Holly fern, tassel fern, western sword fern and maidenhair fern are some perennial ferns that grow well in the shade. Holly ferns, genus Polystichum, grow natively in the eastern United States. They prefer rich, well-drained soil in zones three through nine. Holly ferns tend to maintain their leaves through the winter and can grow up to 3 feet tall. These ferns are deer resistant and drought tolerant.
Tassel fern, Polystichum polyblepharum, is perennial in zones six through eight, producing curved, dangling fronds. The leaves die off in the winter and return on stiff spikes in the spring. The slow-growing plants grow to 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Gardeners should water them weekly and more regularly during periods of extreme summer heat.
Western sword fern, Polystichum munitum, is a native to western North America and grows naturally in zones three through eight. This hardy fern is a good choice for poor, dry soil; tolerates both hot and cool weather; and is resistant to disease and pests. The plant grows up to 4 feet all, producing up to 100 dark green fronds on a single mature plant.
Northern maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum aleuticum, grows in the cooler weather of zones five through eight. Southern maidenhair fern, Adiantum capillus-venerus prefers the heat of zones seven through 10.