Gymnocarpium disjunctum

common oak fern

Outstanding Qualities

A charming deciduous woodland native Gymnocarpium dryopteris, makes a tough yet delicate groundcover. Our western variant has recently been reclassified as Gymnocarpium disjunctum, but it is still almost always sold under the older name. The new fronds emerge in spring a fresh apple-green holding this bright color until they collapse in late summer to early fall. The paler tones help to brighten shady areas that can seem so dark during the summer months. Give oak fern ample space to spread its thin underground stems. It will mix and weave through other taller plantings creating a tapestry of textures. Combine with taller evergreen ferns like our native sword fern, Polystichum munitum or use as a groundcover under rhododendrons. Under-plantings of Cyclamen hederifolium combine well with oak fern. The flowers and foliage of the bulb re-grow in late summer/ early fall after the fern has been cut back in late August.

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: silver, cream, variegated

Great Color Partners: dark green, bronze

Culture Notes

This fern grows best in rich moist to well-drained soil, but will tolerate sand or clay. Although this fern is drought tolerant it appreciates occasional watering during dry weather to keep the fronds looking their best. This fern grows well in light to deep shade. Oak fern will often start to look tired in the heat of August. It can be cut back in late summer to tidy the bed.

© Richie Steffen / Great Plant Picks

Quick Facts

Plant Type: fern

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 0 ft. 10 in. (0.24 m.)

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

Hardiness: USDA Zones 2 to 8

Flower Color: none

Sun/Light Exposure: light to deep shade

Water Requirements: occasional watering during dry weather