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Fern-like foliage

Photo: Shelly Nold

Two flowering plants with groundcover appeal

Ferns remain one of the most popular plant groups for our gardens today. There are hardy ferns for the garden, ferns for houseplants and tropical ferns for our porches and patios during the season. Ferns do not have a showy flower, but if you like fern foliage and crave a flower, you can try these two plants.

Astilbe and Aruncus are two perennial flowering plants that have fern-like foliage, but also have beautiful flowers. Both prefer to grow in part shade to shade and in moist soil. Even without flowers, they are beautiful plants and their fern-like foliage serves as lush groundcover. They both bloom in June in our area and the flowers can be left on as they mature and dry, or you can remove them and expose the beautiful foliage for the remainder of the season.

Astilbes are the most popular, partly because there are so many varieties available. Flower colors range from white to all shades of pink and red, shown. Plant height depends on the variety and can range anywhere from 12 inches to 2 feet in flower. Rheinland, one of my favorites with its clear pink flowers, grows to about 2 feet tall.

Aruncus are not popular, probably because the species, commonly called goat’s beard, grows 4 to 6 feet tall. It is a beauty, but it is big and most of us don’t have the space to accommodate it. Fortunately a new variety called ‘Misty Lace,’ grows to only around 2 feet tall. Now widely available, this dwarf Aruncus has lots of soft 7-inch-long creamy white flowers. 

These two summer flowering plants can be wonderful additions to your partly shady garden spaces. In dry summers, take care to water to prevent drought stress on the foliage of these moisture loving plants. Both are rabbit resistant, which is necessary if you have lots of cute, but hungry rabbits inhabiting your garden like I do.

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.

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