Four Ferns To Foil Deer In The Garden

While deer will eat just about anything in late winter and early spring when there are few other foods left, they pretty much ignore ferns. If portions of your garden are in partial or full shade, these four ferns can add a lush woodland, or even tropical, look to your space with little upkeep. In contemporary and classical-style landscapes, clumps of ferns can be planted in pairs, in ground or in pots, for a more formal look.

These four ferns will also thrive in sun, provided they are kept sufficiently moist. All ferns prefer a somewhat acidic soil. 

 Dixie Wood Fern. This fern is a natural hybrid of two native ferns (Log Fern and the Southern Wood fern) and is hardy in Zones 5 –9. Its main advantages in the garden are its height and tolerance of dry shade and more sun than most ferns. Because it grows 4 - 6 feet tall on sturdy stems, it creates a nice background for shorter ferns and shade-loving flowers, or a vertical accent in a perennial border.

Japanese Tassel Fern. This is a dark green, fuzzy-stemmed garden fern that also tolerates dry shade and mild drought and is hardy in Zones 5 –9. It will do well in partial sun or shade, growing to about 18 inches. Its appeal is its thick, dark, shiny, evergreen foliage, which goes well with cut flowers.

Marsh Fern. Occurring naturally at the edges of marshlands and wet meadows, the Marsh Fern loves rich, moist soils in sunny areas but won't grow in standing water. These traits make it ideal for planting near ponds or streams, where it can grow to about 2 feet in height.

Sensitive Fern. Another common native, this fern thrives around wet meadows and woods, swamps, and stream banks. While it grows best in part or full shade, it can thrive in full sun if kept wet. It is very sensitive to frost (hence the name) and grows 2 – 3 feet tall. Its wide, light-green leaflets, create a nice contrast with other ferns. 

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