Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Polystichum acrostichoides

Christmas fern

Dryopteridaceae (Wood Fern Family)

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy
Chistmas fern got its name because it stays green right through the holiday season. It is a robust, leathery fern which has glossy, green fronds year-round. The fronds grow in clusters from a crownless rootstock and range from 1-2 ft. in length. Fertile fronds are taller. The once-divided fronds with pointed pinnae result in a medium to coarse texture. The silvery fiddleheads emerge in early spring.

Christmas fern is very easy to establish and grow where conditions are right. It requires cool, moist, well-drained soil in shade. In the right spot, it can be a good, evergreen border or accent plant. Though often used as a groundcover, it is a clumping fern, not forming a continuous, undifferentiated carpet the way some ferns do.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Fern
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Size Notes: Normally 1.5 to 2 feet, occasionally 3 feet tall.
Leaf: Dark green
Size Class: 1-3 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Not Applicable
Bloom Notes: Not a flowering plant. Reproduces by spores.


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: NB , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: N.S. to extreme s.e. MN, s. to c. FL, e. TX, and Mexico. Zones 5 to 10
Native Habitat: Rich, rocky woods; stream banks; swamps; thickets

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Moist, acid, humus-rich soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Acid-based. Best in rocky or sandy soils.
Conditions Comments: Does not tolerate clay soils or standing water. It must have good drainage. Gets stressed in too much sun, becoming pale and stunted. It must be kept moist, cool, and shaded.


Use Ornamental: Borders, accents, and groundcovers
Use Wildlife: Attracts Ruffed Grouse
Interesting Foliage: yes

Last Update: 2013-09-09