I was very excited to discover this evergreen perennial. And surprising to me, it is a fern! The Christmas fern keeps its leaves all winter, even if it’s under the snow.
Perhaps, it’s serendipity that the Christmas fern takes center stage for the ‘A Perennial a Week’ series, this time of year. I just happened to stumble upon it, and was amazed with its hardy constitution.
The botanical name for the Christmas fern is Polystichum acrostichoides. It is native in a large part of eastern North America from Nova Scotia to the southern U.S., and west to Missouri.
While there are no flowers borne, its evergreen fronds would be a delight to see year round. In earlier times, the evergreen fronds were collected to be used for decorating at Christmas, and that is how it got its common name.
The Christmas fern is hardy from zones 3 to 9, reaches 1 to 2 feet in height, and is not an aggressive grower. Its fronds grow upright in the summer, and in the colder seasons they sort of recline. In snowy areas, the evergreen fronds may be hidden under the snow. It does not need to be pruned, and can be divided as it matures.
It’s an evergreen fern for shade – perfect for a full shade to part shade spot in the yard. I can picture a massing of them under a large shady tree creating a woodland-like setting. If you can’t find it at a local garden center or nursery, it is available at online plant retailers.
It does well in dry to medium moisture conditions, but it does need a well-drained soil to prevent crown rot, particularly in winter.
It is said to be a good plant to install on slopes to help combat soil erosion. The Christmas fern tolerates rocky soils, is low maintenance, and is pest and deer resistant. I seriously love this fern, and will have to find a spot for many of them in my yard some day.