Onoclea sensibilis

Sensitive fern

CODE: 080-0001
ZONE: 3a
PRICE: $8.00
POT SIZE: 4.5"sq x 5.0", 1004 ml

Sensitive fern is probably one of the coarsest ferns that you can find for a garden (excepting some of the holly ferns), but it definitely has character and charm. It's named for its sensitive reaction to the first autumn frost, when the entire plant turns black and crispy like the ashes left after burning a piece of newspaper.

That hardly sounds attractive (although, strangely, I like it), so let's focus on the ornamental qualities of this fern. Growing up to 4' in height, it consists of large, flat bright green fronds that tumble outward from the plants base. They make a stunning backdrop for other plants, and I love the irregular angles and shadows created by the leaves.

It's best grown in moist to wet soils with decent organic material, but it will grow just about anywhere as long as it doesn't dry out. It will slowly colonize via rhizomes and spores if conditions are right.

Try planting it behind Tricyrtis, Carex 'Ice Dance', Arisaema triphyllum, or Actaea rubra.

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(c) 2007 Christopher P. Lindsey