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7 Best Ferns for Full Sun

7 Best Ferns for Full Sun
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    Plant And Garden Secrets

Ferns, with their lush green fronds and intricate growth patterns, have captivated gardeners and nature enthusiasts alike for centuries. Found in diverse habitats ranging from tropical rainforests to dry deserts, these ancient plants offer a unique blend of texture and beauty to any landscape.

However, when it comes to cultivating ferns, many might associate them exclusively with shaded forest floors or hidden glens. While it's true that numerous fern species prefer the damp and shady conditions of a woodland setting, there are exceptions to this rule. Some ferns not only tolerate but actually thrive in full sun.

In this guide, we'll explore the fascinating world of sun-loving ferns. We'll dispel some common misconceptions and provide a comprehensive look at seven fern species that flourish in bright sunlight. Whether you're a seasoned gardener looking to diversify your sun-soaked flowerbeds or a beginner curious about these versatile plants, this guide is for you. Prepare to be surprised by the adaptability and charm of ferns that like full sun.

Do Ferns Like Sun or Shade?

Ferns are a diverse group of plants with over 10,000 known species, each having its own specific requirements and preferences. When it comes to sunlight, the majority of ferns are known to prefer the dappled shade found under a forest canopy. This preference can often lead to the assumption that all ferns are shade-loving. However, this is not always the case.

Shade-Loving Ferns

Shade-loving ferns are perhaps the most well-known and widely cultivated. These ferns, such as the Maidenhair Fern and the Lady Fern, often thrive in the understory of forests where the sunlight is filtered through the leaves of tall trees. The moist and cool environment, combined with low light levels, creates the perfect habitat for them.

Sun-Loving Ferns

Contrary to popular belief, not all ferns are confined to shady spots. There are ferns that can grow and thrive in full sun. These sun-loving ferns are often found in open fields, on rocky cliffs, or other environments where sunlight is abundant. Adaptations such as tough, leathery fronds, or specific root systems, enable them to endure direct sunlight.

Factors Affecting Light Preference

The preference for sun or shade in ferns is not a simple black-and-white matter. Several factors such as species, soil type, humidity, temperature, and local climate can influence a fern's ability to thrive in full sun or shade. Understanding these factors will help gardeners choose the right fern for their specific location and conditions.

Can Ferns Take Full Sun?

The idea that ferns can flourish in full sun may come as a surprise to many, but it's true. Various fern species have adapted to grow in bright and sunny conditions. Understanding these unique ferns requires a closer look at their characteristics, needs, and the proper way to care for them.

Adaptations for Sun

Sun-loving ferns have developed specific adaptations that enable them to withstand the intense rays of the sun. These may include:

  • Thicker, Leathery Fronds: To reduce water loss.
  • Deeper Root Systems: To reach water sources in arid conditions.
  • Specialized Leaf Structures: To reflect excess sunlight or to channel it away.

Soil and Water Considerations

The right balance of soil and water is essential for sun-loving ferns. Here's what to consider:

  • Soil Type: Well-drained soil that retains some moisture is usually ideal. Incorporating organic matter can enhance the soil's water-holding capacity.
  • Watering: Regular watering, especially during hot and dry spells, ensures that the ferns receive adequate moisture. However, overwatering can lead to root rot, so it's essential to monitor soil dampness.

Location and Climate

The specific location and climate will influence the success of growing ferns in full sun:

  • Sun Exposure: While these ferns love sun, understanding the type of sun (morning or afternoon) and the intensity can make a difference in their growth.
  • Climate Factors: Regional climate, including temperature fluctuations, humidity, and wind, will affect how these ferns grow. Choosing species that are suited to the local climate can enhance success.

Potential Challenges

Growing ferns in full sun isn't without challenges:

  • Pest and Disease Management: These ferns may attract specific pests or be prone to certain diseases that require monitoring and management.
  • Pruning and Maintenance: Regular pruning and care are necessary to keep sun-loving ferns healthy and thriving.

In conclusion, growing ferns in full sun is not only possible but can be a rewarding gardening experience. By understanding the specific needs and characteristics of sun-loving ferns, gardeners can add a touch of green elegance to sunlit spaces, enriching landscapes and gardens alike.

Sun Loving Ferns

Ferns that thrive in the sun's bright rays are a unique subset of the fern family, challenging the conventional wisdom that these ancient plants only thrive in shade. With the right selection, care, and attention to detail, sun-loving ferns can bring a distinctive touch of elegance to sunny gardens and landscapes.

Characteristics of Sun-Loving Ferns

Sun-loving ferns often possess specific traits that enable them to endure in sun-filled locations:

  • Resilient Fronds: Many sun-loving ferns have leathery or waxy leaves, protecting them from drying out.
  • Vivid Colors: Some species may exhibit brighter, more vibrant colors when exposed to full sun.
  • Diverse Habitats: Sun-loving ferns can be found in various habitats like open fields, rocky outcroppings, and even coastal areas.

Benefits of Growing Sun-Loving Ferns

Growing sun-loving ferns offers several advantages:

  • Diversity in Landscaping: They provide options for sunny spots in gardens where other ferns may struggle.
  • Low Maintenance: Often more tolerant of dry conditions and thus may require less frequent watering.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Their unique textures and shapes add interest and variety to garden designs.

Selecting Sun-Loving Ferns

Choosing the right sun-loving ferns for your garden depends on various factors:

  • Climate Compatibility: Ensure the selected species can thrive in your specific climate.
  • Soil Requirements: Consider the soil type, drainage, and pH levels.
  • Growth Habits: Consider size, growth rate, and spreading habits to fit your space and design.

Examples of Sun-Loving Ferns

Several sun-loving ferns can make excellent additions to sunny gardens:

  • Kimberly Queen Fern (Nephrolepis obliterata): Elegant and robust, tolerates heat and drought.
  • Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora): Known for its color-changing fronds, from coppery orange to deep green.
  • Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum): Hardy and adaptable, suitable for a wide range of conditions.

Caring for Sun-Loving Ferns

Caring for sun-loving ferns involves:

  • Watering: Adjust watering to the specific needs of the fern and local weather conditions.
  • Fertilizing: Light, regular fertilizing during the growing season can enhance growth and color.
  • Pruning: Regular trimming can keep the fern looking fresh and healthy.

Kimberly Queen Fern (Nephrolepis obliterata)

The Kimberly Queen Fern, scientifically known as Nephrolepis obliterata, stands as a symbol of elegance and resilience. It's one of the few fern species that thrive in full sun, offering a majestic appearance with lush, sword-like fronds. Let's delve into the unique aspects of this beautiful fern.


The Kimberly Queen Fern is renowned for its upright growth habit and graceful appearance. Its fronds are long, narrow, and slightly arching, creating a dense yet airy look. The vibrant green color adds life and texture to any landscape.

Sun Requirements

Unlike many other ferns, the Kimberly Queen Fern loves the sun. It can tolerate:

  • Full Sun: Thrives in locations that receive several hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Partial Shade: It can also grow well in areas with partial shade, making it a versatile choice for various garden spots.
  • Sun Protection: Though sun-loving, it benefits from some protection from the harshest midday rays.

Care Tips

Taking care of a Kimberly Queen Fern in a sunny spot involves some specific considerations:

  • Watering: While more drought-tolerant than many ferns, it still requires regular watering, especially in full sun.
  • Soil: Prefers well-drained, humus-rich soil. Ensuring proper drainage helps prevent root rot.
  • Fertilizing: A balanced, slow-release fertilizer during the growing season supports lush growth.
  • Pruning: Regular pruning of dead or yellowing fronds keeps the plant looking fresh and encourages new growth.
  • Pests and Diseases: Keep an eye out for common fern pests like aphids or scale and manage them promptly.

Conclusion: Kimberly Queen Fern

The Kimberly Queen Fern is an exceptional choice for those looking to add a touch of green elegance to sunny spots in the garden. Its adaptability to full sun, coupled with its classic fern appearance, makes it a favored option for garden enthusiasts. Proper care, including understanding its sun requirements and providing optimal soil and water conditions, will ensure that this stunning fern thrives in its sunny home.

Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)

The Autumn Fern, known scientifically as Dryopteris erythrosora, is a captivating addition to any garden, particularly those that receive ample sunlight. With its changing colors and elegant structure, it's a plant that brings visual interest throughout the seasons. Let's explore what makes the Autumn Fern a preferred choice for sun-loving gardens.


The Autumn Fern is notable for its unique color-changing fronds. They emerge a coppery-orange color in the spring and transform into a vibrant green as they mature. This fern is medium-sized, typically reaching a height of 18 to 24 inches.

Sun Requirements

The Autumn Fern is versatile when it comes to sunlight:

  • Full Sun to Partial Shade: It can flourish in full sun but also thrives in partial shade.
  • Filtered Sunlight: In the hottest climates, a location with filtered sunlight may prevent scorching.
  • Morning Sun: An area that receives sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon can be ideal for this fern.

Care Tips

The Autumn Fern requires specific care to maintain its beauty:

  • Watering: Regular watering is essential, especially during dry periods. The soil should remain moist but not soggy.
  • Soil: A well-drained, slightly acidic soil enriched with organic matter provides an ideal growing environment.
  • Fertilizing: A balanced, slow-release fertilizer applied in early spring will support healthy growth.
  • Pruning: Remove dead fronds as needed to maintain a clean appearance.
  • Cold Hardiness: This fern is hardy and can survive in colder climates, but it may benefit from some winter protection in particularly harsh regions.

Conclusion: Autumn Fern

The Autumn Fern's distinct color-changing leaves and ability to thrive in sunny locations make it a treasured plant for many gardeners. Whether planted as a focal point or part of a fern collection, it adds a dynamic element to the landscape. Proper care, including attention to sun exposure and regular watering, ensures that this fern will continue to enchant with its seasonal color transformations for years to come.

Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum)

The Sword Fern, or Polystichum munitum, is a robust and attractive fern widely appreciated for its adaptability and striking appearance. Native to the western regions of North America, this fern can be a dazzling addition to sunny garden spaces. Let's uncover the characteristics that make the Sword Fern a remarkable choice for your garden.


Known for its strong and straight fronds, the Sword Fern presents a bold and architectural look. Its fronds can grow up to 4 feet long, giving it a commanding presence. The dark green, leathery leaves create a lush texture, perfect for adding depth and contrast in the garden.

Sun Requirements

Sword Fern's adaptability extends to its sunlight preferences:

  • Full Sun to Partial Shade: It's comfortable in a wide range of light conditions, from full sun to partial shade.
  • Hot Climates: In particularly hot or dry areas, some afternoon shade may be beneficial.
  • Cooler Climates: In cooler, more temperate zones, it can thrive in full sunlight without any issues.

Care Tips

Taking care of a Sword Fern in a sunny location requires the following considerations:

  • Watering: Prefers consistently moist soil but can tolerate some drought once established.
  • Soil: Enjoys well-drained, fertile soil rich in organic matter.
  • Fertilizing: Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring to promote vigorous growth.
  • Pruning: Regularly remove dead or damaged fronds to keep the fern looking tidy.
  • Pests and Diseases: Generally resilient, but monitor for typical fern problems such as aphids or rust.

Conclusion: Sword Fern

With its robust growth and adaptability to various sun conditions, the Sword Fern is a valuable addition to any garden seeking a touch of green grandeur. Its ease of care and flexibility in sun exposure make it an excellent choice for both novice and experienced gardeners. Embrace the Sword Fern's bold elegance by incorporating it into your sunny garden and enjoy the strong visual statement it makes.

Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum)

The Painted Fern, scientifically known as Athyrium niponicum, is a true masterpiece of nature, with its fascinating colors and graceful growth. Often prized for its stunning appearance, the Painted Fern can thrive in various sun exposures, adding a splash of color to any garden space. Let's explore this unique fern's features and care requirements.


The Painted Fern is famous for its eye-catching appearance. Its fronds display a blend of silver, green, and purple shades, creating an almost metallic sheen. It's a medium-sized fern, typically growing between 18 to 24 inches in height and width. Its delicate texture and unique coloration make it a favorite among garden enthusiasts.

Sun Requirements

This fern’s ability to adapt to different sunlight conditions adds to its appeal:

  • Partial to Full Sun: It can grow well in both partial sun and full sun, depending on the specific location and climate.
  • Avoid Scorching Sun: In very hot climates, protection from the intense midday sun can prevent leaf scorching.
  • Morning Sun Preference: Areas that receive sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon are typically ideal for this fern.

Care Tips

To keep the Painted Fern thriving, consider the following care guidelines:

  • Watering: Regular watering is key, and the soil should be kept evenly moist without becoming waterlogged.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil that's rich in organic matter provides the perfect foundation for growth.
  • Fertilizing: Light fertilization with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season will support healthy development.
  • Pruning: Prune any dead or damaged fronds as needed to maintain the plant's appearance.
  • Winter Care: Depending on the climate, some winter protection may be beneficial.

Conclusion: Painted Fern

The Painted Fern’s striking appearance and adaptability to various sunlight conditions make it a gem in the garden. Its unique color palette and elegant form make it a standout feature in any sunny or partially sunny location. With proper care and attention to its sun, soil, and water needs, this fern will continue to dazzle with its artistic display, bringing joy to gardeners and admirers alike.

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

The Boston Fern, or Nephrolepis exaltata, is among the most well-known and widely cultivated ferns around the world. Its lush fronds and easy-care nature have endeared it to gardeners and plant enthusiasts alike. While commonly seen indoors, the Boston Fern can also be a wonderful addition to sunlit garden spaces. Let's delve into the aspects that make the Boston Fern an excellent choice for those with sunny spots in their homes or gardens.


The Boston Fern is celebrated for its elegant and graceful appearance. Its long, arching fronds are filled with small, finely-textured leaves that create a dense and lush display. Typically, the Boston Fern reaches a height and spread of 2 to 3 feet, making it a perfect focal point or complementary feature in various settings.

Sun Requirements

Understanding the Boston Fern's sunlight preferences is key to its thriving growth:

  • Partial Sun to Shade: While it can tolerate some sun, the Boston Fern generally prefers locations with indirect sunlight or partial shade.
  • Avoid Intense Sun: Direct, harsh sunlight can lead to scorched fronds, so choosing a location with filtered or morning sun is often best.

Care Tips

Caring for the Boston Fern in a sunlit space requires attention to the following factors:

  • Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist without oversaturating. Lack of water can lead to brown and crispy fronds.
  • Soil: A well-draining, humus-rich soil provides the ideal growing environment.
  • Fertilizing: Regular fertilization during the growing season, with a balanced fertilizer, will promote lush growth.
  • Pruning: Trimming dead or damaged fronds keeps the fern looking fresh and healthy.
  • Humidity: The Boston Fern enjoys higher humidity levels, so regular misting or placement near a water source can be beneficial.

Conclusion: Boston Fern

The Boston Fern is a timeless classic, valued for its graceful beauty and versatility. Though more commonly seen indoors, it can indeed become a stunning addition to a garden with the right sun exposure and care. By respecting its preference for indirect sun or partial shade and attending to its watering, soil, and humidity needs, you can enjoy the Boston Fern's vibrant green splendor for years to come.

Australian Tree Fern (Cyathea cooperi)

The Australian Tree Fern, scientifically known as Cyathea cooperi, is a majestic addition to any landscape with its towering presence and lush, tropical appeal. A true conversation piece, this fern can adapt to a variety of sun exposures and adds an exotic touch to gardens. Let’s explore the various aspects that make the Australian Tree Fern a captivating choice.


Standing tall with its slender trunk and an impressive crown of fronds, the Australian Tree Fern can grow up to 15 to 20 feet tall. The fronds themselves can extend to 6 feet in length, giving the plant a grand and tropical appearance. The trunk is covered in coarse, reddish-brown hairs, adding to its unique character.

Sun Requirements

The sun requirements of the Australian Tree Fern make it suitable for various locations:

  • Partial Sun to Shade: Prefers locations with dappled sunlight or partial shade, particularly in hot climates.
  • Morning Sun: Areas that receive morning sun and afternoon shade work well for this fern.
  • Tolerance to Full Sun: It can adapt to full sun in cooler, more humid climates, but care should be taken to avoid scorching.

Care Tips

To successfully cultivate the Australian Tree Fern, these care tips should be followed:

  • Watering: Consistent watering is vital, especially during hot periods, to maintain moist soil.
  • Soil: Well-draining, rich soil with organic matter is essential for its growth.
  • Fertilizing: Regular fertilization during the growing season will support healthy frond development.
  • Pruning: Trim dead or damaged fronds to maintain appearance.
  • Wind Protection: Consider planting in a location protected from strong winds to avoid frond damage.

Conclusion: Australian Tree Fern

The Australian Tree Fern is an extraordinary garden specimen, offering a touch of the tropics even in non-tropical regions. Its adaptability to different sun exposures and care needs make it a fascinating addition to landscapes looking for height and drama. With the right balance of sunlight, water, and nourishment, the Australian Tree Fern stands as a testament to nature's grandeur, gracing gardens with its lush and lofty presence.

Southern Wood Fern (Dryopteris ludoviciana)

The Southern Wood Fern, known scientifically as Dryopteris ludoviciana, is a resilient and attractive fern that brings elegance and natural charm to various landscapes. It's particularly known for its ability to thrive in different sun exposures, including full sun. In this section, we'll explore the distinctive features of the Southern Wood Fern and the essential care guidelines for growing it successfully.


The Southern Wood Fern is characterized by its upright growth and glossy, deep-green fronds. These fronds can reach lengths of up to 4 feet, giving the plant a graceful and substantial presence. The combination of its architectural form and lush texture makes it a versatile addition to both formal and casual garden settings.

Sun Requirements

Understanding the sunlight needs of the Southern Wood Fern is key to its optimal growth:

  • Full Sun to Partial Shade: This fern is unique in its ability to handle full sun, especially when provided with adequate moisture.
  • Adaptation to Various Conditions: Its adaptability extends to various sunlight conditions, making it suitable for a wide range of garden locations.

Care Tips

For healthy growth and vibrant appearance, consider the following care tips for the Southern Wood Fern:

  • Watering: Regular watering that keeps the soil moist but not soggy is essential. Drought tolerance increases with maturity.
  • Soil: Plant in well-draining soil that's rich in organic matter for best growth.
  • Fertilizing: A balanced, slow-release fertilizer applied in early spring supports vigorous growth.
  • Pruning: Trim away dead or damaged fronds as needed to maintain an attractive appearance.
  • Pest and Disease Control: Monitor for common fern pests and diseases, applying appropriate treatments if necessary.

Conclusion: Southern Wood Fern

The Southern Wood Fern's graceful form, adaptability to various sunlight conditions, and relatively easy care make it an appealing choice for gardeners seeking both beauty and resilience. Whether planted as a focal point or used to create a lush backdrop, its full sun tolerance and attractive appearance add a distinctive touch to many garden styles. With proper care and attention to its sunlight, soil, and watering needs, the Southern Wood Fern can provide years of green elegance and natural beauty.

Conclusion: Ferns That Like Full Sun

The world of ferns is incredibly diverse, ranging from delicate, shade-loving species to robust and resilient ferns that can thrive in full sun. In this guide, we've explored some remarkable sun-loving ferns that can grace gardens, patios, and landscapes with their unique appearances and forms.

A Diverse Range of Choices

From the majestic Australian Tree Fern to the classic Boston Fern, we've seen that each fern species offers something unique:

  • Kimberly Queen Fern: Known for its upright posture and durability.
  • Autumn Fern: Offers seasonal color changes and sun tolerance.
  • Sword Fern: A resilient choice that's adaptable to various conditions.
  • Painted Fern: Celebrated for its striking colors and patterns.
  • Boston Fern: An elegant fern that thrives with indirect sun or partial shade.
  • Australian Tree Fern: A towering tropical wonder that adapts to various sun exposures.
  • Southern Wood Fern: A graceful and resilient fern that thrives in full sun.

Considerations for Success

Choosing the right fern for your sunlit space requires consideration of various factors:

  • Sunlight Preferences: Understanding each fern's sunlight requirements ensures that you pick the best species for your specific location.
  • Soil, Water, and Care Needs: Tailoring care practices to each fern's specific needs enhances growth and appearance.

Bringing Beauty and Elegance to Your Garden

Ferns that love full sun offer a distinctive charm and natural elegance. They can transform ordinary garden spaces into lush, green havens filled with texture and grace. By selecting the right species and providing attentive care, you can enjoy the timeless beauty and natural wonder that these sun-loving ferns bring.

Embracing the World of Sun-Loving Ferns

As we conclude our exploration, it's clear that the world of sun-loving ferns offers endless opportunities for creativity and enjoyment in the garden. Whether you seek drama, color, or graceful forms, these ferns provide a delightful range of options for every garden lover. Embrace the world of sun-loving ferns, and let them infuse your outdoor spaces with their inherent beauty and grace.