Dictionary of Flowers: Polystichum Acrostichoides (Christmas Fern)

Polystichum Acrostichoides is also known as Christmas Fern. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Kristy Johnson and Flickr

Polystichum Acrostichoides is also known as Christmas Fern. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Kristy Johnson and Flickr

  • Polystichum Acrostichoides 
  • Common name: christmas fern
  • Family:  Dryopteridaceae
  • Category: Perennial in USDA zones 3-9
  • Height: 12” to 24” 
  • Width: 12” to 24”
  • Shade
  • Blooms: grown for foliage
  • Growth habit: clumping. Used as a thriller or filler in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average to rich, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, woodland garden, rockery, groundcover
  • Diseases: crown rot 
  • Pests: pest free

Christmas fern is native to the eastern part of the United States where it grows in diverse habitats.

It is an evergreen perennial useful in the garden for its appeal year round. Because it grows in the wild in a large number of conditions, it also adapts to garden use in situations from fertile and moist to dry and rocky.

It is useful for slopes in the garden as a measure to prevent soil erosion. It doesn't make huge clumps, staying small and tidy with minimal maintenance. Clumps grow in size, but don't spread. The leaves are leathery, and the fronds are lance shaped.

It is a robust fern easy to grow in the garden.

It is best when grown in rich, humus rich soils. When planting, amend soil with plenty of organic matter such as compost or leaf mold.

The soil needs to be free draining to avoid disease during colder months. It tolerates average soils and it’s not picky about soil pH.

Christmas fern can grow in shade or part shade locations. Too much sun will stunt Christmas fern and make foliage look discolored.

If growing in part sun, provide additional water.

Keep soil moist during dry hot spells by watering deeply. When growing in containers, water regularly, but make sure the container has good drainage.

Mulch helps maintain moisture levels when planted on the ground or containers. Although it is one of the most drought tolerant ferns, it does best when additional moisture is provided during dry spells.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

In early spring, remove dead leaves as the new fronds start to develop. It can be divided in spring by root division.

The fern forms small crowns around the parent plant that can be easily pulled apart and replanted immediately in good quality potting soil or amended garden soil.

Keep well watered after division. Christmas fern is available in nurseries during spring and summer. 




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Though not bothered by disease or pests, it is prone to crown rot when grown in areas where soil stays too wet and doesn't drain properly. Improve drainage to avoid the problem. 

Popular varieties:

  • PASTEPOPULARVARIETIESHERE

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Click to see Platycodon Grandiflorus (Balloon Flower)
Click to see Pulmonaria Species (Lungwort)

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