Miscellaneous

Growing Holly Ferns: Information On Holly Fern Care

Growing Holly Ferns: Information On Holly Fern Care


By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum), named for its serrated, sharp-tipped, holly-like leaves, is one of the few plants that will grow happily in the dark corners of your garden. When planted in a flower bed, the lush, deep green foliage provides beautiful contrast as a background for colorful annuals and perennials. Read on to learn about the care of holly ferns.

Holly Fern Facts

Also known as Japanese holly fern, this substantial plant reaches mature heights of 2 feet (0.5 m.) with a spread of about 3 feet (1 m.). Holly fern works well as a border plant or a ground cover. You can also plant holly fern in a container and grow it outdoors or as a houseplant.

Although it doesn’t tolerate extreme cold, holly fern survives moderately harsh winters with no problem. Holly fern is suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 10. It is evergreen in mild climates.

How to Grow a Holly Fern

Growing holly ferns from a starter plant or divided plant is remarkably simple. The plant prefers well-drained, acidic soil with a pH between 4.0 and 7.0, and thrives in rich soil high in organic matter. Dig in two or three inches of compost or other organic material, especially if your soil is clay-based.

Indoors, holly fern needs a well-drained, lightweight potting mixture and a pot with a drainage hole.

Although it grows in full shade, holly fern does just fine in partial, but not punishing sunlight. Indoors, place the plant in bright, indirect light.

Care of Holly Ferns

Holly fern likes moist, but not soggy, soil. During dry weather, give the plant about an inch of water per week. Indoors, water the plant whenever the top of the soil feels slightly dry. Water deeply, then let the pot drain thoroughly. Avoid soggy soil, which may result in root rot.

Fertilize holly fern using a diluted solution of a balanced, slow-release fertilizer after new growth emerges in spring. Alternatively, feed the plant occasionally with a water-soluble fertilizer or fish emulsion. Don’t overfeed; ferns are light feeders that are damaged by too much fertilizer.

Outdoors, apply a 2-inch (5 cm.) layer of mulch, such as pine straw or shredded bark, in spring and autumn.

Holly fern care involves periodic grooming. Trim the plant whenever it looks shaggy or overgrown. Don’t worry if holly fern drops its leaves during cold weather. As long as the plant doesn’t freeze, it will grow back in the spring.

This article was last updated on


Plant Finder

Other Names: East Indian Holly Fern

A very handsome evergreen fern, this variety has tapering ladder like leaves of forest green, creating wonderful texture excellent massed or as groundcover in shaded borders or featured in shady areas of rock gardens great container plant as well

Holly Fern's attractive ferny compound leaves emerge light green in spring, turning forest green in color the rest of the year. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Holly Fern is an herbaceous evergreen fern with a shapely form and gracefully arching fronds. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Holly Fern is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • Mass Planting
  • General Garden Use
  • Groundcover
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens
  • Container Planting

Holly Fern will grow to be about 24 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 28 inches. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 15 years.

This plant does best in partial shade to shade. It requires an evenly moist well-drained soil for optimal growth, but will die in standing water. It is particular about its soil conditions, with a strong preference for rich, acidic soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone over the growing season to conserve soil moisture. This species is not originally from North America, and parts of it are known to be toxic to humans and animals, so care should be exercised in planting it around children and pets. It can be propagated by division.

Holly Fern is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. It can be used either as 'filler' or as a 'thriller' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination, depending on the height and form of the other plants used in the container planting. It is even sizeable enough that it can be grown alone in a suitable container. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.


Help maintain moisture levels by using double containers for your ferns. Plant the fern in a terra-cotta pot, and place the pot in a larger decorative container. Stuff well-moistened sheet moss between the containers. The terra-cotta pots will transfer moisture to the plant. Cover the top of the container with more moistened moss to conceal the terra-cotta pot and moss between pots.

Create an attractive fern display full of helpful moisture. Start with a large waterproof container. Line the bottom with pebbles or river rocks. Pour water to the top of the rocks, but don't cover the rocks, since the plants should not be sitting in water. Fill the container with a variety of ferns planted in terra-cotta pots.

Staghorn Fern

This mature staghorn fern only requires low light and watering about once a week to thrive.


Evergreen Fern Species

Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)

©HVPM dev – stock.adobe.com

Light: Part to Full Shade
Zones: 4 to 9
Height: 24″ to 36″

With its frilly evergreen fronds, the Autumn Fern provides color in your garden all year round.

It has coppery pink fronds that emerge in the spring.

They mature to deep green in the summer.

And finally turn bronze in the fall.

It makes a great ground cover in your shade garden

Holly Fern (Cyrtomium spp.)

©simona – stock.adobe.com

Light: Part to Full Shade
Zones
: 6 to 10
Height: up to 30″

The Holly Fern has stiff, glossy, dark green fronds that look like holly (which explains the name).

As well as making a good border plant or ground cover, it also grows well in containers.

And will survive the salt air and saline water found in coastal areas

Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)

Light: Part to Full Shade
Zones: 4 to 8
Height: 36″ to 60″

The Male Fern is a tall perennial that makes an excellent specimen plant. It is semi-evergreen in colder climates and evergreen in warmer regions.

Like most ferns, this plant requires consistent moisture to stay healthy. But other than, it’s easy to grow.

Protect it from wind to keep the large fronds looking good.

This fern variety is also rabbit-resistant and will grow in clay soil.

Marginal Wood Fern (Dryopteris marginalis)

Photo by David J. Stang / CC BY-SA

Light: Part to Full Shade
Zones: 3 to 8
Height: 18″ to 24″

The Marginal Wood Fern is a native plant that features grayish-green, deeply cut, leathery fronds.

This fern forms a non-spreading, vase-shaped clump that makes an excellent addition to the shade garden.

With its evergreen leaves, it works well in groups or as a specimen plant.

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

Photo by David J. Stang / CC BY-SA

Light: Part to Full Shade
Zones:
Height: 24″ to 36″

The Christmas Fern is a native leathery plant that has glossy, green fronds year-round.

Which is how it got its name…it stays green all the way through the holidays.

This is a clumping form that does not spread and works well with other plants in the shade border.

Christmas fern is also deer, rabbit and drought resistant (once established).

Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum)

Light: Full Shade to Part Sun
Zones: 5 to 9
Height: 36″ to 72″

Next on our list of winter hardy fern varieties is the Western Sword Fern.

It has glossy, leathery, dark green, evergreen foliage that forms large clumps with many long fronds in shady areas.

This fern does better than most in dry, arid conditions (after the first year) and is deer resistant.

Korean Rock Fern (Polystichum tsus-simense)

Photo by David J. Stang / CC BY-SA

Light: Part to Full Shade
Zones: 7 to 9
Height: 10″ to 15″

The Korean Rock Fern is a small, well-behaved, evergreen fern that makes a great addition to the front of your shade garden border.

Its shiny dark green fronds are a good contrast for other shade perennials with chartreuse or silver leaves.

This fern is poisonous if ingested so avoid it if you have pets that like to chew on plant leaves.


How to Transplant Holly Ferns

Related Articles

Holly ferns (Cyrtomium falcatum) add a lush, dramatic element to shade gardens with their glossy evergreen leaves and erect growth habit, which reaches 2 to 3 feet in height at maturity. They thrive outdoors year-round within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 to 10, although holly ferns must be divided and transplanted every few years to rejuvenate their growth and maintain their appearance. Holly ferns transplant well in spring and will quickly reestablish themselves however, the divisions must be planted at the same depth as the original parent plant to ensure their long-term health and well-being.

Transplant holly ferns into a bed offering full shade or dappled sunlight and organically rich, draining soil. Avoid areas with sandy soil or places where water pools excessively after rain.

Prepare the transplant site before digging up your holly fern. Spread a 4-inch-thick layer of acidic compost, a 1-inch-thick layer of poultry grit and a sprinkling of bone meal across the bed. Work the amendments into the soil to a depth of 10 inches using a cultivating fork.

Measure out a 2-inch radius around the base of your holly fern. Dig along the 2-inch mark to a depth of 6 inches using a pointed shovel or handheld spade. Carefully work the blade underneath the holly fern and pry loose the root ball.

Lift the holly fern from the ground and fill in the hole left by it. Cut the holly fern into equal portions using a sharp, clean gardening knife. Make sure each division has an equal share of roots and foliage so it will survive the transplant process with minimal damage.

Dig a planting hole for each holly fern division. Make the holes just wide and deep enough to accommodate the rootball. Space them 18 to 24 inches apart. Settle the rootball into the prepared hole and press the soil in against it.

Spread a 1-inch-thick layer of pine bark mulch around each holly fern immediately after transplanting them. Lift the fronds around the edges and push the mulch in against the base of the plant.

Water the newly transplanted ferns thoroughly. Maintain moderate moisture in the soil for the first summer after transplant. Increase watering during drought, or whenever the fronds droop during periods of high heat.


Plant Finder

Other Names: East Indian Holly Fern

A very handsome evergreen fern, this variety has tapering ladder like leaves of forest green, creating wonderful texture excellent massed or as groundcover in shaded borders or featured in shady areas of rock gardens great container plant as well

Holly Fern's attractive ferny compound leaves emerge light green in spring, turning forest green in color the rest of the year. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Holly Fern is an herbaceous evergreen fern with a shapely form and gracefully arching fronds. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and is best cleaned up in early spring before it resumes active growth for the season. Deer don't particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Holly Fern is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • Mass Planting
  • General Garden Use
  • Groundcover
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens
  • Container Planting

Holly Fern will grow to be about 24 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 28 inches. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 15 years.

This plant does best in partial shade to shade. It requires an evenly moist well-drained soil for optimal growth, but will die in standing water. It is particular about its soil conditions, with a strong preference for rich, acidic soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone over the growing season to conserve soil moisture. This species is not originally from North America, and parts of it are known to be toxic to humans and animals, so care should be exercised in planting it around children and pets. It can be propagated by division.

Holly Fern is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. It can be used either as 'filler' or as a 'thriller' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination, depending on the height and form of the other plants used in the container planting. It is even sizeable enough that it can be grown alone in a suitable container. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.


Watch the video: Houseplant Fern Care Guide! . Garden Answer