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Spreading Wood Fern

Posted by Tammy Sons on

Spreading Wood Fern - Dryopteris expansa

The Spreading Wood Fern is a marvelous choice for gardeners looking for greenery that will grow and thrive in shaded and partially shaded areas. Wood Ferns grow in clumps and feature spreading green leaves (called fronds) that come to a soft point. They are an ideal choice for those looking for plants that will add color and texture but that require a minimal amount of care.

In the wild, ferns can reach 20 feet in height and 10 feet in width. It is rare however for domestically planted ferns to reach these extremes; most garden ferns top out at around 3-4 feet. Ferns grow relatively slowly and, if planted outside, may take decades to outgrow their space.

Wood ferns do best when grown in soil that is rich, well-drained and consistently moist. If necessary however, hey can tolerate dry shade for short periods of time.

Once planted, ferns require a minimal amount of care. This makes them a wonderful choice for part-time or occasional gardeners. They will happily draw the nutrients they need from leaf-litter dropped from surrounding trees, or from the occasional offering of compost mulch. They are also amazingly hardy plants, and can tolerate extremes of heat and cold.

Ferns once composed a large part of the diet of the dinosaurs. Modern day animals and insects however (with the exception of slugs) tend to avoid munching on them.

Wood Ferns can be planted in shaded areas where other plants refuse to grow, or used to add color and texture an existing shade garden. They also offer simple yet elegant ways to dress up the landscaping around a pool or pond. In addition to being planted in gardens, ferns can be put in pots and either hung or placed in strategic locations around a porch or balcony. 

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