Growing Ferns in Central Texas


I attended a great seminar at Zilker Gardens in May on growing tropical plants in Austin. It was incredibly well attended, with well over 60 people in attendance. Two Master Gardeners had presentations, and one of my favorite parts was from Becky Waak, the Master Gardener who designed the fern beds in Zilker Gardens.

Her tips to growing ferns are:

1. Put them in “high light”, such as under a densely shaded tall tree
2. Protect them from the wind
3. They like very rich, organic, high humous soil
4. Use compost, bonemeal and peat for amending the soil
5. They HATE artifical fertilizer of any sort; fertilize with Fish Emulsion.
6. When you plant them: Osmocote + Bone Meal +Fish emulsion + compost (OK, I know this sounds contradictory with the Osmocote listed here, don’t ask me to explain it. I’m giving you her notes.)
7. Water deeply and slowly
8. Use pine mulch and pecan compost to increase acidity of soil

In case anyone else is interested, here is her list of ferns that will do well here. Many of them have to be special ordered, and they all need low to medium light and plenty of water. Her pictures (I wish I had them to show you) were lush and beautiful and cooling to look at in this summer heat.

The top ten ferns are:

  • Southern Wood Fern (Dryopteris Indoviciana) Deciduous, easy to grow, light and leafy look
  • Japanese Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum Rochfordianum) evergreen, cold tolerant (I happen to have several of these already in my yard and they appear to be indestructible), leaves are heavier and not as airy looking, makes it more hardy
  • Brilliance Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora “Brilliance”) evergreen, orange color on new fronds, light and leafy look
  • Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblephoruim), evergreen
  • Lace Fern (Microlepia strigosa), there’s some growing in the ground at Barton Springs Nursery to see, deciduous
  • East Indian Holly Fern, (Arachniodes simplicior “varigata”) a very pretty evergreen fern
  • Victoria Lady Fern (Athyrium filix femina “victoriae”), deciduous, hardy
  • Mexican Male Fern (Dryopteris pseudo-filix-mas), evergreen, clumping
  • Ostrich “the King” Mattauecia struthiopteris var. Pennsylvania), deciduous, wide spreading
  • Ghost Fern (Athyruim x Ghost), deciduous, clumping, likes to stay wet
  • Sorry I don’t have pictures, but hopefully you can Google these names and find a good example. I hope to have a fern bed next year, using these ideas.

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    3 thoughts on “Growing Ferns in Central Texas

    1. Thanks for the post

      You are welcome! Are you planning to grow some ferns? I’ve planted a few so far, and plan to add a few more based on the info from that talk that I synopsized. Robin

    2. i grow all types of ferns in pots and hanging baskets .I also grow some in the ground. I live in Schertz Tx.I would like to grow more in the ground but don’twont to lose them . any sugestons? Thank you

    3. I don’t know anything further, Bonnie, than what’s in the blog post. I went to that seminar to learn about ferns myself, and that post is what was in my notes. I think you could look many of the names up on the web for further information. Sorry I’m not much help. I think Autumn Ferns and River Ferns seem to be the hardiest. I love ferns as well. Have fun!

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