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  • Writer's pictureZac Gnadinger

7 Native Ferns of Kentucky

Updated: Mar 5

broad beech ferns on forest floor

Ferns are a fascinating group of plants that have been around for millions of years and have evolved to thrive in a variety of environments.

In Kentucky, there are a number of native fern species that not only offer unique beauty but also play an important role in the state's ecology.

In this post, we'll introduce you to seven of these fascinating fern varieties that thrive in the state's climate and offer unique foliage to any shaded garden.

Whether you're a passionate gardener, a nature enthusiast, or simply curious to learn more about these ancient plants, read on to discover the wonders of the native ferns of Kentucky.

Are Ferns Good for Wildlife?

Yes, ferns provide valuable protective structure for wildlife, including ground-feeding birds, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. Overall, ferns are an important part of a diverse and thriving ecosystem and can make a significant contribution to the well-being of local wildlife populations.

Native Ferns of Kentucky

Kentucky is home to a wide variety of native ferns, many of which are available for purchase from local nurseries and online plant retailers. In addition to their beauty and ornamental value, these ferns are known to be deer and rabbit resistant, making them a great option for gardeners looking to protect their plants.

1. Maidenhair Fern

maidenhair fern

Maidenhair Fern is a delicate and elegant species native to all regions of Kentucky. Its distinct fan-shaped fronds and dark, wiry stems make it a standout addition to any garden. As the cold months of winter approach, its leaves naturally wither and fall away for the season. While this fern requires consistent moisture and shade to thrive, its stunning appearance makes it a popular choice for plant enthusiasts.

maidenhair fern info

2. Sensitive Fern

sensitive fern

Sensitive Fern is a resilient species that thrives in damp soil and partial shade, making it an ideal choice for woodland landscapes. Gardeners are drawn to its distinctive appearance, characterized by fronds that resemble delicate green fingers. With the ability to propagate through both underground rhizomes and spores, it gradually forms a lush groundcover over time.

sensitive fern info

3. Cinnamon Fern

cinnamon fern

Cinnamon Fern, named for the cinnamon-like color of its spore-bearing structures, is a striking and unique addition to any garden. Native to all regions of Kentucky, although rarer in the Bluegrass, this fern is hardy and can tolerate a range of growing conditions. With its distinctive foliage and showy fronds, Cinnamon Fern is an eye-catching choice for those looking to create a bold and beautiful garden display.

cinnamon fern info

4. American Royal Fern

american royal fern

American Royal Fern, also known as Royal Fern, is a tall and stately species native to most regions of Kentucky. Its feathery fronds can reach heights of up to five feet, providing an elegant addition to a shaded landscape. During the autumn season, its lush foliage takes on a striking red-brown hue, adding a beautiful touch of color to the surrounding scenery.

american royal fern info

5. Broad Beech Fern

broad beech fern

Broad Beech Fern is a native species that can be found throughout all regions of Kentucky. Its delicate and lacy fronds, which can grow up to two feet in length, give it a distinctive and ornamental appearance. In the fall, the fronds turn pale yellow as it begins to die back with the arrival of winter.

broad beech fern info

6. Christmas Fern

christmas fern

Christmas Fern is a tough and versatile species, making it one of the most popular evergreen ferns. Its dark, glossy fronds provide a year-round splash of green and are particularly useful in winter when other plants have gone dormant. Christmas Fern is also known for its ability to grow in a wide range of soils and conditions, making it a popular choice for both novice and experienced gardeners

christmas fern info

7. New York Fern

new york fern

New York Fern is a soft and deciduous fern that can be found throughout Kentucky and the northeastern United States. With its lush, green fronds and distinctive shape, it is a popular choice for those looking to add a touch of natural elegance to their garden. New York Fern is easy to care for and can thrive in a variety of growing conditions, making it a versatile and low-maintenance option for outdoor gardens.

new york fern info


Kentucky is home to a diverse range of fern species that are not only beautiful, but also play an important role in the ecosystem. By incorporating native ferns into our gardens, we can support local plant biodiversity and create stunning landscapes. We hope this guide has inspired you to explore the world of Kentucky's native ferns and appreciate their unique qualities. For more garden ideas, head over to our article on native landscaping plants.


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