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Botanical name: Polystichum

Common name: Shield fern

These handsome ferns are mainly evergreen and will give you interest in the garden throughout the year. Use them in a shady spot under trees or around large shrubs. They can also be used in shady or semi-shady borders for foliage interest or to contrast with plants such as hostas. They are among the hardiest of all ferns you can grow in gardens.


Firm, triangular mid to deep green fronds can be leathery and shiny or softer and more lace-like in appearance. They often arch towards the tips. New fronds in spring are often covered in silvery scales.


These ferns grow well in partial to deep shade and like soil that holds moisture without being waterlogged. Some polystichum can tolerate dry soil once established, if kept well watered after initial planting. They like to have an organic mulch such as leaf or garden compost to help condition the soil.


They will struggle to establish well in dry soils, particularly those with low levels of organic matter. The ferns foliage can scorch, turning brown if exposed to full sun conditions.

Did you know?

The origin of the name Polystichum is from the Greek poly meaning 'many' and stichum meaning 'stiches', referring to the embroidered pattern of the spore cases on the underside of the leaves.

Growing guide

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