Polystichum munitum

sword fern

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

  • © Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Outstanding Qualities

This is one of our most useful native ferns and a staple in the Northwest garden. Sword fern is tolerant of a wide range of soil types and sun exposures, from wet to dry, sun to shade. It is one of the few plants that will tolerate dry shade under the dense growth of Douglas firs and western red cedars. Sword fern is evergreen and forms a shapely, arching mound. It is effective as a specimen and equally beautiful massed as a tall groundcover. Sword ferns look terrific with Smilacina racemosa (False Solomon's Seal), Lathyrus vernus (spring vetchling), Asarum europaeum (European wild ginger) and rhododendrons.

Quick Facts

Plant Type: fern

Foliage Type: evergreen

Plant Height: 3 ft. 0 in. (0.91 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 3 ft. 0 in. (0.91 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 8

Flower Color: none

Sun/Light Exposure: light to deep shade

Water Requirements: drought tolerant when established

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: silver, gold, blue

Great Color Partners: variegated, chartreuse

Culture Notes
Sword fern grows best in light to deep shade, but will grow in full sun if watered regularly in summer. Plant in well-drained, humus-rich soil, and water occasionally during dry periods; however, these ferns will tolerate poorer soil and dry conditions once established. Plants that are flourishing can be cut back to the ground in late winter. Plants that are growing in poor or dry soil should only be cut back about every three years.