Back to Fact Sheet Contents Page Fact Sheet 7
Central Coast Gardens
Ferns can add a lush
beauty to your garden or home. Dating back to the Carboniferous period, some 350 million
years ago, ferns are one of the oldest plant forms.
On the Central Coast there are many beautiful ferns indigenous to this area.
Why not try some of these ferns:
- in your garden,
- in a hanging basket,
- in or near a water feature.
What is a fern?
Ferns belong to a group of non-flowering plants that include algae, mosses and liverworts.
From large tree ferns such as Cyatheas, to the tiny
delicate maidenhair fern Adiantums, ferns have one thing in common. They all produce
What growing conditions do ferns
Most ferns prefer a cool, moist position in light dappled shade, protected from strong
Generally ferns like a soil containing plenty of organic matter. Heavy mulching around the
root area will keep the roots cool and prevent water loss. A free draining mix should be
used for plants grown in pots or baskets. Ferns grown indoors should be kept away from
direct sunlight, draughts and heaters.
ferns have any pests or diseases?
Generally ferns are not troubled by many pests or diseases. However, slugs and snails can
sometimes be a problem, as can scale, insect pests and mealy bug. If your plants suffer
from any of these problems, consult your local nursery, as treatment of these pests is
constantly being improved and updated.
do ferns grow?
Ferns can be found growing as:
- epiphytes sometimes attached to a tree high up in the canopy. The
tree is used for support and the fern is not parasitic on the host.
- terrestrials where the fern grows on the forest floor in rotting
- lithophytes with the fern growing on rocks.
- aquatics such as Azolla and those that are semi-aquatic such as
Marsilea. These ferns have developed tiny scale-like fronds that enable them to float on
Knowing the origin of a fern will help you
select the right fern for the right spot. Observe where the ferns grow naturally in the
bush. Try and replicate this aspect in your garden.
How do I grow my epiphytes?
These ferns can be attached on:
- tree trunks in your garden,
- timber boards,
- hanging baskets.
Beware, do not attach an epiphyte to a tree
that will lose its bark or by wrapping wire or rope around the whole tree circumference,
as this will kill the tree.
Some local ferns to grow in your
Planted in the right spot in your garden, these local ferns will prove hardy.
- Common Maidenhair Fern Adiantum aethiopicum
looks delicate but it is easy to grow. This fern will sucker profusely. It does not like
- Giant Maidenhair Adiantum formosum has
an attractive, long black stem to 1m. tall and dark green lacy fronds. Vigorous growth
from a long creeping rhizome.
- Rough Maidenhair Adiantum hispidulum has
finger-like fronds with pink new growth.
Birds Nest Fern Asplenium australasicum
with erect fronds up to 2m. forming a rosette.
Gristle Fern Blechnum cartilagineum
forms a large clump up to 1.5m. high. Light green fronds with rosy pink new shoots.
Water Fern Blechnum nudum forms a bright
green rosette of fronds to 1m. Likes a moist position.
Rough Tree Fern Cyathea australis is
very hardy in almost any garden situation. Will grow in full sun if given plenty of water.
Scaly Tree Fern Cyathea cooperi is fast
growing. Trunk patterned with oval scars left by fallen fronds. Can be grown in full sun
if the roots are kept moist.
Hares Foot Fern Davallia pyxidata
a creeping fern which has dark green leaves up to 1m. long. The prominent hairy rhizome
resembles a hares foot and often runs above ground or over rocks.
- Soft Tree Fern Dicksonia antarctica a
popular tree fern that develops a soft fibrous trunk. This fern needs plenty of water in
- Prickly Rasp Fern Doodia aspera is very
hardy, fronds to 50cm, with new growth an attractive reddish colour. Suckers into a large
- Fragrant Fern Microsorum scandens a
lovely scrambling fern that will climb over rocks or tree trunks.
- Sickle Fern Pellaea falcata has a
creeping rhizome with shiny dark green fronds to 60cm.
- Elkhorn Fern Platycerium bifurcatum
popular fern developing many small plants to form a large clump.
- Mother Shield Fern Polystichum proliferum
Grows easily in all but poorly drained soils, to 1m. Forms plantlets near the end
of the fronds; peg down and allow to form roots before detaching from main plant.
- Tender Brake Pteris tremula is fast
growing with erect fronds to 1m. Will not tolerate full shade.
- Rock Felt Fern Pyrrosia rupestris easily
grown small fern found growing on rocks and tree trunks.
- Austral King Fern Todea barbara is a
large fern with fronds up to 1.5m. and with age will develop a trunk. Slow growing.
Some suggested reference books
"Australian Ferns and Fern Allies",
D.L Jones & S.C Clemesha, Reed Books, Sydney.
"Australian Ferns - Growing them Successfully",
C.Chaffey, Kangaroo Press, Sydney.
Produced by the Australian Plants Society, Central Coast Group
in conjunction with Gosford City Council and Wyong Shire Council