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Native Plant of the Week: Christmas Fern

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Name: Polystichum acrostichoides - Christmas Fern

Family: Dryopteridaceae

Bloom Time: Fern, non-flowering

Soil Condition: Dry to Moist, Well Drained

Light: Partial Shade to Full Shade

Size: 12-30” tall with equal spread

Native Range: Eastern North America

Zone: 3-9

Polystichum acrostichoides is a lovely, clump forming fern for dry and moist shady spots. It received its common name, Christmas Fern, because it stays green right through the holiday season. It was also used by Early Settlers as Christmas decor (let’s bring this tradition back!). It is rabbit and deer resistant. Jugland tolerant so it will grow under black walnut trees. Since it is a clumper it will spread very slowly by rhizomes but will not be aggressive like some other native ferns. If it is very happy with its conditions, it will also spread by spores.

Maintenance: You may choose to remove browned and/or damaged fronds in spring for aesthetic reasons, but leave them somewhere for the critters and birds to use for nesting material. Mulch with leaf litter.

Benefits: Attracts Ruffed Grouse and Wild Turkey, as they may eat the young shoots in the young fronds in Spring.

Uses: Plant in masses on slopes to help combat soil erosion. Tolerates heavy shade. The foliage is great cut and used in flower arrangements.

Companion Plants: Great for underplanting shade loving shrubs and trees - Cornus species, Viburnum species, Clethra alnifolia, Cercis canadensis, Fagus grandiflora, Oak species and so much more. Perennial companions include Anemonella thalictroides, Asarum canadense, Aquilegia canadensis, Geranium maculatum, Aster cordifolius, Aster divaricatus and Viola labradorica.



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