Onoclea sensibilis

Sensitive fern

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Key information

Plant type

Hardy perennial


Autumn colour



Skill level


photo by Howard Rice, copyright GAP Photos (28434)

Plant details

The sensitive fern has attractive foliage which, when it emerges in spring, is often attractively tinted pinkish-bronze. The leaves die off naturally in autumn, turning brown but retaining their shape. For this reason, do not cut them down until spring, as they provide a winter feature. Plants spread and form leafy ground cover about 45cm (18in) high, ideal in light dappled woodland, in large borders or in moist soil on the shady side of wild or water gardens. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Family: Woodsiaceae

Genus: Onoclea

Species: sensibilis

Plant type: Hardy perennial

Foliage colour: Light green

Feature: Autumn colour

Sun exposure: Partial shade, Shade

Soil: Acidic, Moist

Hardiness: Hardy

Skill level: Beginner

Height: 60cm

Spread: 100cm

Time to divide plants: March to May

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