The unique foliage and overall look of succulents combined with the fern’s whimsical feel could certainly make for some fun garden arrangements or indoor planter designs. But can you plant succulents and ferns together?
You can plant succulents and ferns together in the same garden if the climate is accommodating to both plants, but each will need custom care routines. However, succulents and ferns are generally not good companion plants for each other as they are native to different types of environments.
These two types of plants can both survive in similar conditions, but they require two different environments and levels of care for each to thrive. This article looks at some of those differences to explain why planting succulents and ferns together should be avoided and offer suggestions for alternative companions for each of these unique plant types.
Caring for Succulents
Succulents are not very finicky plants. They require small amounts of water and can last for several decades with minimal care. Succulents should be kept in well-drained soil to grow properly and do best when elevated from the surrounding ground plain.
It would be best if you watered succulents when the soil has become dry to the touch. How frequently this must be done will be dependent upon the climate you live in. It is important not to overwater succulents as this can cause leaves to wrinkle and even induce rotting in the stem and roots.
Typically, succulents love and tolerate several hours of sunlight a day, and many require this substantial sunlight exposure to develop their optimal foliage colors. When succulents don’t get enough light, they tend to become leggy, and their general growth is weak.
However, humid climates and long periods of harsh, direct sunlight can be damaging and even cause sunburns in many types of succulent plants.
Caring for Ferns
Ferns are one of the earth’s oldest types of plants and are quite abundant in the wild. They enjoy moist, humid, shady environments, such as woodlands, swamps, stream banks, and more.
To keep ferns happy, their soil should be well-drained but kept moist. Watering and misting should be done regularly, and most ferns will prefer soft water (e.g., rainwater, distilled water) at a tepid temperature.
When keeping ferns indoors, place them out of the way from vents or fans and out of any dry-air environments. You may even wish to use a humidifier in the room for the fern.
Direct sunlight will also cause fern leaves to turn yellow or die, so it is best to keep ferns in indirect and low light conditions.
Why You Shouldn’t Plant Succulents and Ferns Together
As you can see, the differences in sunlight preferences, water requirements, and overall environment between succulents and ferns are just too different, and these two plant types would not be good companions. Maintaining proper conditions for one plant will inevitably lead to the demise of the other.
Perhaps the biggest issue is the discrepancy in soil conditions between ferns and succulents. Maintaining proper moisture for a fern would most likely cause the succulent roots to blacken and rot. Beyond that, ferns are likely to grow and cover a neighboring succulent in the shade, thereby hindering their growth and color potential.
Moreover, some ferns will grow stems underground, which can spread out to cover a good bit of distance. While this is nice when you are looking for good groundcover, it can be a problem when incorporated into a neat and fixed design plan.
Ferns can easily overtake, cover-up, and generally run amuck among succulents that will eventually un-create any display you may design.
Designing With Succulents and Ferns Together
In terms of designing gardens and larger landscapes, the question of whether or not you can plant succulents and ferns together becomes broadened slightly. You can plant these two types of foliage together in the same display, let’s say. Still, they should be potted individually or separated from one another to allow for personalized care.
For example, if you wanted to put these two plant types together in the same garden display, one way to do this could be to use planter pots or hanging baskets to house the ferns among a planted bed of succulents. This way, you can customize the moisture in the soil for each plant and even have the option of bringing the ferns indoors when cold or otherwise harsher weather comes along.
But when it comes to close-quartered or one-pot displays, as explained above, succulents and ferns have needs that are too contrasting for them to be compatible together.
Planting With Succulents
Succulents make for great landscaping plants because of their amazing shapes and colors. Their unique foliage allows for creative designs and breath-taking gardens. The sky’s the limit as far as possibilities go, so you can feel free to be as creative with the combinations as you like.
The best companions for succulents will tolerate drought and generally withstand the sun better than other plants.
Miscanthus Sinensis is an ornate, eye-catching grass that often features gold or yellow stripes across its otherwise green foliage. This species is tolerant of drought, so it makes for a great companion with succulents. Its flowers are often unique, and their colors complement most succulents.
Miscanthus Sinensis pairs well with plants like Sedum ruspestre Angelina (Stonecrop) and Sempervivum Black (aka Hens & Chicks or Houseleeks) to make a beautiful, low-maintenance display. Festuca glauca (Blue Fescue) is another unique ornamental grass that thrives in full sun. It lives for a long time, as do many succulents, so it makes for a great “set-it-and-forget-it” garden combination.
If you are looking to create a colorful garden without the hassle, choose classic flowers that are easy to care for, like Echinacea (coneflowers) and Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed Susan). They bloom from summer to fall with minimal effort on your part. The Santa Barbara daisy, aka Mexican daisy, enjoyed warm climates and looks great among succulents.
Planting With Ferns
Ferns are great plants for shady gardens. Once established, they provide amazing ground cover and help make for a full and lush-looking garden. Use ferns to dress up wet areas and to edge ponds and streams. They will mate well with other shade-loving plants like hostas and dicentras, and with moisture-loving ornamental grasses of all kinds.
In general, ferns will do well with any plants that also tolerate humid, moist, shady environments. Still, they are best paired with bright, colorful foliage and attractive flowers to make stunning garden displays you would not want to stop looking at.
Ferns are ideal companions to gardens with most woodland foliage, especially since ferns are deer-resistant. Perennials such as astilbe, with its rosy-red flowers, help to brighten up those dark corners of your garden where ferns prefer to grow.
Ferns provide an excellent contrast in texture to other perennials such as caladiums and epimedium (barrenwort). They all coexist very well because they all love the shade and tolerate humid conditions.
Generally, succulents and ferns should not be planted together as they are each native to different types of environments. Succulents require far less water to grow than ferns, and the soil conditions preferred by ferns are too moist and would harm succulents. However, it is still possible to have these two types of plants in your garden, though they will require proper conditions and individual care routines.