Feathery ferns are a favorite addition to many of our shade gardens and add a “wispiness” no other plant can match. We often see them growing naturally under trees, combined with azaleas, impatiens and other moisture-loving plants. But while most ferns need shade and high humidity to survive our long summers, there are two common ferns that grow well in full sun and dryish soil.
One is Thelypteris kunthii (Southern Shield Fern). It is happiest in loose, rich soil and, while it appreciates moisture at its roots, it will also tolerate a great deal of drought. Like most ferns, it is deciduous, dying back in the winter and returning each spring.
The other sun-loving fern is Dryopteris ludoviciana, or Florida Shield Fern. It enjoys the same conditions as Southern Shield Fern but is a bit more cold-hardy and can be evergreen in sheltered areas during a mild winters. It also needs rich and loose soil to do its best.
Both of these ferns spread by underground rhizomes so you can look forward to larger clumps each year.
Kathy Wright, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service