Thursday, March 12, 2020

Plant of the Week: Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum)

This week's pick is the Western Sword Fern. If you live here in western Oregon or anywhere along the northwestern shores of the continent, I'm sure you're familiar with this native fern. It's a common thing indeed, carpeting forest floors and shady roadsides. I've always loved it so when we moved here back in 1997, I made sure to bring along several clumps from our previous home which, conveniently was in a forest.

Those original ferns have grown and made lots of baby ferns and now I have more than I need or want but I'd rather have too many than not enough. I mean, who can kill a cute little baby fern like this?

Baby Sword fern.

Another one

These ferns love to assign themselves as under-story plants on the ground or in containers and on rocks and between pavers, basically anywhere that is moist and shady. 

These ferns anchored themselves right here with no help from me.
The one growing in this fern table I made a few years ago is almost too big now.
The one growing in this container with an Aucuba is happy too.
The one growing in this hanging basket is looking a little tattered.
The ones in my woodland area are a little too crowded.

The reason I chose the Western Sword Fern this week is because mid-March is the time to cut off the old growth fronds. I've found that removing them before the new ones unfurl is much easier than waiting and having to be super careful not to cut off the new growth.

These brown fronds are what happens when we don't cut them off.

If you look in the center of the fern, the new furry fronds are about to unfurl.

This fern has been cut back. The hidden fronds will unfurl any day now.
Can you see my clippers hiding in this pile?

Other than cutting back the old fronds, this fern has no other needs and is probably the most carefree plant you can grow. Planted in full to part shade, with moisture until established, there is nothing else to do except stand back and admire.

The fern in this pot is growing with a still-dormant hosta.
So much promise!
Total cuteness!
And while you're fussing over the more fussy plants in the garden, the Western Sword Fern will just sit there with its unobtrusive beauty, complementing its neighbors. 

This is what happens when we allow our ferns to do their willy-nilly procreating.
Are you growing the Western Sword Fern?

1 comment:

  1. They're often seen as pesky weeds here but I like them. Mine have crept in under the fence from the neighbor's property. They can get homely during our long dry period from April through October but I just cut them back and wait for them to reappear with the rain.


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