Osmunda regalis

royal fern

  • © Sue Olsen

Outstanding Qualities

Royal fern (or regal fern) is a handsome, majestic garden fern with large, rather coarse foliage. It is one of the largest of the temperate ferns, growing as tall as 6 feet, with an upright, vase shape. Its bold fronds provide contrast when placed with other ferns and perennials. When the fronds unfurl in spring, they are bright green and they hold that shade all summer. At maturity these sterile fronds are tipped with tassle-like fertile (spore-bearing) leaflets. In autumn their bright green fades to tones of gold and russet. In addition to being ornamental, royal fern's "roots" are used commercially in orchid potting mixes.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: fern

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 5 ft. 0 in. (1.52 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 6 ft. 0 in. (1.83 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9

Flower Color: none

Sun/Light Exposure: light to open shade or full sun if in a constantly moist location

Water Requirements: frequent watering on drier sites, less so on moist sites

Resistant to: deer

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: burgundy, gold, variegated

Great Color Partners: dark green, blue

Culture Notes
Royal fern grows best in light to open shade. It prefers a rich moist to well drained soil and will tolerate sand, clay or wet sites. It can be grown in full sun if the soil is constantly moist. In too much shade the fronds tend to collapse and flop by mid summer. Cut to the ground in autumn once the fall color has faded.