Ferns are considered to be some of the oldest living plants in the world, as noted by the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Outdoor ferns prefer partially shaded areas of the garden, while indoor ferns like as much light as possible as long as it's not directly sunlight. Ferns are virtually disease- and insect-free plants but may suffer an attack from time to time. With more than 20,000 species, it's easy to find one or two ferns that appeal to a gardener's taste.
Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)
Lady Fern is easy to grow and thrive in moist, well-drained soil. Plants can tolerate dry soil conditions better than most other ferns. Lady ferns grow best in shaded areas of the garden but can handle sun if soil is constantly moist. They grow to be 1 to 3 feet high and have a plant spread of 1 to 2-1/2 feet. Their light green, lace-like leaves make them an attractive addition to gardens and flowerbeds.
Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
You will find Ostrich ferns growing outdoors in moist, boggy soil along streams and rivers. This large fern has brightly colored green leaves that resemble the plumes of an ostrich tail. Ostrich ferns reach heights between 3 and 5 feet and widths of 2 to 3 feet. Ferns grow in partially to fully shaded areas and are prone to leaf scorch if they dry out. These plants are low-maintenance and are an appropriate choice for landscaping in wooded areas.
Holly Fern (Cyrtomium falcatum)
Holly ferns are indoor ferns that are easy to grow and tolerate the dry air, low lighting and drafts found in many indoor spaces. They have dark green fronds with a coarse, textured, glossy appearance. Holly ferns are between 2 and 3 feet tall and grow best in well-drained soil conditions that are barely moist at all times. Holly ferns are appropriate for pots and floor baskets in homes and offices.
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
The Boston fern reaches heights of 1 to 3 feet and has frilly, light green fronds that grow up 3 feet long and spread out on all sides. Boston ferns do best in soil kept slightly moist at all times and need high humidity to thrive. Keep plants well-watered and mist them when humidity is low. They are more susceptible to pests than other fern varieties; look for mealy bugs, scale insects and spider mites on plants.
Cretan Brake Fern (Pteris cretica)
Place Cretan Brake ferns in northern-facing windows and you'll have success in growing these indoor ferns. They thrive in a cooler climate in soil that is barely moist and are considered low-maintenance and easy to grow. They grow to a height between 12 and 24 inches and sport pale green, narrow, lance-shaped leaves. Fronds grow between 12 and 24 inches long. Cretan Brake ferns need abundant water and high humidity to remain healthy.