Ferns For Zone 3 Gardens: Types Of Ferns For Cold Climates

Fern Plant With Purple Veins
zone 3 fern
(Image credit: © Kimberly McBride)

Zone 3 is a tough one for perennials. With winter temperatures down to -40 degrees F. -40 C.), a lot of plants popular in warmer climates just can’t survive from one growing season to the next. Ferns, however, are one variety of plant that is extremely hardy and adaptable. Ferns were around at the time of the dinosaurs and are some of the oldest living plants, which means they know how to survive. Not all ferns are cold hardy, but quite a few are. Keep reading to learn more about cold hardy fern plants, specifically garden ferns hardy to zone 3.

Types of Ferns for Cold Climates

Here’s a list of ferns for zone 3 gardens: Northern Maidenhair is hardy all the way from zone 2 to zone 8. It has tiny, delicate leaves and can grow to 18 inches (46 cm.). It likes rich, very moist soil and does well in partial and full shade. Japanese Painted Fern is hardy down to zone 3. It has dark red stems and fronds in shades of green and gray. It grows to 18 inches (46 cm.) and prefers moist but well-drained soil in full or partial shade. Fancy Fern (also known as Dryopteris intermedia) is hardy down to zone 3 and has a classic, all-green appearance. It grows from 18 to 36 inches (46-91 cm.) and prefers partial shade and neutral to slightly acidic soil. Male Robust Fern is hardy down to zone 2. It grows 24 to 36 inches (61-91 cm.) with wide, semi-evergreen fronds. It likes full to partial shade. Ferns should always be mulched to keep the roots cool and moist, but always make sure to keep the crown uncovered. Some cold-hardy fern plants that are technically rated for zone 4 may very well last in zone 3, especially with proper winter protection. Experiment and see what works in your garden. Just don’t get too attached, in case one of your ferns doesn’t make it to spring.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.