Plant, Develop, and Take care of Christmas Ferns

Christmas ferns carry a fountain of inexperienced to the backyard all year long. It’s significantly hanging within the winter backyard, when inexperienced fronds lend a lush look to the panorama, particularly when many different perennials are dormant.

Native to the U.S. and Canada, these ferns are hardy, adaptable, and serve quite a lot of panorama makes use of. They beautify the shade backyard, present wildlife habitat, and assist stabilize the soil on slopes to stop erosion.

Christmas ferns have a protracted historical past within the panorama and are long-lived perennials. They may grace the backyard for a few years as soon as established. Spores will loosen and bounce from the fronds in early fall, with a small proportion reseeding. In any other case, they are often propagated by means of division and are available from the nursery commerce.

Polystichum acrostichoides’ Plant Overview

A close-up of unfurling Christmas fern fronds in the springtime, with delicate leaflets that resemble feathers. Dried brown leaves from the previous season provide a contrasting backdrop to the new growth, creating a sense of freshness and vitality.

Plant Kind

Broadleaf evergreen/native plant/fern

Native Space

Japanese Canada to Mexico


Half shade to shade; dappled mild

Watering Necessities


Soil Kind

Impartial, Acidic

What Is Christmas Fern?

Christmas ferns growing in a forest in spring. The ferns have several bright green fronds that unfurl from a central crown. They are growing in a moist, shady spot on the forest floor, surrounded by other ferns and wildflowers.
This evergreen woodland plant offers year-round floor cowl.

This extremely adaptable, low-maintenance wooden fern offers a lush floor cowl year-round. This hanging broadleaf evergreen has coarse, thick fronds that persist in winter (and are inexperienced at Christmastime, therefore the identify). Leaflets loosely resemble Christmas stockings, and early settlers used fronds as vacation decorations.

It’s additionally valued for medicinal makes use of when plant elements are brewed as tea. In accordance with the Native American Ethnobotany Database, early North American indigenous individuals used Christmas fern to deal with abdomen illnesses, fever, rheumatism, and pneumonia. Roots and tender fiddleheads, when cooked, had been eaten for therapies. Nevertheless, be cautious and keep away from consuming any elements of the fern earlier than checking along with your physician. It might trigger abdomen upset and different signs.

This plant is multifunctional within the panorama. It affords visible attraction so as to add to the woodland backyard aesthetic. It additionally offers cowl on the floor stage for songbirds and different wildlife and is a supply of meals and nesting supplies. Along with magnificence and habitat, the fern may also help to stabilize slopes from soil erosion when planted en masse. Additional, as fronds fall and decay, they enrich the encircling soil.


A crown of Christmas ferns in top view with several dried leaves beneath them. The deep green ferns have delicate, feathery fronds that unfurl from a central crown. Some of the leaves are partially covering the ferns, while others are scattered around the base of the plant.
Fertile fronds produce black spores and develop in managed clumps with out widespread colonization.

Darkish inexperienced, extremely polished fronds have many leaflets and kind a fountainlike show of ferny greens. Fronds common two ft lengthy by two to 4 inches broad, and these coarse, leathery fronds final by means of winter. In spring, curled, silvery fiddleheads emerge. These unfurl into contemporary, new leaves for the approaching seasons.

Fronds produce black spores on the underside of leaves between June and September. Not all fronds are fertile; fertile fronds are typically longer, narrower, and extra upright. Additionally they die again on the finish of the rising season, whereas infertile fronds persist.

They don’t naturalize or colonize the best way many different ferns do. As a substitute, they develop in clumps of two to a few vegetation that increase in dimension over time. This managed progress permits the gardener to pick out particular spots for the fern, plant as many as wanted, and reliably know the fern’s unfold.

Native Space

A close-up of a captivating Christmas fern leaf in lush greenery. The long, slender leaf is divided into many smaller leaflets, each with a serrated edge. The leaflets are a deep green color with a silvery sheen, and they are arranged in a graceful, feathery pattern.
This perennial thrives in cool, shady Japanese US gardens, woodlands, and swamps.

Christmas ferns originate within the Japanese United States and vary from Mexico to Japanese Canada. They’re categorised as native to the decrease 48 United States and Canada. They like cool, shady backyard areas and naturally happen in wealthy, natural areas like woodlands, streambanks, rocky embankments, swamps, and thickets.


A close-up of spring home gardening in progress. A pot of healthy soil sits on a table, with a mini garden shovel and rake leaning against it. In the background, a fern thrives in its pot.
Very best for cottage and woodland gardens, it pairs nicely with astilbe, heuchera, and tiarella.

Its adaptability and evergreen qualities make it a fern to function in your panorama. Its arching, clumping behavior provides a smooth look to the understory backyard. It’s a becoming specimen for cottage, woodland, and shade gardens and intermingled with different native plantings. It makes a reasonably border, accent, or mass planting.

Mix with different shade-loving perennials like astilbe, heuchera, and tiarella. These get pleasure from the identical cultural situations of soil varieties and cover/shade cowl. Columbine, toad lily, bleeding coronary heart, and wild geranium additionally carry colourful additions to the evergreen spray of the fern understory.

Christmas fern is low upkeep as soon as established. It may also be grown in containers and indoors.


A lush green fern hangs outdoors in an orange pot. The fern's fronds cascade over the sides of the pot, creating a voluminous and inviting display. The orange pot adds a pop of color to the scene and complements the fern's vibrant greenery.
Make sure the fern crown is barely above soil stage for optimum progress.

It’s finest to plant within the fall earlier than frost or within the spring after the specter of ultimate frost has handed. New vegetation will profit from this time to get established earlier than winter and summer season temperatures.

Plant these perennials 18” aside to permit for mature dimension. This spacing creates a full look however received’t get overcrowded. Take care to position the fern crown simply above the soil stage. Planting a bit excessive ensures it received’t settle beneath the soil, the place it could be topic to crown rot throughout moist seasons.

With the correct location, clumps will proceed increasing. They are often divided to create new plantings.

In containers, these ferns don’t typically want repotting. Bump them as much as a bigger container (a minimum of one inch bigger in diameter) each two years or so. Moist and well-drained potting combine is finest in containers,

Rising from Seed

A close-up of a fern leaf reveals the tiny green spores on its underside. Spores are arranged in clusters called sori, which are visible as small brown dots. The delicate fronds of the fern are fern-like, with a feathery appearance.
Bold gardeners gather fern spores in October for propagation.

The bold gardener can gather spores to create seedlings. It may be met with combined success charges and requires persistence throughout germination.

To gather spores, wait till October once they start to drop from the undersides of the leaflets. Place cardboard underneath the fronds to gather the fallen spores, or clip fertile fronds and place them on paper to catch the spores.

Then, scatter the spores onto a tray of soil medium and canopy them flippantly. Maintain soil moist and await germination – seeds can take as much as three months to germinate.


In the correct location, rising Christmas ferns is simple! Given dappled mild and well-drained soil, they may thrive with little care.

As houseplants, they may want a bit extra care (as many houseplants do) than these within the panorama. Maintain them away from direct daylight and supply moisture in soil and humidity of their instant setting.


A close-up of a Christmas fern leaf captures the intricate beauty of the plant. Delicate fronds are bathed in sunlight, highlighting their lush green color and delicate veins. The blurry background creates a sense of depth and emphasizes the fern as the focal point of the image.
They thrive partially to full shade and like dappled mild.

Christmas ferns thrive partially shade to shade backyard areas. They like dappled mild beneath a tree cover however can tolerate deep shade. The ferns can develop in full solar in cooler climates if the soil stays moist however could burn in sunny southeastern US situations.

Indoors, they favor shiny, oblique mild. Place them close to a window however out of direct daylight.


A close-up of a lush green fern leaf with sparkling water droplets. The finely divided leaflets are each serrated around the edge. Water droplets are scattered across the leaf surface, catching the light and reflecting it back in a dazzling display of colors.
Newly planted ferns favor moist soil, turning into drought-tolerant as soon as established.

When newly planted, guarantee soil is moist however not moist, erring on the dry facet between waterings, whether or not in-ground or in a container. As soon as established, they want little further water.


A close-up of sandy loam soil shows clumps of light brown soil with a variety of textures and sizes, ranging from fine sand to small pebbles. Some clumps are smooth and rounded, while others are more angular and irregular.
To safeguard in opposition to root and crown rot, guarantee a well-drained setting for optimum plant well being.

Christmas fern requires organically wealthy soils which might be dry to medium in moisture. Soils should be well-drained so the roots and crown don’t get waterlogged and grow to be prone to rot.

Extremely adaptable, these ferns tolerate a variety of soil varieties, from sandy to shallow and rocky, with a pH of impartial to acidic. Clay soils can negatively influence vegetation by holding water.

Temperature and Humidity

A close-up shows bright green emerging fronds of a Christmas fern growing on a forest floor. The unfurling fronds are curled tightly at the tips, resembling fiddleheads. Their new growth is a vibrant shade of green, contrasting with the deep brown leaf litter and mossy ground below.
Elevate humidity by misting or inserting the plant in a tray with water and pebbles for indoor cultivation.

Christmas ferns carry out finest in cool, moist, shady environments. Very best rising temperatures are between 50-70 levels, although they’re hardy in frosty and snowy situations.

When rising indoors, maintain vegetation in a moist setting (like a rest room with a steamy bathe). If humidity is low, mist the leaves or set the plant in a tray of pebbles and water.


A close-up of a pile of organic fertilizer on a blue plastic crate. The fertilizer is made up of mostly dry leaves and twigs, with some smaller pieces of bark and other organic matter mixed in. The leaves are all different colors, from yellow and orange to brown and green.
These native ferns thrive with minimal fertilization however can profit from a light-weight software of acid-loving plant fertilizer in spring.

As native ferns, they require little to no fertilizing. In spring, for ferns in containers or to spice up the backyard, you could go for a fertilizer that meets the wants of different acid-loving vegetation like hydrangea, azalea, and camellia.


A close-up of a Christmas fern's glossy, elongated leaves gracefully unfurl in a mesmerizing spiral pattern, adorned with tiny, sharp teeth that impart a hint of wild beauty. Flourishing in cool, moist surroundings, this evergreen thrives amidst the gentle whispers of the forest, embodying elegance in its natural habitat.
The low-maintenance plant grows effortlessly within the panorama, requiring minimal pruning.

The straightforward-care Christmas fern is completely satisfied to develop with out fuss. It wants no pruning or cutback until you need to take away yellowing, brown, or broken fronds to enhance the look of the plant. Take away spent fronds at any time of the yr.

They’ll profit from a light-weight leafy cowl throughout winter. Mulch or use leaf litter (or depart naturally falling leaves in place) to supply insulation.


Division is the beneficial propagation methodology and is the best solution to increase your assortment (apart from buying nursery inventory). Dividing ferns is most profitable in spring, creating the least stress on newly divided vegetation and giving them time to get established within the lively rising season.


A close-up of a clump of green ferns with long, slender fronds that are divided into smaller leaflets. The leaflets are a deep green color and have a slightly glossy sheen. They are arranged in a circular pattern, with the youngest fronds in the center.
Fern clumps are divided in spring, chopping the crown into segments.

Divide fern clumps in spring by choosing single vegetation and chopping the crown into items. Dig up the plant and use a pointy blade to chop the crown into segments, roots and all. 4 segments, or new younger vegetation, are a very good quantity from a single plant. If vegetation are small, solely divide them in half to make sure you have wholesome divisions.

Plant the brand new segments (18” aside) and maintain them moist till established. Keep in mind to plant the crown section barely above the soil stage.

Widespread Issues

Along with its magnificence as a backyard plant, a bonus of the Christmas fern is its carefree nature. It’s comparatively proof against pests and ailments. It’s deer, rabbit, and squirrel resistant, tolerates heavy shade, and is hearth resistant.

Whereas it’s deer-resistant, this isn’t to say it’s deer-proof. When little else is obtainable, deer could browse on ferns in lean occasions. Seldom are they considerably broken, nonetheless.


A close-up of a long-tailed mealybug on a fern frond. The mealybug has a small, soft body that is covered in a waxy powder and has two long, white tails. It is sitting on the underside of the fern frond and feeding on its sap.
You could face occasional insect points like aphids and mealybugs.

Insect infestation from aphids and mealybugs can often hassle these vegetation. For outside growers, spray the plant with water often throughout heat months to discourage and knock bugs off the stems. A easy horticultural cleaning soap can rid the plant of aphids and mealybugs if infestation happens. 


This close-up shows a Christmas fern in a garden setting. The fern has glossy, dark green fronds that are divided into many small leaflets arranged in an alternate pattern along the central stem of the frond. The background appears to be a shady garden with other plants and trees visible.
Optimum efficiency is achieved in dry to medium soils, minimizing the chance of crown rot.

Christmas fern doesn’t tolerate moist ft or extended soggy situations, particularly throughout winter. It will probably develop crown and root rot in non-draining soils. 

One of the best management is prevention by means of cultural situations.  Because it handles dry to medium soils finest, search for spots that meet these situations for finest efficiency, and crown rot will probably be a non-issue.

In containers, ensure that to not overwater for a similar cause. Maintaining soils evenly moist and erring on the dry facet will mimic pure situations.

Often Requested Questions

Sure – They’re chilly hardy, evergreen perennials. Lengthy, leathery fronds persist in winter, when many different ferns and woodland vegetation are dormant.

They don’t readily unfold or naturalize like different fern colonies. They develop in clumps that increase in dimension over time, and produce spores that drop in early fall and may also be simply divided.

People mustn’t eat Christmas fern fiddleheads – a minimum of not with out researching the “how-to’s.” The fiddleheads are technically edible after cooking however could cause negative effects like dizziness and nausea. Indigenous North People traditionally used it in teas and root varieties for medicinal functions. Wildlife, like Ruffed Grouse and wild turkeys, could browse on the fiddleheads for dietary forage.

Last Ideas

These are worthwhile, straightforward native ferns to develop and supply hanging kind and colour all year long. A protracted-lived perennial, Christmas fern grows in clumps that make beautiful specimens, borders, and accent plantings. Use them in mass for soil stabilization in a dappled shade spot that wants erosion management. With well-drained soils, they require little care within the panorama.

Plant shade-loving perennials, native vegetation, bulbs, and spring ephemerals alongside them. Trillium and Virginia bluebells supply stunning blooms among the many ferns in early spring, and the fronds present cowl when bulbs are dormant.

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