Delicate-looking maidenhair ferns love high humidity, and Victorian gardeners provided it by growing them in Wardian cases, terrarium-like structures made of glass. To give these plants the moist air they crave, mist your fern daily or keep it on top of some pebbles in a tray filled with a little water. These feathery beauties can be finicky, demanding moist, well-draining soil and indirect sun. Don’t let them dry out completely or stand in drafts
Ferns are a go-to perennial for shady conditions, and Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’) is a real showstopper. Silvery leaves with purple-red veins and stems stage a striking show. Best silver color develops in light shade—a little sun helps bring out the hue. Keep soil consistently moist for strong growth. Rabbit-resistant plants grow 12 to 18 inches tall by 24 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 3-8.
Also called sword ferns, Kimberly queen ferns (Nephrolepis obliterate) make elegant specimen plants, thanks to their straight, upright fronds. These nearly-carefree Australian natives are happy indoors if they’re kept in medium light and given sufficient humidity (if your air is too dry, try running a small humidifier nearby). Outside, they’re hardy in zones 9-11. Indoor gardeners love them because they help purify the air, but you can also enjoy them outdoors in warm weather months.
Austral Gem™ Bird's Nest Fern adapts to the low humidity levels found in most homes. Dark green, feathery fronds make it an attractive addition to your windowsill garden, and it doesn't produce messy spores that scatter on tabletops and floors. If you move it outdoors after the last spring frost, give it full shade.
Hand-blown terrariums are organic and sculptural, says Jeffrey Schneider of Jeffrey Terrariums, based in New York. The bean-shaped terrarium he created holds Selaginella emmeliana, maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-veneris) and perennials such as Peperomia urocarpa. He used Yamaya Stone for the base and placed sterilized twigs into the display.
Ferns are lovely in the fall, says Jan Johnsen, owner of New York-based Johnsen Landscapes & Pools and author of "Heaven is a Garden." When ferns turn to burnished gold or light yellow, it looks like a filigree of leaves in a soft, quiet fall scene.