Crow Dog Native Ferns and Gardens
Fern Light Regimes
Designing with Ferns Soils : pH and Composition
Ferns for Sunny Sites Crow Dog Home
Dappled Shade Mesic Garden Sites
Landscaping Fern Planting Guidelines

The intensity and duration of direct sunlight preferences for eastern US ferns fall into two categories:

1. Dappled Sunlight

Most ferns prefer intermittent direct sunlight in a setting where the canopy is 50-80% shade.As the earth turns and the sun "moves" from east to west, patches of direct sunlight move across the forest floor. A fern plant will receive direct sunlight for varying periods at different times of the day depending on the sizes and locations of canopy openings. The forest floor will also receive reflected light for most of the day. The intensity and duration of direct sunlight also depends on slope or exposure direction (aspect), time of year, and latitude. For example, a hill, mountain, cove, or ridge will have different plant communities on north, northwest, and norteast slopes where it is cooler, shadier, and wetter than on south, east, southeast, and southwest facing slopes. Eastern North American ferns that flourish in dappled shade conditions are:

Wood Ferns (Dryopteris species)
Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis)
Broad Beech Fern (Phegopteris hexagonoptera)
Hay-scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula)
Fragile Fern (Cystopteris protrusa)
Silvery Glade Fern (Deparia acrostichoides)
Narrow Glade Fern (Diplazium pycnocarpon)
Lady Ferns (Athyrium asplenioides and A. angustum)
Northern Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)

2. Full Sun

Just about all eastern North American native ferns that grow best in day-long to half-day full sun also require constantly high soil moisture. This condition in nature exists in sunny ditches, floodplains, stream, river, and pond banks, seeps, marshes, and slopes with northerly exposures. The species in this group may also be found in forest with a canopy of 40% shade or less. They also occur in dappled shade with the species above, but are usually stunted. Full sun native ferns are:

Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis)
Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana)
Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
Netted Chain Fern (Woodwardia areolata)
Virginia Chain Fern (Woodwardia virginica)
Wooly and Hairy Lip Ferns (Cheilanthes tomentosa and C. lanosa)
Blunt-lobed Woodsia (Woodsia obtusa)
Widespread Maiden Fern (Thelypteris kunthii)
Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) drier
Rusty Woodsia (Woodsia ilvensis)