Description & Overview

With year-round color, Christmas Fern is a wonderful way to add color to your landscape throughout the cold winter months. The 2.5-foot tall fern can reach 3 feet in the right environment and be a staple to a foundation of a landscape as a border planting or enjoyed as an accent.

Core Characteristics

Category: Fern

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 3

Mature Height: 1-2.5 feet

Mature Spread: 1-2.5 feet

Growth Rate: Perennial

Growth Form: Fountain-like clump

Light Requirements: Partial Shade to Full Shade

Site Requirements: Cool, moist, well-drained soil

Flower: No flower, reproduces by spores

Bloom Period: Spores released mid-late summer

Foliage: Evergreen, robust, tough, glossy fronds. Leaflet margins are finely toothed, venation of leaflet is pinnate

Fall Color: Evergreen

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: Reproduces by spores

Suggested Uses

Christmas Fern can be used in many wooded areas and should be sited in a moist to dry location. Easy to establish, this fern is clump-forming and will thrive on a shady slope of an understory. Rather than forming a groundcover, it forms clumps about 2.5′ wide. The foliage color adds year-round interest and provides beautiful contrast to bright snow. In spring, grayish and scaly fiddleheads begin to emerge. On the undersides of upper leaflets, on fertile leaves, Christmas Ferns have spore-bearing structures called ‘sori.’ Another interesting aspect of Polystichum acrostichoides are the scales on the main stalks which are shorter compared to other varieties.

With year-round color, Christmas Fern is a wonderful way to add color to your landscape throughout the cold winter months. The 2.5-foot tall fern can …
With year-round color, Christmas Fern is a wonderful way to add color to your landscape throughout the cold winter months. The 2.5-foot tall fern can …

Wildlife Value

Christmas Fern is food to many other species of animals in the food web. Gamebirds will feed on young fronds; you may also be able to catch a glimpse of a Wild Turkey or a Ruffed Grouse. At times during the winter, the fronds may be eaten by White-tailed Deer but typically not a detrimental amount. Clever birds and mammals will stack fronds of the Christmas fern to create nests and shelter.

Maintenance Tips

Christmas Fern is a low-maintenance plant and once established, will be able to sustain itself efficiently. Upon planting, it is crucial to ensure that the soil stays moist as dry soil will cause new fronds to brown and wilt. It is always best to water at the base of the fern to keep the leaves dry and reduce pests and disease problems.

With year-round color, Christmas Fern is a wonderful way to add color to your landscape throughout the cold winter months. The 2.5-foot tall fern can …

Pests/Problems

Christmas Fern has few pests or disease problems. Aphids may get nourishment from the juices from the leaves, but this shouldn’t cause concern. The small scales that are present on the fern can act as a simple deterrent for many pests. Most of the problems that can occur are a result of too much sun exposure which can result in pale and stunted fronds. Over-saturated soil will cause the plant to lag and possibly rot. The fern must be placed in an area that allows cool, moist, and shady environmental factors to dominate.

Leaf Lore

Christmas Fern gets its name from the color that it keeps throughout the winter. During the holiday season, fronds can be used in wreaths, boughs, and many other decorations.

Companion Plants

Christmas Fern is a great plant to use as a border or as an accent in a shady area. Pairing the fern with other natives, such as Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta), Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpureum), Sweet Fern (Comptonia peregrina), Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum) will create wonderful color contrast throughout the growing season. Redosier Dogwood will provide contrast when the red twigs are paired with the persisting green from the fern through the winter.

With year-round color, Christmas Fern is a wonderful way to add color to your landscape throughout the cold winter months. The 2.5-foot tall fern can …
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Written by Johnson's Nursery