Ferns offer a wide variety of plants for different uses. They vary greatly in size, pattern, texture and shades of green. In planning your outdoor garden, consider the type of ferns to be used and the space you will want them to occupy. Many spread rapidly while others grow slowly. Some stand like sentinels, rising to more than 4 feet, while others are low growing. The Maidenhair is dainty and fan-shaped. The Christmas fern is lance-shaped and leathery. Many, such as the Autumn fern, have a reddish color when the fronds are young. The Japanese Painted fern is perhaps the most chromatically unique of all ferns with its wine-red and soft silver-grey fronds.

Ferns can soften a landscape. Group them by size, set large plants along a fence, porch, or foundation line, miniature varieties in rock gardens, stone walls, along walkways and borders. Plant spreading varieties as groundcover for grass-less areas under trees or shrubs. Use ferns anywhere to enhance the beauty of flowering plants or where attempts to grow flowers in a sunless north exposure have failed.

Ferns are a natural for the home. A brook or pond almost begs for a planting of ferns along its banks, or you might create a foot trail. An excellent way to map out a trail is to walk a winding route, allowing a heavy string to unwind behind you. Take advantage of large stones, boulders, and fallen logs for your fern-planting sites. Select a spot or two for a resting place. Mark it off with fallen logs or railroad ties and place a rustic bench. In this area, plant several kinds of ferns and mix
them with wild flowers wood violet, columbine, trillium, bloodroot, May apple. Often an interesting fern will be found tucked away in an inaccessible area, so transplant it into your view. Your trail need not be extensive; its appeal will derive from the harmony with nature that you have created.