People say crocodiles are the oldest animals on earth. But few mention ferns as the oldest plants out there.
Their ancestors have been over 300 million years spreading across the earth. That much time gave space for different types of ferns to survive.
Today, thousands of ferns are out there, almost in every part of the world.
Sure enough, this is mainly a tropical plant, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find it anywhere else. It’s also a cold forest plant and is available in all shapes and sizes.
Here, we want to show you the most beautiful ones.
Care to learn about them? Check them all below!
21 Fern Varieties to Consider (+Pictures)
#1. Alpine Wood Fern (Dryopteris wallichiana)
When you think of a fern plant, something like the Alpine Wood comes to your head. A wide-spreading, long-frond, and bright-green plant that grows anywhere.
This variety stands out for its ability to grow up to 5 feet high and spread to 5 feet in diameter. When the spring arrives, the plant looks yellow and turns darker-green to brownish as winter nears. Luckily, it doesn’t lose any of its leaves as it is a cold-hardy type.
The best thing about it is the dense foliage. Its long fronds look fantastic in any place.
TO CONSIDER: Some Alpine Wood ferns can grow many fronds per year, sometimes up to 60 different branches adding their density.
#2. Asparagus Ferns (Asparagus aethiopicus)
The closest you can get from fern to vegetable would be the Asparagus variety. Its leaves look pretty close to asparagus, with needle-like leaves that grow from long-spreading branches.
What sets it apart is the ability to grow in humid areas and almost on any soil (including rocks and gravel).
It still needs tons of sunlight and will only survive on temperatures over 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Give it the right environment, and it can grow up to 3 feet without problems.
Thanks to how versatile it is, you can find it on baskets, trays, and even rock gardens. Surprisingly, you can also grow it under a shade with indirect light, and it won’t struggle.
WORTHWHILE FACT: The plant is somewhat invasive, so you better plant it carefully so it doesn’t take over entire gardens.
#3. Australian Tree Fern (Dicksonia antarctica)
The name is not an exaggeration. This is one of the biggest ferns you will find, capable of reaching a whopping 30 feet tall. Old and tall plants can achieve an outstanding 50 feet in height.
It demands a relatively humid environment with full sunlight exposure to thrive. The right conditions may produce fronds of up to 8 feet each, with a thick trunk of 4 to 8 inches in diameter.
This is not a plant for tiny gardens. Yet, it looks fantastic anywhere, thanks to its dark foliage and brownish trunk. The waxy leaves and the dense foliage add up beauty to any place.
MOREOVER: In contrast with many other ferns, this one blooms yearly. Its flowers are surprisingly good-looking, growing directly from the center of the plant.
#4. Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)
A super-common type of fern you’ll find practically anywhere – the Autumn is often light green with some touches of red, gold, and brown as spring arrives.
You can find Autumn ferns growing over 3 feet tall and spreading for the same. Also, they don’t mind cold regions and are somewhat cold-hardy. The plant never loses its leaves even in harsh winters (it doesn’t grow in far south or north areas, so winters are often mild where it matures).
Sure enough, it is a quick spreader, so keep it in pots unless you want it taking over the garden.
ALSO IMPORTANT: It prefers partial or full shade over too much sunlight, so it works pretty well as an indoor variety.
#5. Bird Nest Ferns (Asplenium dimorphum)
There are hundreds of different types of Bird Nest ferns to consider, but the most common looks exactly like its name says.
Several deep-green branches come together to form a nest-like appearance, growing tiny leaves from each frond. You can find it as long as 2 feet.
The plant prefers moist environments over dry ones. It also thrives in warm environments and shade. While it doesn’t mind a bit of sunlight, it’s better to keep it off scorching sun rays.
INTERESTING FACT: It is a versatile grower, as you can find it on rock gardens, trees, stumps, and other unlikely environments.
#6. Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata)
If you’re going for indoor ferns, nothing fits the description of the Boston varieties.
These ferns also have hundreds of options to pick from, but they’re all easy to grow. Some prefer outdoor environments, but the most popular ones thrive under indirect light and partial shade. Their preferable environment is moist and warm.
Each Boston fern can reach 5 feet in height and about the same in diameter. Each frond can get to 3 feet with ease.
WORTH KNOWING: Many people call it the Sword Fern as it boasts spear-shaped fronds with a silvery-green hue.
Bonus Read: 23 Different Types of Jade Plants with Pictures
#7. Carrot fern (Onychium japonicum)
You may think the plant would look like a carrot (the tuber), but it doesn’t. What it does look like is the CARROT PLANT, thus such a name.
It is a medium-sized fern of about 2 and a half feet, with delicate fronds and super-tiny leaves. The light-green color is easy to contrast with other plants, especially as it grows to its max.
This fern prefers outdoor environments over indoors, as it needs sunlight to survive. It’s not a cold-hardy variety, so it needs protection in the winter.
EXCITING FACT: It is a fast-spreading variety that can cover a lot of your garden with little time, which is why many people use it as a ground cover.
#8. Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
When you think of ferns, the Christmas variety probably comes to mind. That dark-green tone with medium-sized fronds and dense foliage – impossible to overlook.
The pine-like leaves make it super-easy to identify. They can grow to 3 feet each and spread for the same distance. To achieve maximum growth, it prefers full or partial shade as well as high humidity.
Surprisingly, it is resistant to harsh winter temperatures and won’t lose its leaves even in the coldest environments.
EXTRA FACT: It grows beautifully indoors on a basket. You can keep it tiny with consistent trimming.
#9. Cinnamon Ferns (Osmunda cinnamomea)
People think the name comes from the color of the leaves, but that’s not true. It is the growing leaves that add this name – brown cinnamon-like fronds growing directly from the center.
The fronds are often tall, getting to 5 feet in some cases. Its foliage is light as the leaves spread to the sides, taking a light-green hue instead. Sometimes, these green leaves achieve a silvery tone that adds extra beauty.
This one prefers warm environments and consistent sun exposure. Keep it in well-draining soils for a better experience.
KNOW THIS: The brownish cinnamon-like that grow from the center are also the ones that can reproduce. The plant uses them as a way to spread around with seed-like fruits.
#10. Cretan Brake Fern (Pteris cretica)
In contrast with other ferns, the Cretan Brake grows in bushy form, taking no more than 2 and a half feet tall but covering up to 5 feet in spread.
The fronds stand out for their spiky appearance and waxy texture. They’re bright dark green and can often boast pale centers that add contrast.
You will need to keep in temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the shade. It works well as an indoor plant for that reason. However, it doesn’t mind consistent sun exposure as long as it is adequately watered.
DON’T FORGET: It is often green but can also feature brownish and yellowish colors, significantly as seasons change.
#11. Deciduous Painted Japanese Fern (Athyrium niponicum)
The most colorful of all ferns BY FAR. The Painted Japanese boasts silvery, dark green, and sometimes even purple tones. This variegation adds up to a beautiful plant overall, one of the most cold-hardy and easiest to grow.
You may find it at heights of up to 2 feet and spreading quickly across gardens. The leaves have a triangle form, and the arching fronds are typical of a fern. Yet, their ability to withstand -30 degrees Fahrenheit is unbeatable.
Anyone living in a moist area with consistent sun exposure will love growing one of these, especially as the leaves grow and the colors stand out.
DON’T DISMISS: You can leave it on empty gardens to grow, pruning it consistently to keep it short, and it will likely spread until it becomes a groundcover.
#12. Hart’s-Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)
Few ferns have thick and crested leaves like the Hart’s-Tongue. These leaves are often dark green and vibrant, bright under the sun.
Each leaf can reach a whopping 2 feet long and boast the wavy arching leaves beautifully. To grow this far, they demand partial shade and humid environments. Soils need to be preferably alkaline.
The plant never loses its leaves, like most ferns. It’s also relatively cold-hardy, even though it prefers warm areas.
THING TO KNOW: There are many different subspecies of Hart’s Tongue fern. Some of them are bigger and taller, while others are thinner and tinier.
#13. Himalayan Maidenhair fern (Adiantum venustum)
A hugely popular variety is the Himalayan Maidenhair. And it’s not a surprise because the tiny leaves and unique appearance are hard to overlook.
The leaves are squared and tiny, growing on triangular fronds spread up to 2 feet away from the center. These fronds are delicate and thin, making them even more attractive. Their dark-green tone with orangey hues in the spring is hard not to like.
Because the plant is a creeper and appreciates shady environments, you will have a great time growing indoors. Baskets and areas close to climbing structures are always perfect for this fern.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW: It’s a slightly fragile variety that prefers little wind and mild humidity. Places that are too moist or windy will make it struggle.
#14. Holly Ferns (Cyrtomium falcatum)
It’s also popular given how easy it is to grow. The Holly fern thrives in a tropical environment with warm temperatures, little light exposure, and high humidity.
The leaves are dark green and often grow to about 2 feet. The fronds boast more giant leaves in contrast with other ferns. These triangular-shaped leaves usually have a center brown vein that adds up to the plant’s beauty.
CURIOUS FACT: The plant grows well in humid environments, resists pests, and won’t be bothered by critters at all.
#15. Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum)
A typical Japanese Tassel is sturdier than most ferns, growing to about 3 feet and reaching up to 100 years of age. These are the most commonly called dinosaur ferns.
The color tends to be green, with a dark tone. You won’t find them struggling in warm or cold environments, even though they prefer high humidity and temperatures over 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
These ferns can handle winters, drought, and more. Though, they prefer partial or full shade over too much sunlight exposure.
INTERESTING TO KNOW: The name Tassel comes from how the fronds grow at first. Tassel-like hanging fronds slowly mature and arch down, often boasting a brown color before they become typical fronds.
#16. Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus)
Those with water gardens and highly moist areas will appreciate plants that love such environments. Among ferns, few fit the description like the Java.
This fern often grows in the water itself or super-humid soils. In some cases, you will find it submerged or half-submerged, making it a water plant in all its splendor.
The leaves are like lances, often with a light green tone and growing to about 1 foot. They’re usually easy to grow but prefer shady areas over sunlight.
MORE TO KNOW: You can grow it directly on koi ponds or aquariums, and it won’t struggle. It thrives on humid areas like that.
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#17. Maidenhair Ferns (Adiantum)
You’ve probably seen it in gardens and households, and it wouldn’t be a surprise. This popular variety is easy to grow and thrives indoors like no other.
There are hundreds of Maidenhair varieties, but most boast bright foliage with a light green color. This foliage tends to be thin, with super-small leaves growing on far-spreading fronds.
The plant itself prefers tropical environments with high humidity and warm temperatures. It would help if you had some shade for the plant to survive, as it tends to burn with too much sunlight.
TAKE INTO ACCOUNT: The typical Maidenhair doesn’t grow more than 2 feet tall and spreads for the same distance, making it PERFECT for container growing.
#18. Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
The ostrich is the biggest bird on the planet, and the Ostrich fern is one of the biggest ferns. At up to 5 feet tall and capable of spreading truly fast, this surprisingly adept grower is also beautiful.
A typical Ostrich fern boasts a light-green tone that shines with sunlight. The vase-like shape makes any place a lot more attractive. And its ability to extend and reach high makes it even more good-looking.
Among its best features comes the ability to grow almost anywhere. The plant requires moist environments and tons of shade, yet it can also grow under consistent sunlight problem-free.
ADDED FEATURE: The fronds grow directly from the soil with tiny stems. This makes it surprisingly fragile despite its gigantic growth ability.
#19. Rabbit’s Foot Fern (Davallia fejeensis)
The closest a fern can get to moss would be the Rabbit’s Foot. Its name comes from the shape of the fronds, tiny and triangular, like a rabbit’s.
Because the plant grows close to the ground and doesn’t reach higher than 2 feet long, it tends to make for excellent ground cover. This is even better when you consider the grayish-green of its leaves, a color that brightens when the sun hits.
The plant prefers humid environments like many ferns, as well as temperatures over 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It thrives in the shade but may resist mild sunlight exposure.
SURPRISING FACTOR: The plant can grow practically on any soil, as well as rock gardens, crevices, and even gravel, as long as the place is humid enough.
#20. Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis)
One of the biggest ferns out there is also a swamp lover. The Royal Fern can reach heights of 5 feet and can extend to over 5 feet in diameter. Its foliage is dense and tends to have tons of fronds that grow in different directions at once.
The fronds are surprisingly thin and fragile, yet gorgeous. Its bright green turns into a bronze hue as the fall arrives. Yet, this fern doesn’t lose any of its leaves as the winter nears.
It thrives in swampy environments with tons of humidity and sufficient shade. With that said, it thrives in outdoor environments, in contrast, to indoors (especially for its size).
WORTH CONSIDERING: It can withstand low winter temperatures without issues. Though, it prefers slightly warm areas.
#21. Staghorn Ferns (Platycerium)
Few ferns are as fantastic to look at as the Staghorn. Its unique beauty comes from the immense size and the thick leaves and surprisingly exciting growth capacity.
The plant mainly grows on trees, yet it can also thrive on baskets and rocks. You will need some shade and humidity to help it succeed. Yet, it grows pretty quickly in most places with warm temperatures and consistent watering.
Apart from that, you’ll be glad to know the unique shapes it can achieve, plus the horn-like leaves it boasts as it grows. In some cases, the plant itself can weigh over 200 pounds and reach 5 feet in spread.
EXTRAS TO KNOW: You can grow this plant indoors or outdoors, and it won’t struggle. It can even grow on wooden pallets, peat moss, gravel, and other surfaces.
You may struggle to find the right one for your home with so many types of ferns available. But sure enough, it will save you a lot of time compared to not having an idea of the different ones you can get.
Ferns are fantastic in many ways. They can change your garden for good WITHOUT A DOUBT.
So, what are you waiting for? These easy-to-grow and gorgeous plants are waiting…