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Deciduous Dryopteris

Common name: Wood fern, buckler fern, male fern

Deciduous Dryopteris help provide valuable seasonal interest in shady areas of the garden. Many have attractive and interesting unfurling fronds (stems and leaves) that provide spring interest. Deciduous Dryopteris can be grown alongside other seasonal shade-loving plants such as snowdrops, crocus and hellebores to create a delightful woodland scene.


These ferns produce a sheaf of bright green, triangular fronds emerges from below ground in early spring. In several forms, the leaves are crested or feathery texture. The leaves of deciduous Dryopteris will fade to brown in winter and can be removed when they look untidy or before the new growth appears in spring.


These ferns like moist soil in shade. They appreciate annual applications organic material, such as well-rotted garden compost, in late winter for few years after planting. Once established, they 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 can be more tolerant of sun and exposure.

Did you know?

The spring unfurling fern growth which is so characteristic of many decidious ferns are known as croziers, named after the curved staff used by bishops, which has its origins in the shepherd's crook.

Growing guide

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