Ferns for Mississippi Gardens
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|
Woodwardia (Lorinseria) areolata
Thelypteris (Macrothelypteris) torresiana
Phegopteris (Thelypteris) hexagonoptera
Athyrium goeringianum (niponicum) “Pictum”
|Sensitive or Bead Fern
Netted Chain Fern
Christmas Fern, Dagger Fern
Torres or Mariana Maiden Fern
Southern Beech Fern
Japanese Silver Painted Fern
These factsheets were written by Robert F. Brzuszek, Assistant Extension Professor, The Department of Landscape Architecture, Mississippi State University.
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.
With many summer attractions closed or limited due to COVID-19, people are heading into the great outdoors. As you’re exploring nature, you don’t want to have a run-in with the dreaded poison ivy.
Encounters with wildlife are becoming more common in towns and neighborhoods.
Habitat loss to fragmentation, urbanization, and expanding agricultural production means urban and suburban areas will increasingly become options for wildlife searching for homes. Song birds, snakes, lizards, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, deer and even bears are not uncommon visitors to urban and suburban backyards.
I am thoroughly thankful I made the move to coastal Mississippi a dozen years ago. One of my truly enjoyable fall pursuits happens after the temperatures have gotten chilly. On bright, sunny fall days, I really like driving on Highway 90 to my office at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi along the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s September, and that means hummingbirds are preparing to migrate to warmer climates for the winter.
These tiny creatures need lots of energy to make this trip. You can help by providing feeders for them to visit as they pass your way. (Photo by Jonathan Parrish)