Ferns are the foliage plants for every garden or landscape. The Victorians had an all-consuming passion for ferns and established a fashion for ferneries, some of which still survive today. Ferns are among the oldest plants on earth; they are considered primitive plants, and are only a few rungs above mosses on the evolutionary scale.
With such an extensive range, ferns are a must in any planting plan and provide a useful textural and dramatic element to the garden.
Most outdoor ferns are resilient and can be happily planted in many awkward spots in a garden; dark corners, on banks, under trees, cracks in walls, paving, or damp woodland spaces. An assumption often made, is all ferns need wet/boggy soils to succeed; there are those that will perform well in those conditions, but many of the species described actually require well-drained positions.
It is most likely that no other type of plant is as well known for its shade tolerance. It is best to avoid positions where they will be in full sun, between noon and 3pm. However, Dryopteris affinis and its cultivars can do well in sun. The ideal position for most ferns is a shady, moist yet well-drained site, that is out of the wind.
They are, in the main, plants that prefer alkaline soils, or are totally indifferent to all but extreme pH.
Deciduous ferns should be cut back in the winter, whereas evergreen varieties are best cut back just as the new fronds begin to show, in the spring.