Alphabetical Plant Listing

Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern)

Sensitive Fern, Bead Fern, Sympathy Fern, Japanese Ostrich Fern, Ostrich Fern


A unique addition to a moist woodland garden, Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive Fern) is a deciduous, rhizomatous fern boasting broad, deeply pinnatifid, pale sea-green, sterile fronds, 2-4 ft. long (60-120 cm), adorned with leathery, triangular leaflets and netted veins. Shorter and narrow, the fertile fronds, 12 in. (30 cm), appear in mid to late summer, with bead like sori (spores) arranged toward the top of the fronds. The fertile fronds turn brown in late summer and persist throughout winter, releasing their spores to the wind the following spring before new leaves emerge. The common name comes from the observation by early American settlers that Onoclea sensibilis was very sensitive to frost, the fronds dying quickly when first touched by it. Easy to grow in most cool, moist, shaded sites, Sensitive Fern is a great asset for bog gardens, pondside plantings and water gardens. Cut fronds are great for dried flower arrangements.

  • Recipient of the prestigious Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society for its outstanding qualities
  • Grows up to 3-4 ft. tall and wide (90-120 cm). Spreads by both creeping rhizomes and spores and may become invasive in small gardens.
  • Performs best in part shade to full shade in organically rich, consistently moist, neutral to acidic soils.
  • This plant is a great choice for shady beds and borders, underplanting of roses and shrubs, cottage gardens, woodland gardens or along streams, ponds or bog gardens.
  • No serious pest or disease issues. Rabbit resistant.
  • Dead or damaged fronds may be removed as necessary.
  • Propagate by sowing spores as soon as ripe or by division in early spring.
  • Native to eastern North America, Asia.

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Requirements

Hardiness 4 – 9
Heat Zones 1 – 9
Plant Type Ferns
Exposure Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Height 3' – 4' (90cm – 120cm)
Spread 3' – 4' (90cm – 120cm)
Spacing 48" (120cm)
Water Needs Average, High
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Poorly Drained
Characteristics Dried Arrangements, Plant of Merit, Showy
Native Plants United States, Midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Northeast, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Southeast, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Southwest, Oklahoma, Texas
Tolerance Clay Soil, Rabbit, Wet Soil
Attracts Birds
Garden Uses Beds and Borders, Ponds and Streams, Rain Gardens, Underplanting Roses and Shrubs
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow, Traditional Garden

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By Nikolay Kurzenko, Jose Fauer, Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.


Requirements

Hardiness 4 – 9
Heat Zones 1 – 9
Plant Type Ferns
Exposure Partial Sun, Shade
Season of Interest Spring (Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Height 3' – 4' (90cm – 120cm)
Spread 3' – 4' (90cm – 120cm)
Spacing 48" (120cm)
Water Needs Average, High
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Poorly Drained
Characteristics Dried Arrangements, Plant of Merit, Showy
Native Plants United States, Midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Northeast, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Southeast, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Southwest, Oklahoma, Texas
Tolerance Clay Soil, Rabbit, Wet Soil
Attracts Birds
Garden Uses Beds and Borders, Ponds and Streams, Rain Gardens, Underplanting Roses and Shrubs
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow, Traditional Garden

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