Autumn fern dryopteris erythrosora

Winterizing ferns isn’t complicated but it does depend on your specific climate and the type of fern you have. Properly done, your ferns will survive the winter to flourish again when warm weather arrives.

Types of Ferns

There are many, many types of ferns. Most fall into the categories of being evergreen or deciduous. Each will require slightly different care for the winter months. Your gardening zone is also a factor in the care of either type.

Some evergreen ferns thrive in climates as cold as zone 3. Others prefer warmer zones. Deciduous ferns are much the same, with different kinds suited to certain zones. Therefore, it is important for you to know what kind of fern you have as well as what zone you are in to determine the best winter care procedure to follow.

If you are unsure of your hardiness zone, try using the Zone Finder on LoveToKnow Garden’s Main Page. Simply type your zip code into the box near the top of the page and it will tell you your zone.

Winterizing Ferns Properly

Evergreen Ferns

Evergreen ferns are so named because they stay green in the winter providing they are growing in suitable zones. Their green foliage will actually die back in the spring. Depending on the variety, they may thrive in zones 3 through 10. Often, these ferns are used in flower arrangements to provide needed greenery.

An example of an evergreen fern is the Christmas fern. It grows well in zones 5 through 9. More evergreen ferns can be seen on the USDA website.

Winterizing evergreen ferns is simply a matter of making sure you have the right fern for your gardening zone. Grown in the correct climate, evergreen ferns will provide greenery during the winter months and can be trimmed back in the spring when old fronds look scraggly and new fronds are forming. Make sure roots are kept moist, watering the ground, not the fronds, if watering is necessary to keep it from drying out.

Deciduous Ferns

Deciduous ferns do not stay green in the winter. However, if you have chosen ferns suited to your zone, they will still survive the winter just fine. When fronds start dying back in the fall, cut them back. Ferns can be kept warm with a mulch covering for the winter months. You’ll see new fronds forming in the spring.

An example of a deciduous fern is the Western maidenhair. You can see more deciduous ferns at the Hardy Fern Foundation.

More on Winter Fern Care

Frequently, people will get plants not ideal for their particular garden zone. These people end up disappointed when their lovely plant dies in the winter. This is common with ferns, too. Winterizing ferns in this case is a bit different than for ferns in their proper growing zones.

The Boston fern, for example, does best in zones 8 through 11. Yet this fern is commonly purchased in colder zones in the summer for hanging pots. If you purchase a fern like this, realize that it will not survive outside during a harsh winter.

Your best bet is to bring a fern like this inside, place it near a bright window but away from heaters, and keep it moist. With care, you’ll be able to place your fern back outdoors come summer.

Autumn is fast approaching, and that means it’s time to divide, replant and save those massive ferns that have been growing wild on your porch and patio!

All too often, the end of a growing season spells the end for ferns as well.

As early fall approaches, many ferns purchased back in the spring have grown to epic size.

By late in the summer, many ferns purchased back in the spring have doubled in size.

Although incredibly beautiful with their massive fronds and foliage, most unfortunately have begun to outgrow their container.

And that spells several problems for the fern and it’s owner.

The Demise Of Fall Ferns

First and foremost, it can make watering a difficult task. The overgrown, root-bound soil is unable to absorb hardly any moisture when watered.

Any water simply goes directly past the plant’s roots, and right through the bottom of the basket or container.

Secondly, the plants have grown to such an enormous size, it’s difficult to to find space to bring them inside to overwinter.

Once a fern becomes root bound, it can be difficult to water and maintain. Dividing the fern is an excellent way to create new and healthier plants.

Sadly, both result in most ferns being tossed away for good.

But fortunately, it doesn’t have to end that way at all. And the process to save them is easier than you might think!

Over-sized ferns can actually be split in early fall to create smaller plants. Plants that can then be brought indoors to overwinter and use again next year.

Not only is it a great way to keep your fern plant alive, but a perfect way to create even more ferns for next year’s porch and patio!

And it can all be done with the 3 simple steps listed below.

Dividing Ferns In The Fall – 3 Simple Steps To Success

Step 1 : Removing And Dividing The Fern

Although ferns can be divided almost any time during the growing season, fall division allows you to create manageable-sized plants to overwinter indoors.

Begin by shearing back the fern to about an inch or two from it’s base.

A day or two before dividing your ferns, stop watering your plant. This will allow the roots to shrink a bit and make cutting a little easier and less messy.

Begin by trimming the entire plant back to a few inches of growth. This will allow for new growth to form faster, and make transplanting easier.

As a side note, the cut fronds are great to add to a compost pile.

Next, remove the fern from the container. Usually at this point of the year, it is as simple as turning over and pulling out. Ferns are tough and can handle a bit of tugging if necessary.

Remove the plant from the container. Most will pop out freely late in the season.

You many need to use a knife to cut free any roots that have grown through the bottom container holes to make removal easier.

Dividing The Fern

Using a sharp shovel or knife, (A Hori-Hori tool works wonders for dividing nearly any perennial plant), divide the root ball into equal portions to create new plants.

Taking a sharp shovel or cutting knife like a Hori-Hori, slice down to split the plant.

Most potted ferns can be quartered or cut into 3 equal pieces to create nice-sized transplants.

Re-Potting The Fern

Now it’s time to re-pot the plant.

Ferns do not do well when there is too much space, so keeping the new pots from being too big is important.

4 ferns created from dividing a single fern.

Plant your new divisions in containers that are a quarter to a third larger than the size of the plant’s root division for best results.

Fill the bottom of your container with a high quality potting mix and place the divided fern in the pot. Fill around the edges, gently firming the soil to the roots.

There is no need to fertilize ferns at this point. Ferns require little additional nutrients to thrive. And a good potting soil is contains more than enough to obtain good growth.

Re-pot after dividing the ferns in a good quality potting soil. Keep new containers to 1/4 to 1/3rd larger than the roots of the new plant.

In fact, too many nutrients can cause more issues to ferns than not enough.

Bringing Indoors

If done early enough in the fall and if temperatures are not freezing at night, place the plant in a shady area outdoors. The warmer weather will help start the new growth before having to bring indoors.

You will usually see new growth in a few weeks.

As soon as the threat of frost is in the forecast, it’s time for bringing them indoors. Do not worry if growth has not occurred yet. It will still continue to do so indoors.

Ferns overwinter and grow best indoors in moderate, indirect lighting.

A cool basement with indirect lighting from a basement well widow will work well. As will the corner of room that receives a bit of natural light from a nearby window.

Ferns overwinter indoors best in cool conditions with indirect light.

Avoid southern facing windows, or placing the plant directly in the window. Fern’s tender foliage can easily be burned from the combination of the sun’s rays and heat coming through the glass.

Ferns suffer more from over-watering indoors than from not enough. Only water when the soil completely dries out. See : Bringing Ferns Indoors For Winter

As spring rolls back around, take the plants back outside as soon as the threat of frost has passed.

Here is to keeping those beautiful summer fern baskets around for a few more years!

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I have a Boston fern and is has been outside all summer and has grown quit large. Can it be brought in for the winter? If so, how do I care for it inside? And how do I make sure it does not have bugs that will get into my other houseplants?

As the temperatures around the country begin to drop, many gardeners will be bringing their houseplants back indoors. A handy rule of thumb to remember is that when temperatures outside become similar to those inside your house, it’s a good time to make the transition.

When you bring your houseplants in you don’t want to bring in insects as well. To prevent this I spray them with an insecticide. I use an insecticidal soap because it is safer than others with harsh chemicals. I saturate the plant and always make sure to spray the underside of the leaves. After spraying, I leave the plants outside for two or three days, then give them one more check before I take them inside.

Keeping certain houseplants in good shape during the fall and winter can be quite a challenge. Some of the most difficult for me are the ferns, Boston ferns in particular. I love its delicate, fresh appearance but whenever I bring it inside it inevitably begins to shed its tiny leaves.

Now there’s really not much I can do about this. It’s basically just the nature of the plant, whether it’s inside or out. But what I can do is give it a good shake periodically and try to remove as many of the dead fronds as I can. Putting down some newspaper will always help make this process a little tidier.

I’ve found that no matter what houseplant you’re dealing with, you’ll have more success if the conditions inside can closely match the conditions it had become accustom to outside.

Most ferns need moderate, indirect light indoors. Never put them directly in a south or west facing window. The heat and intense light will scorch the leaves.

When it comes to moisture, watering is really no big deal, but humidity is another issue. This time of year when the air in our homes is becoming drier, lack of humidity can present a problem to the plant. One of the simplest ways to increase the moisture in the air immediately around the plant is to place the container on a saucer of gravel and water. Just make sure the bottom of the container is above the water line.

Autumn Fern Care: How To Grow Autumn Ferns In The Garden

Also known as Japanese shield fern or Japanese wood fern, autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) is a hardy plant suitable for growing as far north as USDA hardiness zone 5. Autumn ferns in the garden offer beauty throughout the growing season, emerging coppery red in spring, eventually maturing to a bright, glossy, kelly green by summer. Read on to learn how to grow autumn ferns.

Autumn Fern Info and Growing

Like all ferns, the autumn fern produces no seeds and no flowers are required. Thus, ferns are strictly foliage plants. This ancient woodland plant thrives in partial or full shade and moist, rich, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. However, autumn fern can tolerate short periods of afternoon sunlight, but won’t perform well in intense heat or prolonged sunlight.

Is autumn fern invasive? Although autumn fern is a non-native plant, it is not known to be invasive, and growing autumn ferns in gardens couldn’t be easier.

Adding a few inches of compost, peat moss or leaf mold to the soil at planting time will improve growing conditions and get the fern off to a healthy start.

Once established, autumn fern care is minimal. Basically, just provide water as needed so the soil never becomes bone dry, but be careful not to overwater.

Although fertilizer isn’t an absolute necessity and too much will damage the plant, autumn fern benefits from a light application of slow-release fertilizer just after growth appears in spring. Keep in mind that autumn fern is a naturally slow-growing plant.

Fall is a good time to apply an inch or two of compost or mulch, which will protect the roots from possible damage caused by freezing and thawing. Apply a fresh layer in spring.

Autumn fern tends to be disease resistant, although the plant may rot in soggy, poorly-drained soil. Pests are rarely a problem, with the exception of possible damage from slugs.

Autumn Fern

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Species: erythrosora

Other Species Names: Japanese Red Shield Fern

Plant Height: 18 in.

Spread: 18 in.

Evergreen: Yes

Plant Form: arching

Emergent Foliage Color: coral

Summer Foliage Color: forest green

Minimum Sunlight: shade

Maximum Sunlight: full sun

Ornamental Features

Autumn Fern’s attractive glossy ferny compound leaves emerge coral-pink in spring, turning forest green in color with prominent coppery-bronze tips the rest of the year. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Autumn Fern is a dense herbaceous evergreen fern with a shapely form and gracefully arching fronds. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect.This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and should be cut back in late fall in preparation for winter. Deer don’t particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics. Autumn Fern is recommended for the following landscape applications; Mass Planting, Rock/Alpine Gardens, Border Edging, General Garden Use, Groundcover, Naturalizing and Woodland Gardens

Planting & Growing

Autumn Fern will grow to be about 18 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 18 inches. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. It grows at a medium rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 15 years.This plant performs well in both part sun and full shade. It is quite adaptable, prefering to grow in average to wet conditions, and will even tolerate some standing water. It is particular about its soil conditions, with a strong preference for rich, acidic soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution, and will benefit from being planted in a relatively sheltered location. Consider applying a thick mulch around the root zone over the growing season to conserve soil moisture. This species is not originally from North America, and parts of it are known to be toxic to humans and animals, so care should be exercised in planting it around children and pets. It can be propagated by division.

Autumn Fern – Dryopteris erythrosora For Sale Affordable, Grower Direct Prices Tennessee Wholesale Nursery

The Autumn fern is hardy in zones 5-9. This colorful fern grows from two to three feet tall and spreads to about three feet wide. The Autumn fern grows to its mature size in five years. The plant prefers partial shade to shady areas in which to grow but can tolerate a little sun.

This unique fern remains an excellent choice when a landscape or garden needs a pop of color in a partially sunny to a shady area of the property. The plant is a semi-evergreen in the north and an evergreen in southern climates. If your garden requires a shade-loving ground cover, the Autumn fern remains an excellent choice.

Autumn fern remains very easy to grow in a perennial shade garden and adds a lovely lacy texture to the area where it is planted. During the springtime, Dryopteris brilliance adds a flashy golden orange color in its new growth. When the early spring new shoots mature, they turn a medium green hue with a red underside to the leaves. In the autumn, the foliage turns a stunning copper-red color. Several colors of fern occur at the same time, making the autumn fern an excellent choice for keeping your shade garden areas interesting throughout the year..

Buy Fast Growing Autumn Ferns

The Autumn fern’s fine texture combines well with other shade-loving plants such as hostas, heucheras or hydrangeas. And if you have issues with rabbits or deer eating your plants, choose an autumn fern for your garden, as both animals avoid the plant. The fern spreads slowly through spores and rhizomes. As long as the plant’s soil doesn’t become very dry, the autumn fern requires no specific care. Just put a little mild fertilizer around the plants in the spring, and a thin layer of mulch around the plants in the fall in colder climates. Autumn ferns are both disease and pest resistant.

Affordable Autumn Ferns For Every Landscape

Autumn Ferns

Autumn Ferns are a species of fern native to east Asia. These distinguished by the lovely bronze or copper color that they give off. Once these ferns mature, they become a beautiful shade of deep green. These ferns are a smaller species in the fern family and would be to be considered dwarf plants. You can expect your Autumn Fern to spread several feet on the ground and grow to be a foot or two in height. This type of fern species is low maintenance and commonly used for ground cover in landscaping. These plants require full shade and only need watering weekly. It is essential to keep the soil moist with this plant and avoid areas that receive too much sunlight. Other than weekly watering, Autumn Ferns require little additional maintenance. The appearance of the Autumn Fern makes them great for rustic or cottage landscape settings. They add a rustic and modern touch to the garden due to the copper hue. There are other plants that you can use to accent you Autumn Fern within your landscaping. These plants include Coral Bells and Hosta plants. Add a unique flair to your garden setting with the vibrant and rustic Autumn Fern. They are low maintenance, small, and perfect for ground cover.

Autumn Fern works well when used for boarders

Autumn Fern – Dryopteris erythrosora. The Autumn Fern, Japanese wood fern, or copper shield fern, native to East Asia from the Philippines north to Japan and China. The plant is a perennial evergreen, herbaceous fern, which grows best in zones 5 to 9 on the Hardiness Zone Map. The Autumn Fern is often used for landscaping and is favorite for its bright-green color that is sustained for most of the year.

Dryopteris erythrosora is an Award-winning plant, in states across the country. Some of the awards include, one of Top Ten Perennials by the Georgia Perennial Plant Association, Great Plant Picks for the Maritime Pacific Northwest, Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, as well as Florida Plant of the Decade.

Autumn Fern reaches about two feet in height, and one and a half feet in diameter at maturity

A real stand out for the plant is their coppery-red and green triangular fronds, also sometimes seen as a pink hue. The fronds turn to a solid green color, as the plant matures. Fortunately, new ferns shoot up through most of the season, giving us more time to enjoy the sea of colors. Upon maturity, the fronds curve from the center of the clump to form an elegant vase shape. They work well for borders and backgrounds, due to its horizontal growth and thick foliage.

Autumn Fern grows best in the shade with moist soil

The Autumn Fern is relatively easy to grow, but some basic knowledge is needed. For healthy vigorous growth, an organically rich acidic soil should be used. The soil needs to be moist, but also needs to drain well. Watering should take place often enough, to keep the soil moist throughout the year. The ferns need to be grown in partial to full shade; they cannot take full sunlight. Early morning indirect light or late evening may be tolerated.

Autumn Fern Ships as Bare Root

Fern, Autumn

How to Grow Fern Plants

  • Keep weeds under control during the fern growing season. Weeds compete with fern plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their germination.
  • Mulches can be used to help retain moisture in soil and maintain even soil temperatures. For perennials, an organic mulch of aged bark or shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
  • Careful watering is essential in getting fern perennials off to a good start. Water thoroughly at least once a week to help new roots grow down deeply. Soil should be damp at about 1 inch below the soil surface. You can check this by sticking your finger in the soil. Water early in the morning to give all leaves enough time to dry. One inch of rain or watering per week is recommended for most perennial plants. You can check to see if you need to add water by using a rain gauge.
  • Until the fern plants become established, some protection from extreme winds and direct, hot sunlight may be necessary. Good air movement is also important.
  • After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer, as higher rates may encourage root rots.
  • Ferns are low-maintenance plants, but they need a consistently moist soil in order to thrive, but do not leave ferns in standing water.

Dryopteris erythrosora Autumn Fern, Japanese Shield Fern, Japanese Wood Fern1

Edward F. Gilman2


This finely divided, dark green fern has a delicate appearance but is actually a very hardy survivor (Fig. 1). Its slowly spreading habit and ability to tolerate neglect make it an ideal candidate for use as a groundcover. This underutilized plant is one of the few ferns to have seasonal color value; the fronds appearing reddish when young. It combines well with Mahonia fortuneii and holly fern for a mixed planting in a shady location. It will grow to about 18 inches tall with single plants spreading no more than 24 inches.

Figure 1.

Autumn fern.

General Information

Scientific name: Dryopteris erythrosora Pronunciation: dry-OP-teer-iss air-rith-roe-SOR-uh Common name(s): autumn fern, Japanese shield fern, Japanese wood fern Family: Aspleniaceae Plant type: herbaceous; perennial USDA hardiness zones: 5 through 11 (Fig. 2) Planting month for zone 7: year round Planting month for zone 8: year round Planting month for zone 9: year round Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round Origin: not native to North America Uses: mass planting; edging Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant Figure 2.

Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 1 to 2 feet Spread: 1 to 2 feet Plant habit: upright Plant density: moderate Growth rate: slow Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: most emerge from the soil, usually without a stem Leaf type: bipinnately compound Leaf margin: lobed Leaf shape: oblong Leaf venation: pinnate; none, or difficult to see Leaf type and persistence: evergreen Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches Leaf color: purple or red Fall color: no fall color change Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: no flowers Flower characteristic: no flowers


Fruit shape: unknown Fruit length: unknown Fruit cover: unknown Fruit color: brown Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: not applicable Current year stem/twig color: not applicable Current year stem/twig thickness: not applicable


Light requirement: plant grows in the shade Soil tolerances: clay; sand; acidic; loam Soil salt tolerances: poor Plant spacing: 18 to 24 inches


Roots: not applicable Winter interest: no special winter interest Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more Invasive potential: not known to be invasive Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Requiring shady conditions, autumn fern grows in any good forest loam and has good drought tolerance. It can withstand an hour or two of direct sun. California ratings state autumn fern is accepting of temperatures ranging from 109°F down to 3°F. Its slow growth habit makes the plant expensive to purchase but it is well worth it. This is truly a no-maintenance plant. Plant on 12- to 18-inch-centers to establish a solid ground cover. Fronds can be cut and used in vases for indoor greenery but will last only three or four days.

Propagation is by division or by spores.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.


This document is FPS189, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.

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