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Which ferns for shady area?

My dining room table faces a small alcove (basically it faces a wall; god knows why) and it gets about 2 hours direct morning sunshine. I had an idea of getting two big pots and growing lots of nice things and a shade loving clematis up the wall. All three clematis I've tried have died. The only thing that really worked were some blue geraniums and astilbe. I think I'd like to try ferns now and just make it nice and green.
I'm thinking of Dryopteris wallachian and Matteucchia struthiopteris. The question is, what size pots do they need to go in? Can I grow one of each in a big pot? The pot I have is 50cm X 50 cm and 42 cm deep. The space itself is 150cms deep and 87 cm wide, see photo. If I put the pot on some cement blocks that will mean the surface of the pot will be 32 cm below the window. Preferably I'd like something evergreen, but I can cope with it being deciduous, especially as I probably need some light coming in the window during the winter. Thanks!


  • Joy*Joy* Posts: 571
    Dryopteris felix mas is a common variety but tough, hardy and deciduous. (You do have to let the fronds die down and it is best to use them to cover the crowns in winter, just fold them over if they don't do it by themselves). I have some which grew by themselves from other ferns so you can get them spreading if conditions are right. I just keep mine damp and never do much else. I also have had fancier types which haven't done much or lasted very long.
    By the way, I haven't managed to open your photograph. 
  • Joy*Joy* Posts: 571
    I've also lost a bit of my post!
    I would use clay pots not plastic. You might find that if you don't need to raise the pots to be able to see them when they have reached full size but there is no reason why you shouldn't raise them up. I would keep the pots on saucers to help prevent them drying out.
  • Thanks for the advice Joy. That fern looks nice. Would I fit more than one in a pot?
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 6,008
    Most clematis, although they like the roots in shade, do expect quite a bit of sun.  Some of the honeysuckles would work well, and great smell too. I do have a lot of ferns in shady part, (Hubby has just made me a tree fern from an old mossy tree trunk, and pinched a fern from the garden.  But they dont look that great in winter, what about a palm
  • Papi JoPapi Jo Brittany, France Posts: 3,076
    Hi @sadhbhgoggins and welcome to the forum. Your situation looks similar to the one where Jack Wallington made his fern wall. More details at
    You'll also find some "fern ideas" on my garden site, at the Fern Wall page here:

    You say that your "small alcove gets about 2 hours direct morning sunshine". Is that all year round or in the summer? If you want to invest in fens, be aware that none will survive even a small amount of direct sun.

    Keep us posted!
    You are invited to a virtual visit of my garden (in English or in French).
  • dappledshadedappledshade Top of the Hill, North London Posts: 861
    Have a look at the Plants for Shade website (Long Acre Plants). It’s brilliant. Everything categorised according to how much shade and the type of shade it likes/needs, with a whole section just of ferns.
    Theyre very knowledgeable.
    I’ve ordered many times from them and all plants have been excellent quality. 
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,437
    Ours ferns get about an hour of early morning sun, and about an hour in the late afternoon in Summer, and they are doing fine.  If it's very hot, especially for a few days, then I'll spray them with water, but your alcove looks much more shaded, so I'm not sure you need to worry about the sun.

    Our favourite evergreen ferns are  Dryopteris Erythrosora, Cyrtromium Fortunei and Dryopteris felix-mas lineara polydactyla.

    If you can mix in a few non-ferns, it tends to look more interesting (Hosta's, astilbes, Actaea, Lysimachia, Astelia, etc).  We have a lovely evergreen sedge mixed in with our ferns, it's called Carex Oshimensis Everillo, it's a vivid, acid green colour.  We sit some of our ferns on large plastic pots, to raise them at the back of the display, and they are hidden by the pots in front.  You could try that for a tiered display, with the highest pot at window level.  

  • WilderbeastWilderbeast East YorkshirePosts: 1,174
    @Papi Jo we have a big selection of ferns that all get significant amounts of sun and all seem to do ok. We are growing some tall plants (Paulownia tomentose) to create shade but more for the hostas. 
  • Papi JoPapi Jo Brittany, France Posts: 3,076
    I think "success with ferns in the sun" all depends on a number of factors.
    • the fern species (some are more sensitive to sun than others)
    • the exact location regarding the sun : morning sun / afternoon sun / summer scorching sun / winter "cool" sun
    • the number of hours of sunshine per day (in each season)
    • your geographical location

    You are invited to a virtual visit of my garden (in English or in French).
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