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Polystichum setiferum

Soft shield fern

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Key information

Plant type

Hardy perennial


Dramatic foliage



Skill level


photo by Elke Borkowski, copyright GAP Photos (87565)

Plant details

A European and British native, this fern makes a shuttlecock shape when young, with soft, evergreen, dark green fronds, but gradually the plants lose their distinctive, individual shape as they clump up. Very effective in damp, shady corners, but can also be grown in pots in alleys, for example, leading from the back door to the garden. There are scores of cultivars, with 'Divisilobum Densum' and 'Divisilobum Iveryanum' the pick of a big and varied bunch. It has been given the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS.

Family: Dryopteridaceae

Genus: Polystichum

Species: setiferum

Plant type: Hardy perennial

Foliage colour: Mid-green

Feature: Dramatic foliage

Sun exposure: Partial shade, Shade

Soil: Well-drained/light, Dry, Moist

Hardiness: Hardy

Skill level: Beginner

Height: 120cm

Spread: 90cm

Time to divide plants: April to April

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