The Q&A Archives: Ferns For Shady Area?

Question: There is an extremely shady area in my yard where I have tried everything from azaleas to grass and back again, but have had no success. I have decided to put in some paving stones as it is just a muddy mess now, but I would like to frame the patio area with some sort of plant. Would ferns grow in this area? The soil is red clay with a thin layer of topsoil.

Answer: Most ferns prefer a shady location with moist yet well drained soil rich in humus or organic matter rather than clay, but you could probably amend the soil or make a raised bed for ferns. Another possible choice that is less finicky about the soil is hosta. These plants are available in many sizes and shapes and foliage colors and although the blooms are not usually very impressive looking there are some with fragrance. Lily of the valley might also work as a groundcover if the soil is moist. If the soil is average in moisture you could consider pulmonaria and the groundcover epimedium as well. You might try some of each and see what does best for you.

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