Arborvitae ferns are ideal part-shade or full-shade plants in USDA zones 6 to 9. They are dependable perennials with positively gorgeous evergreen-tree-like foliage.
Plant Delights Nursery says, "Sold under a number of incorrect names, Selaginella braunii (fern cousin) is one
of the easiest spikemosses to grow in the woodland garden. The dark green, lacy,
semi-evergreen fronds of arborvitae fern rise to 18" tall from a slowly creeping
rhizome. In 3 years you could expect a 2' wide mass. A grouping of Selaginella
braunii in a woodland setting is indeed a textural garden highlight!"
Native to China, these beauties are called ferns but are Lycopods.
Plant of the Week said, "-- a descendant of
spore-producing plants that date back unchanged into the Permian (~320 mya or
so). Tree-like relatives of this plant group produced the great coal forests of
the Carboniferous. (This plant is sometimes known as a spike moss, but it is not
a moss, either.) Selaginella braunii is a clumping species with dark
green, leathery frond-like leaves. The plants will reach from 6-12 inches (15-30
cm) in height. They are of easy culture which makes them good container
subjects, as well as a great groundcover in USDA zones 6-9."
They do not flower but do produce leafy cones that are rarely noticed.
To be successful with them provide organic, rich soil, full shade to part shade with regular water. To improve the soil, add pine bark and peat moss to your garden soil.
Ideal for our southern summers, they love humidity. In the woodland garden, space the clumps 2-feet apart where they will slowly spread.
Arborvitae ferns can be grown in terrariums, in windowboxes, as groundcover under trees or in a greenhouse.
Fertilize in the early summer. Cut back on water if you grow them in containers so they don't rot. Never allow them to completely dry out. The Virginia Native Plant Society points out two club-moss natives that are similar to Arborvitae ferns, if you prefer to go the native route. Club mosses: Running Cedar