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Polystichum aculeatum

Hard shield fern

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Key information

Plant type

Hardy perennial


Dramatic foliage



Skill level


photo by Maddie Thornhill, copyright GAP Photos (64337)

Plant details

An evergreen fern, this has tapering, ladder-like leaves, with each leaflet subdivided to give a finely cut, feathery appearance. This is a beautifully textured plant that associates brilliantly with Solomon's seal, variegated hostas and astilbes in light shade in a border, or with rhododendrons, camellias and Japanese maples in light woodland. It looks especially good with corydalis rambling through it. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Family: Dryopteridaceae

Genus: Polystichum

Species: aculeatum

Plant type: Hardy perennial

Foliage colour: Dark green

Feature: Dramatic foliage

Sun exposure: Partial shade, Shade

Soil: Well-drained/light, Moist

Hardiness: Hardy

Skill level: Beginner

Height: 45cm

Spread: 90cm

Time to divide plants: March to May

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