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Audubon® Sensitive Fern
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So-called because its foliage dies back with the first frosts, Sensitive Fern is not delicate in other respects. Although its fronds are vulnerable to cold, the plant itself is not—it’s native to places where winter temperatures may drop to 40 below zero! It can grow rather aggressively in some places, creating steadily spreading colonies. In appearance, too, Sensitive Fern is not dainty. Its fronds are not feathery like those of other Ferns, but bold and sassy. Wonderful as a groundcover in moist woodland gardens and semi-wild spaces. It will crowd out invasive weeds and provide cover to frogs, salamanders, and other small animals.
May Benefit & Attract: wrens, sparrows, mockingbirds & thrashers, vireos
Take Birds Under Your Wing
New! Introducing our bird-friendly collection of Audubon® Native Plants & Trees
- Better for Birds, 100% Neonic-Free
- Not Available in non-native regions, states or counties (see Native Regions map)
Bower & Branch is proud to grow Audubon® Native Plants for Birds in partnership with the National Audubon Society to help birds and other wildlife thrive.
- The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow
- This bird-friendly native plant provides food and shelter for local and migrating birds and other wildlife
- Your purchase and planting of this native flora directly supports Audubon’s conservation mission and impact
- Learn how you can help birds in your home and community through Audubon’s Plants for Birds program
- Audubon Native Plants & Trees are free of neonicotinoids and exclusively grown by Bower & Branch
Audubon® is a licensed and registered trademark of the National Audubon Society. All rights reserved.
- Hardiness Zone: 4-8
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Recommended by Our Growers
A survivor! According to the fossil record, Sensitive Fern has hardly changed in 60 million years. This hardy, durable, reliable, indomitable plant just keeps going on year after year and millennium after millennium, with no need to change the survival strategy that has served it so well. In the U.S., this species inhabits a vast range that encompasses virtually all of the eastern states, from Minnesota to Texas and east to the Coast. It’s even found in the wild in Siberia, China, and other parts of East Asia. Sensitive Fern is also known as Bead Fern, because of the beadlike reproductive structures on its fertile fronds.
In late summer, Sensitive Fern produces strange shoots that are plumelike and cinnamon-brown in color. These fertile fronds, as they are called, are covered with tiny, beadlike structures from which spores (the Fern version of seeds) are released. You can cut fertile fronds and use them as interesting additions to dried flower arrangements. They last a long time.
How to Grow
Although Sensitive Fern is one tough Spirit, treating it well will reap rewards. This means giving it a premium spot in the landscape where it will receive dappled sunlight or shade throughout the day. This Fern also appreciates rich, organic soil that holds some moisture but drains well and doesn’t stay soggy after a rain. Regular irrigation is important for lush growth, especially if plants are competing with tree roots for water. Sensitive Fern goes dormant in the winter. Cut the spent fronds back in early spring, just before the new growth emerges.
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