Autumn Fern

Dryopteris erythrosora

Autumn Fern

Dryopteris erythrosora

This product is currently out of stock and unavailable.


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


Fall arrives in spring with the Autumn Fern, or at least it can look that way. The coppery tints of the new fronds that rise from the center in spring do have a suggestion of fall, but the rich green of the evergreen foliage says summer all year. A classic fern with 2-foot long triangular fronds with a central stalk carrying many small leaflets growing sideways, these begin as curious clenched stalks that gradually uncurl, beginning coppery bronze and then turning bright green by early summer. A perfect medium-sized fern for planting in damp soil anywhere, it’s more sun-tolerant than many ferns, so it’s ideal for those spots that receive some sun each day. Grow it beneath trees, by water, along a shady walk or in woodlands. In fall turn over a mature frond to see the red spore cases that give this plant its botanical name. This is not a native fern of North America.

  • Copper-tinted new spring fronds
  • Bold, rich green evergreen foliage
  • More sun tolerant than many ferns
  • Untouched by deer or rabbits
  • Red spore capsules under mature leaves

Plant the Autumn Fern in all light levels, because it is more tolerant of direct sun than many other ferns are. Needs extra water when growing in sun. It will grow well in dappled shade beneath trees, and even in deeper full shade if the soil is not dry. Plant in moist, well-drained soil with plenty of organic material, such as rotted leaves or compost added. Water new plants generously and often, until they are well-established. Normally free of pests and diseases, and left alone by deer and rabbits. Remove any old damaged fronds in spring when you see new growth emerging.

Plant Hardiness Zones 5-8
Mature Width 1.5-2
Mature Height 1.5-2
Sun Needs Full Sun, Partial Sun, Shade
Zones 5-8

Ferns are so beautiful, but let’s be honest, not all of them are so easy to grow, needing very frequent and careful watering and attention to succeed. That doesn’t mean you should give up, though, because not all ferns are difficult. The Autumn Fern is one of the easiest, and most satisfying, to grow. Yes, it does like moisture and shade, but it is more tolerant of drier soil for longer than almost all others, and that gives you a big step-up for success. Often as gardens mature and develop, shade increases and we want plants that will grow in it. Fill those shady parts of your garden with a profusion of ferns and it will become a magical place to walk through and enjoy. These plants may not bloom, but they have their own unique beauty, and plants like the Autumn Fern also bring color (besides green), because in spring the new fronds are a gorgeous and brilliant shade of coppery red. As they mature they gradually become green, so there is lots to see and admire in this great, easy-care fern.

Growing the Autumn Fern

Size and Appearance

The Autumn Fern is a fern that is evergreen in warmer areas, and semi-evergreen in cooler ones, meaning that some fronds will die over winter, but not all of them. It produces a clump of upright fronds (leaves) that arch over toward the end. They are up to 30 inches long, but with arching the clump stands about 2 feet tall and wide. In time new clusters of leaves sprout around it, forming a dense, larger cluster, but this plant is not invasive. The leaves are shaped like long triangles on a bare lower stem, with side stems growing out at 90 degrees to the main stem. Along these are many tiny rectangular leaflets, creating a classic ‘fern’ look to this plant. New leaves in spring are coppery red as they unfurl and develop, making this plant striking and colorful in spring, and a great garden choice. Gradually the leaves turn green, passing through many shades to get there. In winter the leaves stay green, so don’t cut them down unless they are dead. If you turn over an older frond in late summer you will see red spots neatly arranged along the underside of the smaller leaflets. These are the spore-producing areas, called sori, because of course ferns don’t flower, but spread through these spores. The bright red color of the cover of these spots – called an inducium – is a secret touch that adds to the special beauty of this plant.

Using the Autumn Fern in Your Garden

Because this fern is able to take drier conditions than many others, as well as some direct sun, it’s a valuable choice for ferns where you might have slightly drier soil. It’s a great ground cover for shady areas, under deciduous trees. Use it to line a shady path, or mix it with other shade-loving plants such as Hosta or Astilbe. Grow it too near, but not in, ponds, streams and lake frontages.


The Autumn Fern grows easily in most areas, all the way from zone 5 into zone 8. In colder zones it will lose some leaves in winter, but in warmer places it is evergreen. Don’t worry about dead leaves – just trim them off in spring and new leaves will come quickly. The coppery-red coloring of the new leaves actually looks even more impressive when not partially hidden by existing green leaves.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

The Autumn Fern will take a little morning sun, especially in colder zones, but it needs at least afternoon shade, and in most areas it should be grown in light full shade – the dappled shade produced by large deciduous trees is an ideal environment for it. In heavier shade, such as beneath evergreen trees, it will not grow as densely, and spring colors may be softer too. It doesn’t need especially moist soil, it will grow in most ordinary soils, but of course it will be more lush and full in damp, but not wet, soils with plenty of compost worked into them. Water new plants frequently, until they are well-established – then they will be more resistant to drier soil.

Maintenance and Pruning

There are no significant pests or diseases on the Autumn Fern, and it isn’t eaten by rabbits and normally left alone by deer too. A mulch with rotted leaves in spring – even the chopped up dead fronds are good – or some compost is great, and you can use half-strength liquid fertilizer for general garden plants too, especially if your soil is not so great. You just need to remove any dead fronds in spring, for neatness – that’s it, so this plant is super low-maintenance.

History and Origin of the Autumn Fern

The Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora, is sometimes called Japanese shield fern. The name ‘erythosora’ is given it because of those special red sori (spore clusters) that are on the undersides of the leaves. It can be found growing wild in Japan and Korea, as well as across much of China. That attractive spring color is normal, not something special for gardens. This plant was given its current name by the German botanist Otto Kuntze, who traveled around the world collecting plants between 1874 and 1876. He eventually published information about the almost 8,000 plants he collected in a revolutionary new system, called Revisio Generum Plantarum (1891). The book was a major break in the system of naming plants, not resolved until 1930.

Buying the Autumn Fern at the Tree Center

If you aren’t growing a variety of ferns in your garden, you are missing out on the wonderful look and visual variety they bring. If you have had problems with ferns in the past, perhaps with too much sun or dryness, plant the Autumn Fern. It is tougher and easier to grow than many, and a great choice – order right away while we still have plants available.

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Autumn Fern

Dryopteris erythrosora