Back in the ‘70s, if you were looking for a fern, you really pretty much meant a wood fern – a longtime southern native fern that is handsome all summer, then dies to the ground for four or five months every winter.
Wood ferns are still out there performing their magic, and holly ferns are popular, too. They’re evergreen, and their individual leaflets are big and broad enough to look like some type of holly bush.
But another group of small ferns is coming up in the pack. They’re grand, and they’re easy. Autumn ferns. Dryopteris erythrosora. It was a novelty fern you’d find in better nurseries and by mail order way back then. Now it’s much more mainstream, and we’re all coming out winners because of it.
Autumn Fern’s Needs:
• Shade (or minimal early morning sun);
• Highly organic planting soil;
• Moist soils at all times – perfect drainage, but never dry.
Autumn Fern’s Niceties:
• Grows to 1 ft. tall and 15 in. wide;
• Deep green fronds;
• New growth may take on bronzy cast, especially just before winter;
• Rarely, if ever, crops up with insects or diseases.
Local independent retail garden centers usually have autumn ferns in the spring, and many will still have them now. You can also find several improved selections online simply by searching key words “Buy Dryopteris erythrosora”