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.
Colors & Combos
Great Color Contrasts: silver, gold, blue
Great Color Partners: variegated, chartreuse
Culture NotesSword 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.
© Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks
Plant Type: fern
Foliage Type: evergreen
Plant Height: 3 ft. 0 in. (0.91 m.)
Plant Width/Spread: 3 ft. 0 in. (0.91 m.)
Hardiness: USDA Zones 3 to 8
Flower Color: none
Sun/Light Exposure: light to deep shade
Water Requirements: drought tolerant when established