Posts Tagged ‘aquatic’

Ferns come out of the shade

June 15th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Athyrium otophorum var. okanum

We tend to think of ferns as plants for shady places and it’s true that for many of them full shade is essential. But some thrive in full sun or partial shade with just one proviso – they must have wet soil.

This makes them ideal plants for pond margins, those areas around the edges of the pond that are sunny but where the soil is always damp.

The royal fern, Osmunda regalis, is a tall and impressive plant – stately, almost – that can reach 2m in height when happy. It grows wild in Britain and you’ll see it mostly in the west and south where it grows on river banks and lakesides, in wet ditches and around the edges of wet woods.

The erect, pale green fronds often turn yellow or orange in the autumn and surround vertical stems topped with bold rusty tufts that look a little like brown flowers, but which are in fact packed with dusty spores.

Although less tolerant of sun than the royal fern, there’s another much smaller and more manageable waterside fern that will grow in a combination of sun for part of the day and moisture. This is a very pretty form of lady fern, Athyrium otophorum var. okanum. It’s often suggested that it demands full shade, but I’ve found that it’s happy in some sun if the roots are never allowed to become dry.

What marks this plant out is the creamy colour of the young fronds and the rich red colouring of the stems and veins which becomes more intense as the fronds mature.

Rarely reaching more than about 60cm, this Asian species also makes a fine specimen for a cool corner of the patio, stand its pot in a saucer to collect moisture and keep the roots damp.

In fact, I’ve also seen the royal fern grown in a pot – but you’ll need a very large one.