Polystichum setiferum Divisilobum Group

soft shield fern

Outstanding Qualities

Plants in the Polystichum setiferum Divisilobum Group are some of the most architecturally interesting evergreen ferns for the woodland garden. The finely dissected evergreen fronds arch gracefully, creating mounded plants. As the fronds arch, they also appear to swirl around the center of the plant, creating a whirlwind effect. The soft green foliage looks good throughout the season and almost asks to be touched. Soft shield ferns can be planted singly with other woodland perennials or used as a mass planting to soften a large area. They also combine well with hellebores, hostas, wild gingers (Asarum), Brunnera macrophylla, and epimediums. Members of the Polystichum setiferum Divisilobum Group contrast well with broadleaf evergreen shrubs such as sarcococcas and rhododendrons. They can also be sited among rocks or logs to bring attention to their unusual foliage.

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: silver, gold, blue

Great Color Partners: variegated, chartreuse

Culture Notes

This fern grows best in rich moist to well-drained soil, but will tolerate sand or clay. Once established it will tolerate occasional watering during dry weather, but regular watering may be necessary for plants in sandy soils. This fern grows well in light to deep shade. Too much sun will cause the fronds to yellow. Though it is evergreen the fronds should be cut down in late February or March, before the new fronds emerge.

© Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Quick Facts

Plant Type: fern

Foliage Type: evergreen

Plant Height: 2 ft. 0 in. (0.61 m.)

Plant Width/Spread: 2 ft. 0 in. (0.61 m.)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 to 9

Flower Color: none

Sun/Light Exposure: light to deep shade

Water Requirements: occasional watering