Fortunes Holly FernCyrtomium fortunei
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Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
Fortune’s Holly Fern grows quickly into a clump of bold, arching leaves that have long, scythe-shaped leaflets along a central stem. It is evergreen except in the coldest zones, and it is more cold-resistant than the Japanese holly fern. The leaves are 2 or 3 feet long, and up to 4 feet on older plants in ideal conditions. Their glossy surface makes them attractive and showy, adding richness and warm green to shady beds in your garden. Grow with other shade-loving plants like Hosta to brighten dark beds. This fern can also be grown as a houseplant in cool rooms and porches.
Partial to full shade is perfect for Fortune’s Holly Fern, or a little morning sun in cooler zones. It grows easily in most soils, preferring rich, fibrous soils that are moist but not constantly flooded. Easy to grow, it is less prone to irreversible shriveling if too dry, and it isn’t bothered by pests or diseases. In cold zones remove winter-damaged leaves in early spring – new growth will quickly replace them.
If you aren’t already growing ferns in your garden, you really should be. These unique foliage plants are unbeatable for shady parts of a garden – something every garden has. They might be ‘just leaves’, but there is an infinite range of shapes and sizes to choose from, so when you see ‘shade’, think ‘ferns’. In warmer areas evergreen ferns mean color all year round, and one of the best and easiest is one we are fortunate enough to have found for you – Fortune’s Holly Fern. This lovely plant has leaves that are bolder and more assertive than our ideas of ‘ferny’, and the glossy leaves have long, curving leaflets that look a bit like those old-fashioned scythes once used for mowing fields. It grows to about 3 feet tall – big enough to make a statement, but not enough to take over – and it is easy to grow and a little less damaged by occasional dryness than many other ferns. This is the most cold-resistant of the different holly ferns, growing well in zone 5, and even staying semi-evergreen with good snow cover.
Fortune’s Holly Fern is a fast-growing evergreen fern that can be semi-deciduous in cold zones. It produces a clump of long, upright leaves, between 1 and 3 feet long, depending on the growing conditions. In ideal conditions, older plants may produce leaves as long as 4 feet. These radiate out from a central crown, forming a dense clump of foliage. Each leaf has a dark central stem, with many leaflets all along its length. Each leaflet is 2 or 3 inches long, with wavy edges and a top that curves sharply up towards the top of the leaf. New leaves are bright green, darkening a little as they mature, with an attractive glossy surface. Older stems may have clusters of dark-brown spores on the underside of the leaflets – ferns do not produce flowers, but grow from these dust-like spores.
With great tolerance for full shade, Fortune’s Holly Fern is a winner in all your shady beds. Grow it with Hosta and other shade plants, to edge a path or fill in bare spaces with handsome, year-round foliage. In warmer zones it can be grown in a pot outdoors all year, and even as an indoor plant in cool rooms, like bathrooms and porches.
Fortune’s Holly Fern is the most cold-resistant of all the holly ferns, and it survives well in zone 5, and grows in all zones in warmer parts of the country. In zones 4, 5 and 6 it may have some winter damage, depending on the location, winter weather and the degree of snow cover. If the leaves are unsightly in spring, simply trim them off and new ones quickly grow to replace them.
Grow this fern in partial shade or full shade. It will grow in all but the very darkest spots in your garden, as long as the soil is not too dry. It does well in cooler zones with morning sun and afternoon shade. It grows in most soils, preferring acidic soils but happy in all but extreme alkaline ones. Richer, moist soils are best, but avoid saturated ground that is always wet.
The great thing about Fortune’s Holly Fern is how little care it needs. A spring cleanup, removing any older and damaged leaves is all it takes. Even if you cut off all the leaves in spring it quickly re-sprouts and looks better than ever. This fern will ‘warn’ you when it is getting dry, by the leaves lying down instead of standing upright. If you act quickly it will revive without damage, unlike more delicate ferns that shrivel and brown.
Fortune’s Holly Fern, Cyrtomium fortunei, is one of up to 35 species of holly ferns. It grows wild from India and Bhutan all across China to Thailand and north to Korea, typically by streams and on moist, rocky banks. The most widely-grown holly fern in gardens is the Japanese holly fern, Crytomium falcatum, but that plant is only hardy to zone 7, so Fortune’s Holly Fern is a good replacement in colder zones. Fortune’s Holly Fern was first described in 1866 by the botanist John Smith. He was the first curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, outside London, England. He was important for encouraging the growing of ferns, part of the huge interest in them that developed in the 19th century. He probably named this plant after the Scottish botanist and collector of plants from China, Robert Fortune.
Ferns are such valuable plants in the garden, and for colder gardens evergreen ferns are not so common. That’s why Fortune’s Holly Fern is so desirable and popular. Order your plants now, while our supplies remain available, as ferns are always in high demand from smart gardeners.