Plant of the Week
Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina (L.) Roth)
By Rhonda Stewart
Lady Fern is a native perennial upright fern that can reach 2-5 feet in height. The leaves are a bright green, with a fine-textured lacy appearance, and single fronds can measure up to 1’ wide and 3’ in length. The frond stalks are green to purple or red in color. Lady Fern is native to the continental US and Alaska.
This graceful fern is a lovely addition to any moist shade gardens. The lacy light green foliage provides a striking contrast to other wide, dark-leaved shade-tolerant plants. Lady Fern is best introduced into a garden using a containerized plant or by propagating the rhizome. The Lady Fern is easy to grow and maintain as it colonizes through rhizomes but growth is slow. It often forms clumps or groups of upright fern leaves, maintaining a compact appearance, although if left unchecked over a long period, it will spread from 3-7 feet in diameter. This is a deciduous fern. It will drop its leaves with the first frost. Lady Fern is relatively tolerant of sun and dry soil, compared to other ferns. The best growth will occur in full to partial shade and a rich, moist soil. This hardy fern also makes a nice ground cover plant on the north or east side of buildings.
In the wild, Lady Fern grows in moist woods, moist meadows, and swamps and along streams, from lowlands to mid-elevations. Because of its easy maintenance, there are several cultivated varieties, in various shades. This deciduous fern is a very low maintenance plant that adds a lot of esthetic value to the landscape.