Learning to Discern Ferns

On November 10th, the Kiawah Island Garden Club enjoyed a program by Randy Howie of Hyams Garden Center, about the variety of ferns which grow well in our area.  He worked for years at Carolina Nursery before bringing his expertise to Hyams.  He told us that there are varieties of ferns which are deer resistant, if only the deer would read the directions.   Royal fern is one such variety and is a deciduous fern.  Other deciduous ferns are Japanese Painted and Ostrich fern.  An evergreen fern which flourishes here is Holly fern, which likes acidic soil and is easily  fertilized with Hollytone.  A good fertilizer for ferns is fish emulsion, which needs to be applied every two weeks.  Osmocote releases slowly and can last for four months.  The important part of any fertilizer is a high nitrogen level to promote leafy growth, as ferns don’t flower and our soil is naturally high in Phosphorus.

Randy introduced several unusual ferns which do well here.  Peacock fern is a tough ground cover, thrives in shade and has a beautiful blue-green iridescence.  Cotton Candy fern is a lovely compact fern for indoors, with tiny, fluffy leaves.  Australian Tree fern can grow 10-12 feet tall outdoors.  It is not deer proof but they don’t like it.  Staghorn fern is an air plant with 18 varieties from Southeast Asia and thrives in our rain and humidity.  If it’s grown under cover, misting is necessary. 

One excellent deer repellent is Repellex pellets which contain Capsaicin and are put into the soil around plants; in three weeks the plants take on a bitter taste which lasts 15-18 months.  Of course deer become used to any taste, so different repellents need to be introduced.  Milorganite is another deer repellent and fertilizer. 

If anyone wants to order a special fern, Monrovia will take orders online and send them directly to Hyams for pickup. 



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