Ostrich FernMatteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica
View more from Ferns
30 day - ARRIVE AND THRIVE™ guaranteeLearn more
Matteuccia struthiopteris var. pensylvanica
Outdoor Growing zone
The Ostrich Fern, or Shuttlecock Fern, is a wonderful addition to the shady parts of your garden, bringing a lush look to empty places and perfect by water and in woodland gardens. Perfect complement to shade garden shrubs like azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias. Growing about 4 feet tall, and sometimes up to 6 feet, the bold, bright green fronds rise up in an open circle, forming a dense clump in time. Spreading slowly, but not invasive, this beautiful native plant makes everywhere look rich and full, even where nothing else will grow. In summer shorter brown ‘seed’ or fertile fronds grow like clenched hands in the center of the plant, and if these are left they make a handsome winter decoration.
Grow the Ostrich Fern in any shady place – in cold zones it will take morning sun easily. Plant beneath trees or beside water in damp to wet soils that are rich and always moist. Water regularly in summer. Cut off green fronds once they yellow, leaving the brown fronds for winter decoration. Deer leave it alone, it doesn’t have pests or diseases, and this native plant is a great addition to any style of garden.
The Ostrich Fern is often seen in older gardens – it has been popular for many, many years. A popular, established plant is almost always one that must be easy to grow, and that is certainly true of the Ostrich Fern, which is a great ‘first try’ at growing ferns if you aren’t already growing them. It is also one of the most handsome ferns, especially in spring, when the uncurling fronds and new growth have an amazing beauty that isn’t equaled by more exotic alternatives. A native plant, it was probably first dug up and brought into gardens, but today we would never do that, of course. If you have wilder parts of your garden, and grow native plants, then this one is an obvious choice for your garden. Even if you don’t have any special feelings about native plants, this is a great ferns, a beautiful one, and one that should be in every garden. Ferns bring unique beauty and completion to the shadier parts of your garden, and they are the perfect solution when your garden begins to have more shade from growing trees, or if you already have a shady garden that has bare areas that would look so much better filled.
The Ostrich Fern is a deciduous fern that produces two distinct types of fronds (leaves). In spring the round, hard base sends out a circle of new leaves. These grow up with a striking look, like the head of a long-necked bird, slowly unfolding. This is why this plant is called ‘ostrich’. The ferns expand to become a central stem carrying many side stems that carry the small leaflets. The overall shape of a fully-expanded leaf is a long oval, with a classic ‘ferny’ look. The leaves are typically about 3 feet long, but in ideal conditions older plants can have leaves over 5 feet long, creating a spectacular look. Later, in late summer and fall, but not at all on very young plants, different looking fronds grow up. These are called ‘fertile’ fronds because they carry the spores that ferns use instead of seeds to reproduce – since they have no flowers of course. The fertile fronds are shorter, no more than 2 feet tall, and they have a gnarled look, and are brown, not green. They remain through winter, while the green, ‘sterile’ fronds turn lovely shades of yellow in fall, and then wither and collapse.
The Ostrich Fern grows best in light full shade, and it is very tolerant even of dark areas, although the growth may be a little weaker. It grows in any moist soil, and even in wet soils, but doesn’t tolerate dryness very well. If your garden is moist through spring and early summer, and then drier later, this fern will generally be fine, even if it withers early from dryness – it usually comes back strongly the next spring and makes a good display. Grow it in any shady area, alone as a tall ground cover, or behind Hosta, Astilbe and with other shade-loving plants. Grow it near water and beside streams, and on the shady side of your home.
The Ostrich Fern is especially valuable to gardeners in colder areas, thriving right through zone 3 and happy in zones 4, 5 and 6. It will also grow in zone 7 in good, moist soil and full shade, but not so well in warmer areas.
Plant the Ostrich Fern in areas that are lightly to moderately shaded – it doesn’t enjoy more than a glimmer of early morning sun, although it may take some sun in zone 3. It grows best in richer soils that are moist or even wet, but not actually in water. If you water regularly, or live where it often rains, then you can grow it in more ordinary garden soils, but the best results come from growing in richer earth of any kind.
Forget about rabbits or deer bothering the Ostrich Fern, and it doesn’t have any important pests or diseases either, so it’s very easy to grow. Water as needed, and mulch in spring – rotted leaves and garden debris from the previous fall are perfect, or compost. All you need to do is remove the dead fronds in fall. Many people like to leave the fertile fronds for interesting winter decoration, and then cut them off in spring before the new growth begins – or they can be removed in fall.
The Ostrich Fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris is very widespread throughout the northern hemisphere. It can be found in Europe and all the way east to China. The unique nature of this fern means it is the only species in the genus Matteuccia, and the name struthiopteris comes from the Greek strouthíōn (στρουθίων) which means ‘ostrich’. The species is however divided into different varieties, based chiefly on where it is growing, and there is a variety that grows in North America, called pensylvanica. This is the plant normally grown here.
The Ostrich Fern is so striking and unique it should be grown in every shady garden. Popular because it is easy, it’s a fern everyone loves and admires. That’s why our stock runs out fast, and why you should order right away while we can still fill your needs.