The native Southern maidenhair fern always has been a plant that somehow magically calms me, relieving stress. They also entice me to pause and look not only at their beauty but the surrounding plant community as well. I have a new favorite companion for the fern: the Spanish bluebell.
The Spanish bluebell, like many other plants, has gone through some name changes in both the common name and the botanical name, which is now Hyacinthoides hispanica. True to its name it is native to Spain, Portugal and northern Africa, and can make a home in your garden too.
At the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens we have a nice established drift, or patch of the Southern maidenhair fern growing in our cottage garden. The Spanish bluebell, which also is called wood hyacinth, has established well in the same area.
They have anywhere from 2 to 6 strapped leaves that produce a sturdy stalk adorned with from 12 to 15 blue, bell-shaped flowers. They stand out in dramatic fashion against a sea of what appears to be slightly chartreuse green from the fern’s lacy foliage.
The Spanish bluebells is recommended for a large area from zones 3 through 8, meaning most of the country can enjoy growing them. After the blooms are finished we leave them alone, as is recommended for a narcissus or daffodil, as they make food reserves for next year’s blossoms. Then in mid-summer the foliage will retreat to make its return the following spring.
While I’ve been touting this combination with the native Southern maidenhair, know that it too is hardy over a wide area of the United States.
It is known botanically as Adiantum capillus-veneris and is native to more than 20 states, plus Puerto Rico and British Columbia.
You may be surprised to know they are found as far north as South Dakota. So those of you who have treasured the thought that you had cornered your little patch of green paradise will have to know that you are not alone.
The delicate looking fronds vary in height, topping out at about a foot and a half with an equal spread thanks to the slow-creeping rhizome.
So you will want to plant several to get your patch going.
They are deciduous and require organic rich, well-drained soil. Providing supplemental water during summer’s droughty periods is essential and will keep them not only growing, but looking their best. This is a great fern for shade but also performs superbly in part shade or those areas with a little morning sun.
Your choice of companion plants is only limited by your imagination. In addition to the Spanish bluebells they are ever so picturesque along a tiny stream or babbling brook. No hosta collection would be complete without a heavy complement of ferns, and by all means several patches of the Southern maidenhair.
Try them with other shade lovers like impatiens, begonias, caladiums and coleus.
The Chocolate Mint coleus and Southern maidenhair fern would make an absolute dreamy partnership.
Lastly, if you find yourself with a shady porch patio or deck know that a container or two with this fern will offer a most unique and appreciated leaf texture wherever they are placed.
Spring is erupting in the South and is headed your way, so make this the year you incorporate this picturesque native fern and perhaps the Spanish bluebell as a choice companion.