Ferns don’t typically make me think of Christmas, but this semi-evergreen fern keeps going strong into December. Its foliage remains green into mid to late winter. It is not the most delicate and dainty fern, but its tough, large leaflets are a good addition to shade gardens when evergreen massing is called for.
Christmas fern is native to the eastern U.S. and Canada, including Indiana. It grows naturally in temperate forest understory conditions on rocky slopes and banks. While it is mainly known for it’s long-lasting green color, the hairy, silvery fiddleheads are a nice touch in the spring. Christmas fern is a clump-forming fern, meaning it stays put and gradually gets a little bit wider, but it doesn’t spread to form dense, connected colonies the way some ferns do. While this fern is available for retail sale, it’s not something you’ll find at a big box store. Look at larger garden centers, especially ones that specialize in native plants or shade plants.
Common Name: Christmas fern
Scientific Name: Polystichum acrostichoides
Light: partial to full shade
Size: 12-24” tall and wide
Notable Varieties: no cultivated varieties
Soil: needs good drainage, tolerates dry soils
Other Notes: semi-evergreen; clump type fern does not spread to form colonies