simense

The Korean Rock Fern is a semi-evergreen holly fern, compact in stature and suitable for small spaces in the garden, and is fully hardy for the UK climate.

Polystichum tsus-simense exhibits glossy green leaves with a hint of steely blue that create pleasing contrast with its black scales and leaf bases.


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Dryopteris atrata

Dryopteris atrata

The Shaggy Wood Fern is a tall and robust clump-forming fern which produces attractively long arched, lime-green fronds in a vase shape.

Its unique appearance comes from the fine dark hairs which cover the elegant fronds. This fern is easy to grow yet nonetheless spectacular.


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Polystichum polyblepharum

Polystichum polyblepharum

Prized for its glossy dark fronds and attractive scaly chestnut midribs, the Japanese Tassel Fern offers an extra gift in spring when it produces delicate furry silver knuckles of new growth.

Polystichum polyblepharum is a hardy evergreen fern bearing stiff, erect, lance-shaped fronds which resemble a shuttlecock. The overlapping fronds of dark green glossy foliage and striking scales make this a perfect elegant fern for a shaded spot in the garden.

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Arachnoides simplicior Variegata

Arachnoides simplicior Variegata

Native to woodland streams, cliff crevices and forested areas in Japan and China. The genus gets its name from the Greek ‘arachne’, meaning spider, because of its spider-like clusters of spore capsules.

This fern is rare in cultivation and certainly a must-have for the fern enthusiast.

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Expert Tip

Every garden is different, every area is different. When creating a garden make sure to take into account also the local conditions: soil, moisture, other plants (trees, shrubs etc) present in the garden. Dry shade may different things for different people, but moisture in soil is still required. A good mulch layer is recommended to protect the soil from excessive evaporation.
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More on ground ferns

Ground Ferns 101: How to look after your ground ferns

Ground ferns are an extremely diverse category of plants that have survived since the age of dinosaurs. They are instantly recognizable by their pleasing architectural foliage, often finely divided.

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