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Yankees and Southerners alike can benefit from this dramatic addition to the shady garden. Dixie Wood Fern is a striking, statuesque Spirit. In rich, moist soil, it can reach 5 feet in height, while holding its lacy green fronds close to its sides, emphasizing its verticality. Use it as a stand-alone specimen, or plant a grouping of Dixie Wood Ferns to serve as a solid green backdrop for more colorful Spirits in the foreground. Site it where the gentle morning sunlight will stream through its delicate leaflets, and you’ll have pure magic. A true southern belle!
- Hardiness Zone: 5-9
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What does the word hybrid mean to you? Do you picture scientists in lab coats, creating unnatural plants? If so, you may be surprised to know that hybrids can occur all by themselves in the wild. Such is the case with the Dixie Wood Fern. This choice fern is a naturally occurring hybrid between two southern ferns, the Log Fern and the Southern Shield Fern. Like many hybrids, Dixie Wood Fern exhibits what’s known as “hybrid vigor,”—it grows larger and faster than either of its parents. It’s also surprisingly cold-hardy, considering it’s native to the South. It tolerates winter lows down to -20ºF.
Got deer? Ferns are usually a safe bet where deer are a problem. They provide needed greenery in the shady woodland garden spaces where deer may come looking for a meal, but deer tend to leave them alone. Dixie Wood Fern is troubled by few pests of any kind and is relatively carefree.
How to Grow
Dixie Wood Fern relishes a shady site. Plant it where it will receive no direct hot afternoon sun. As for irrigation, it can put up with somewhat dry conditions, but generous amounts of water will result in a bigger, more luxuriant plant. Mulch with shredded bark, wood chips, leaf mold, or compost to help hold in moisture. Little fertilizer is needed, as ferns are light feeders. The fronds may flatten to the ground with the first hard freeze. It’s wise to wait until late winter to cut themback, because they aid in protecting the crown of the plant from severe cold over the winter.
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