Ferns for Mississippi Gardens

This is an image of ferns.Referred to as 'nature's lacework', ferns provide beauty and utility for shaded Southern gardens. These ground-hugging perennials do not offer flower or fruit, but their myriad forms, leaf sizes, leaf colors, and unique textures provide a wealth of interest for difficult garden sites.

The amount of variation in ferns is surprising to most gardeners, as are the many cultivars and types suitable for planting in Mississippi's climate.

How to Grow Ferns

Ferns are surprisingly easy to establish and maintain. One of their few requirements is to be planted in a shaded area, particularly one that is protected from the hot afternoon sun. Most cultivated ferns prefer a loose well-drained organic soil, but there are native cultivars well suited to poor or even wet soil types. Ferns should be planted in the spring, after all danger of frost is passed. Loosen the top four inches of soil in the area that the ferns are to be planted, and mix in well-cured compost or peat moss into the soil. The loose soil will allow fern rhizomes (an underground horizontal stem that roots at the nodes) to quickly spread and colonize the planting area. Do not disturb any existing tree roots that may be uncovered, instead simply plant the ferns around the existing roots. Cover the area with a thick layer of leaves or mulch to retain moisture. It will be important to make sure that ferns are kept moist until they are fully rooted and established. The addition of a soaker hose hidden in the mulch provides an easy method for frequent watering. Once mulched and established, ferns require little watering, fertilizing, or further care. Only during extreme droughts will additional watering usually become necessary.

Planting Compositions with Ferns

Since most ferns have very fine textured leaves, they can be effectively combined with bold, coarse-textured shade plants. Cast iron plant, bear's breech, dwarf palmetto, gingers, split-leaf philodendron, umbrella plant, and aridisa are examples of broad leaf plants that provide striking accents to ferns. Different fern types can offer a lighter green or darker green leaf color, and some even have a tinge of silver or blue. Variegated plants such as variegated vinca, ajuga, variegated Algerian ivy, hostas, ligularia, and other perennials can provide color accents for a primarily green garden. Since some ferns spread aggressively by rhizomes, such as sword fern, it is suggested to choose accompanying plants accordingly.

Ferns Types for Mississippi

Although the variety of ferns suitable for growing in Mississippi is fairly extensive, the following abbreviated list features commonly available types.

Scientific Name Common  Name
Onoclea Sensibilis
Hypolepis repens
Woodwardia (Lorinseria) areolata 
Polystichum acrostichoides
Thelypteris (Macrothelypteris) torresiana
Osmunda regalis
Phegopteris (Thelypteris) hexagonoptera
Microlepia Strigosa
Dryopteris erythrosora
Diplazium esculentum
Athyrium filix-femina
Athyrium goeringianum (niponicum) “Pictum”
Polypodim Polypodioides
Sensitive or Bead Fern
Flakelet Fern
Netted Chain Fern
Christmas Fern, Dagger Fern
Torres or Mariana Maiden Fern
Royal Fern
Southern Beech Fern
Asian Fern
Autumn Fern
Vegetable Fern
Lady Fern
Japanese Silver Painted Fern
Resurrection Fern

These factsheets were written by Robert F. Brzuszek, Assistant Extension Professor, The Department of Landscape Architecture, Mississippi State University.

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Publication Number: IS0642


Filed Under: Insects, Insect Identification, Lawn and Garden, Plants and Wildlife, Smart Landscapes, Places for Wildlife, Natural Resources September 13, 2023

PICAYUNE, Miss. -- School groups, nature enthusiasts and the public can enjoy two fun-filled days of exciting, hands-on learning about the environment, ecosystems, wildlife and insects at the Mississippi State University Crosby Arboretum in Picayune. BugFest offers insect-related displays, interactive exhibits, games and crafts. Biologists, naturalists, entomologists and other experts from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama will host booths and give presentations on butterflies, bats, caterpillars, beetles, crayfish, ladybugs, hissing cockroaches, dancing praying mantises, native and exotic arthropods and more.

A row of white or black animal skulls.
Filed Under: Wildlife Youth Education, Plants and Wildlife April 13, 2022

Two conservation camps this summer offer students in grades six through 12 the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in wildlife science, outdoor recreation and conservation careers. Conservation Camp 2022 has a residential edition June 5-8 for rising eighth through 12th graders. The day camp edition is June 13-15 for rising sixth through eighth graders.

Salt marshes and water
Filed Under: Plants and Wildlife, Smart Landscapes, Environment October 21, 2021

BILOXI, Miss. -- Coastal restoration has been a hot topic along the Gulf of Mexico coast for many years now. 

One clear aspect of coastal restoration is that it’s a team effort that requires not only the coast, but entire watersheds. From reducing excess fertilizer usage and litter to increasing low-effort natural landscaping and pervious surfaces, there are many actions we can take anywhere to help restoration of coastal ecosystems.

Bird feeder, bottle of bleach and cleaning brush.
Filed Under: Plants and Wildlife, Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife September 29, 2021
RAYMOND, Miss. -- After an active year for disease-related wild bird deaths in the U.S., people should follow best practices when providing backyard feeders and water sources for wild birds this fall and winter.
Disease in wildlife populations is normal and is one of the many mechanisms that regulate wildlife populations. Many things can cause diseases in wildlife, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, along with exposure to toxic substances. 
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Filed Under: Lawn and Garden, Plants and Wildlife, Urban and Backyard Wildlife October 15, 2020

RAYMOND, Miss. -- When all things “pumpkin spice” start filling up your social media feed, you know it’s time to start winter preparations for backyard wildlife.

Many people feel invigorated to get outside and do yard work in the first cool days of October.  To help you channel this energy, here are some easy tips on how to provide needed habitat for our critter friends while still tidying up the yard.

Success Stories

The grant was awarded to Dr. Eric Sparks, director of the MSU Coastal and Marine Extension Program, and a team from the MSU Extension Service, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, The Nature Conservancy, Harte Research Institute, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, and the PEW Charitable Trusts.
4-H, Extension Program Priorities, City and County Government, Mississippi County Elections: Election Prep 101, Plants and Wildlife, Smart Landscapes, Environment, Marine Resources, Waterfowl
Volume 9 Number 2

Mississippi State University and partners have been awarded a grant of nearly $6.6 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation for shoreline restoration work on the Gulf Coast.


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