Boston Fern growing in planter on patio wall

Ferns are a diverse group of plants that have been around for millions of years. They are known for their distinctive, leafy fronds and their ability to thrive in a variety of environments.

One question that many people have about ferns is whether or not the ferns come back every year. The answer to this question depends on the specific type of fern and the conditions in which it is growing.

Annual Ferns vs. Perennial Ferns

Ferns can be divided into two main categories based on their lifespan: annuals and perennials. Annual ferns complete their lifecycle within a single year, while perennial ferns live for several years or more.

Annual ferns are typically found in tropical and subtropical regions, where the climate is warm and humid. These ferns grow quickly and produce a large number of fronds, which wilt and die off at the end of the growing season. Annual ferns do not have a dormant period, so they do not survive the winter months.

Perennial ferns, on the other hand, are able to survive for multiple years and often have a dormant period during which they rest and regrow. Perennial ferns are found in a wide range of climates, including temperate, tropical, and subtropical regions.

Ferns having grown consistently each year and consumed an area
Ferns have grown consistently each year and consumed an area

Factors That Affect a Fern’s Lifespan

There are several factors that can influence a fern’s lifespan, including:

  • Climate: As mentioned above, annual ferns are typically found in tropical and subtropical regions, while perennial ferns can be found in a wider range of climates. The type of climate a fern is exposed to can affect how long it lives and whether or not it returns each year.
  • Care: Proper care is essential for keeping ferns healthy and ensuring that they come back year after year. This includes providing the right amount of sunlight, water, and nutrients, as well as protecting the fern from pests and diseases.
  • Type of fern: Different types of ferns have different lifespans. Some ferns are annuals, while others are perennials. It’s important to understand the specific needs and characteristics of the fern you are growing in order to give it the best chance of returning each year.
Christmas fern leaves
Christmas fern leaves

Common Annual Ferns

Here are a few examples of annual ferns that do not come back every year:

  • Asparagus fern: This tropical fern is native to South Africa and is known for its delicate, lacy fronds. Asparagus ferns are popular houseplants and are often grown outdoors as annuals in temperate climates.
  • Boston fern: Another popular houseplant, the Boston fern is native to tropical regions of the Americas. It is typically grown as an annual in temperate climates, although it can be grown as a perennial in the right conditions.
  • Maidenhair fern: This delicate fern is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere and is known for its delicate, fan-shaped fronds. It is often grown as an annual in temperate climates and can be difficult to keep alive for multiple years.
Maidenhair Fern Adiantum pedatum
Maidenhair Fern Adiantum pedatum

Common Perennial Ferns

Here are a few examples of perennial ferns that do come back year after year:

  • Christmas fern: This hardy fern is native to the eastern United States and is known for its evergreen fronds. It is able to survive in a wide range of conditions and is often used as a ground cover in gardens and landscapes.
  • Ostrich fern: This large fern is native to North America and is known for its feathery fronds. It can survive in a wide range of conditions and is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes.
  • Royal fern: This tall fern is native to tropical regions of the world and is known for its broad, arching fronds. It can survive in a range of conditions and is often used as a specimen plant or hedge in gardens and landscapes.No matter what type of fern you are growing, it’s important to understand its specific needs in order to give it the best chance of returning each year. With proper care and environmental conditions, both annuals and perennials can thrive for many years.

In conclusion

By properly managing your ferns, you can enjoy their beauty and elegance for years to come. Ferns are versatile plants that can provide a splash of colour and texture to any garden or landscape. With the right care and environmental conditions, both annuals and perennials can bring many years of enjoyment.