© RHS / Tim Sandall



Common name: Wood fern, buckler fern

Perfect for any shade planting, these ferns are easy to grow and many will cope with dry shade once established. An excellent foil to other plants, they have a quiet charm all of their own when the fronds unfurl in spring to reveal the fresh, divided foliage. There are many attractive forms available.


The leaves form a shuttlecock-like, sheaf of bright green, triangular fronds. These emerge from below ground in early spring. In several forms, the fronds are crested or have a feathery appearance. 


These ferns like moist soil in shade and appreciate yearly applications of garden compost or other organic material the first few years after planting. Once established, some can tolerate drier soil.


Full sun in summer can scorch these plants. An open site exposed to strong winds (especially if frost-laden) can damage young growth. Some species are more tolerant of sun and exposure, such as the male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas).

Did you know?

Ferns grow from spores, not seeds. Various shaped swellings (sori) containing the spores can be seen on the undersides of fronds and can be used by to help identify different fern groups.

Growing guide

Discover Dryopteris

Evergreen & Semi-Evergreen Dryopteris

Deciduous Dryopteris

Dryopteris we recommend

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Useful advice

Shade gardening

Shade gardening

Shade planting: annuals, bulbs and perennials

Shade planting: annuals, bulbs and perennials

Wet and dry soils: plants for

Wet and dry soils: plants for

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