Christmas Fern

The Christmas Fern got its name because it flowers in winter and stays green throughout the holidays. The fronds of this plant are up to 3 feet long and 4 inches wide, and the fronds have dark green leaves. When other plants are dormant, this plant adds color and interest to the garden.

Growing Christmas Fern

A Christmas fern can be grown outside with little work. Although they may tolerate some sun, Christmas tree ferns thrive in areas with partial or complete shade.

Quick Growing Guide

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Botanical Name: Polystichum acrostichoides

En français: Fougère de Noël



Sun / Shade:

Water: Moderate watering.

Hardiness Zones:

These ferns enjoy moist, well-draining soil that is rich in organic materials, just like other outdoor ferns do. After the last frost, plant Christmas ferns, spacing them 18 inches (46 cm) apart and planting them deep enough to prevent root crowding.

After planting, cover the plants with pine needles, crushed bark, or leaves in a 4-inch layer. Mulch will aid in plant defense and moisture retention. Avoid growing it in heavy clay or constantly damp soils, as these conditions can cause crown rot.

Christmas Fern Care

Christmas fern is an easy-to-care-for plant. The fern will be able to sustain itself well once it has grown after the first year.

Water the soil once a week on moderate days; more frequently on hot days. Without enough moisture, ferns will develop leaf drips. Watering should get extra consideration during the hottest summer months.

The second spring after planting, lightly cover the soil beneath the fern with granular fertiliser made especially for plants that thrive in acidic soil. Thereafter, feed once a year. Christmas ferns don’t require pruning, but you can remove any dead or browned leaves as needed.

Pests and Problems

Pest and disease issues with Christmas Fern are minimal. The liquids from the leaves may provide food for aphids, although this is not causing for alarm. Many pests can be easily repelled by the fern’s small scales, which are present on it.

The majority of potential issues are brought on by excessive sun exposure. The overexposure will cause the fronds to become pale and stunted. A plant that is in overly saturated soil may lag and possibly rot. The fern must be placed in a location where cool, wet, and shaded environmental variables can predominate.

Keeping Christmas Fern Indoor

All fern species have been grown successfully indoors by people. Christmas ferns thrive in front of a window that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Hang your fern or place it in a fern stand for optimal results.

Keep the soil evenly moist but not overly so, and spritz plants once a week to promote humidity when caring for Christmas ferns inside. Use a suitable granular fertilizer at any time, and remove any discolored or damaged leaves.


Early New England immigrants utilized Christmas ferns as holiday decorations. Christmas ferns were employed by Native American tribes for therapeutic purposes even though they don’t seem to have any food uses. For instance, the Cherokee applied an infusion of the root to the diseased area to treat rheumatism topically.

The plant was also consumed internally as an infusion to treat rheumatism. Christmas fern was used by the Cherokee to treat chills, pneumonia, toothaches, and stomachaches. The herb was also utilized by the Iroquois to treat a variety of illnesses, such as fevers, convulsions, consumption, and rheumatism.  

Where can I find them?

Christmas fern does fine in the shade, but it can also tolerate some light if the soil is moist. It inhabits a range of shady environments, such as forests, stream banks, and rocky slopes. The Christmas Fern is more frequently observed in hardwood forests with richer soils in New York State. It gets rarer and more confined to rich, rocky soils in the state’s northern regions.

Indoors, it will get energy from the winter sun. Bright ambient sunlight may be preferable to direct sunlight because there is no risk of sun ray damage.

The beech-maple mesic woodland is one of the most likely locations to come across Christmas Ferns. Sugar Maple and American Beech are the two codominant species in this northern hardwood forest. These woods are typically found in regions with somewhat acidic, wet, and well-drained soils.

Companion Plants

A beautiful plant to use as a border or an accent in a shaded area is the Christmas Fern. Throughout the growth season, combining the fern with other native plants including Hoary Vervain, Purple Prairie Clover, Sweet Fern, and Maidenhair Fern produces stunning color contrasts.

When the crimson twigs of the Redosier Dogwood are combined with the fern’s wintergreen foliage, the contrast is stunning. Numerous plants can coexist with the Christmas Fern; taller accents will beautifully complement the modest, green foliage.

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