Native ferns of the northern woodlands add a texture and form unique to the plants found there. So many rounded forms—think hosta—are perfectly accentuated by the strong vertical attitude of the big ferns. The smaller ferns are the perfect understory for big rhododendrons, azaleas and holly. A shade garden is mostly about texture and subtle color. Fern is indispensable.
Most ferns will be at home if provided with a fertile, humus-rich and moisture retentive soil. Shade, of course. Some exceptions; most notably, the incredibly adaptable hayscented fern which is suited to less than fertile soil and hot, sunny locations. Some spread quite nicely and can be used as choice groundcovers.