Polystichum setiferum

Soft shield fern

Fern Facts


Hardiness (USDA zones): 5-8

Size: 2' - 3'

Size (cm): 61cm-91cm

Height and Spread: Medium - 1' to 3' in height or spread in 5 years

Light Requirements: Deep shade tolerant

Garden Use: Containers

Origin: Britain, Europe


This busy fern is the parent of a slew of cultivars, given its tendency to extreme variability in its frond configurations.  Soft to the touch, when its lax form stretches out silvery croziers it looks like it’s just begging to be petted!  Enjoys moist, well-draining soils in light shade.  

The queen of all ferns, Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumosomultilobum’ graces your garden with an elegant, lacey appearance reminiscent of the Victorian times in which it was first discovered. This perennial evergreen fern forms a layered mound to about 18 inches tall and about 24 inches wide. The extremely finely cut, fluffy fronds have a soft, delicate texture when fully mature. Older plants produce fronds so finely divided they resemble a slab of moss. A cool feature of this fern is that the fronds curve outwards from the center of the plant — from above this resembles a whirlwind! Talk about adding movement to the garden — this fern has it covered.

This fern grows best in rich moist to well-drained soil, but will tolerate sand or clay. Once established it will tolerate occasional watering during dry weather, but regular watering may be necessary for plants in sandy soils. This fern grows well in light to deep shade. Too much sun will cause the fronds to yellow. Though it is evergreen the fronds should be cut down in late February or March, before the new fronds emerge. ~ Compliments of Great Plant Picks

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