- Sensitive Fern-Onoclea Sensibilis Hardy Planting Zones-4-9 Sun or Shade-Part Sun/Full Shade Mature Height-36" Mature Width-48" Bloom Season-Summer (May to August) Gardener Status-Beginner
Sensitive Fern - Onoclea sensibilis
The sensitive fern can grow up to 4 feet tall with bright green fronds. They grow best in rich, organic, and moist soil but can grow in garden soil if it is not allowed to dry out. This perennial fern thrives where conditions are shady or part shady as long as there is no standing water. Sensitive fern is native to the American South, where it provides lush ground cover in the summer months. It is a non-flowering plant that requires little maintenance, other than frequent watering. Many growers find the plant well-suited for a rain garden. It is also grown successfully in ditches, woodland edges, along ponds or creeks, in natural gardens and other areas that receive moisture. Another benefit provided by this lush plant is its ability to crowd out weeds. The foliage is both green and brown. The vibrant green foliage features triangular leaves with a distinctive netted pattern. The leaves branch out from lush fronds that are 2 to 4 inches long. The brown foliage is woody and appears highly segmented. This is the fertile part of the plant, where the spores emerge. It is this portion of the plant that survives throughout the winter months, while the sensitive green foliage dies back. The remaining woody segments provide a garden with some winter interest and remind a grower that abundant vegetation will return in the spring and summer. The plants are slow-growing but can be planted in mass in prepared soils where they will fill out the area. Described as an elegant ground cover, sensitive fern grows in areas where other plants fail to thrive. Gardeners looking to fill in moist or shaded areas with a soothing green will find that sensitive fern meets their needs. Other growers have seen the delicate fronds provide a contrast to sturdy, broad-leafed ground covers and spreading plants.