Alphabetical Plant Listing

Pteridium aquilinum (Bracken Fern)

Western Bracken Fern, Bracken Fern, Western Bracken, Bracken


Hardy and vigorous, Pteridium aquilinum (Bracken Fern) is a deciduous, rhizomatous fern with large triangular fronds, up to 3 ft. long (90 cm), arising directly from a deep underground rhizome. Each frond is 2-3 times pinnately compound. Clusters of spore cases densely line the inrolled edges of the underside of the fertile fronds. The foliage turns brown and dies after the first autumn frosts in temperate climates, and new fiddleheads emerge from the ground in spring. Bracken Fern is a cosmopolitan fern with a worldwide distribution. Fairly aggressive, it readily spreads into pasture and marginal areas, sometimes forming colonies, and is favored by fire and soil acidity. It is difficult to control particularly because of its ability to sprout from an extensive network of underground rhizomes, up to 20 ft. long (6m). Keep Bracken Fern in untamed sites and avoid planting it in the garden, where the deep rootstocks make it a tough, invasive weed. A great foliage groundcover for dry woodlands.

  • Grows up to 3-4 ft. tall and (90-120 cm) and 4-5 ft. wide (120-150 cm).
  • Performs best in full sun to part shade in slightly acidic, consistently moist, well-drained soils. Tolerant of poor and sterile soils. Water regularly to get it established, then let it naturalize, watering only during extended droughts. Reduce watering if the plant gets too aggressive. Drought tolerant once established.
  • This plant is a fine choice for cottage gardens or woodland gardens.
  • Virtually pest and disease free. Fiddleheads are carcinogenic.
  • Cut back during winter.
  • Propagate by root division while the plant is dormant.
  • Native to Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.

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Requirements

Hardiness 3 – 10
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Ferns
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Height 3' – 4' (90cm – 120cm)
Spread 4' – 5' (120cm – 150cm)
Spacing 48" – 60" (120cm – 150cm)
Water Needs Low, Average
Maintenance Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, Alaska, California, Midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Northeast, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pacific Northwest, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Rocky Mountains, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Southeast, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Southwest, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas
Tolerance Drought
Garden Uses Ground Covers
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow

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Doug McGrady, Björn S..., Brewbooks, Flickr, Irina Borsuchenko, Daan Kloeg, Sarah Weldon, Jim and Lynne Weber, 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 3 – 10
Climate Zones 1, 1A, 1B, 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
Plant Type Ferns
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Height 3' – 4' (90cm – 120cm)
Spread 4' – 5' (120cm – 150cm)
Spacing 48" – 60" (120cm – 150cm)
Water Needs Low, Average
Maintenance Average
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, Alaska, California, Midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Northeast, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Pacific Northwest, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Rocky Mountains, Colorado, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Southeast, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Southwest, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas
Tolerance Drought
Garden Uses Ground Covers
Garden Styles Informal and Cottage, Prairie and Meadow

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