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Lady Fern

Athyrium filix-femina

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Plant Profile

Athyriaceae (Lady Ferns)
Also in this family:
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Gardens, hedgerows, riversides, rocky places, towns, waterside, woodland.
Flowerless. Ferns reproduce by means of spores.
Yellow spores, appearing between August and November.
A deciduous clump-forming fern. Light yellowish-green fronds, up to 90cm in length. Fronds appear between April and November. The teeth on the fronds are deeper than those of the similar-looking Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas). Lady Fern also is a lighter shade of green and is more delicate-looking. Perennial.
Other Names:
Asplenium Ladyfern, Common Lady-fern, Female Polypody, Southern Lady Fern, Subarctic Ladyfern, Tatting Fern.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Athyrium filix-femina, also known as lady fern or common lady fern, is a species of fern that is native to North America, Europe and Asia. It is a perennial fern that typically grows to be about 2-3 feet tall and wide. The fronds of A. filix-femina are deciduous, which means they die back in fall and grow again in spring, and are about 2-3 ft long and 6-12 inches wide. They are finely cut and delicate, and are arranged symmetrically on either side of the central stem. The leaves are light green in color, giving the plant a delicate and lacy appearance. The stipes (stems) are reddish-brown and are covered in light brown scales.

This fern prefers moist, humus-rich soils and partial to full shade, and it is commonly found in woodlands, along streams and rivers, and in rocky or sandy areas. It can handle some drought and can handle some sun exposure, but the fronds may turn brown and dry out in prolonged dry spells or hot sun.

Lady fern is a popular ornamental plant, grown for its delicate appearance, tolerance of shade and moist soils, and it is widely available commercially. This plant is not considered as threatened and is easy to grow. It can be grown in gardens, along borders, or as a ground cover. A. filix-femina is hardy in USDA zones 3-8, which makes it a suitable choice for many regions across North America, Europe and Asia.


Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina, is a popular fern species native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, including North America, Europe, and Asia. With its delicate fronds and graceful arching form, Lady Fern is a favorite among gardeners and landscape designers alike. In this blog, we will explore the characteristics of this beautiful fern, its growing requirements, and how it can be used in different garden settings.


Lady Fern gets its name from its elegant, delicate fronds that are soft to the touch and arranged in a vase-like shape. The fronds can grow up to 3 feet in length and are light green in color. They emerge in spring from a central crown and have a slight arch, giving the plant a graceful appearance. The leaves are bipinnate, meaning they have multiple divisions with a central rachis or stem, and are covered in tiny, hair-like structures that give them a fuzzy texture. Lady Fern is deciduous, meaning that it sheds its fronds in the fall and regrows them in the spring.

Growing Requirements

Lady Fern is relatively easy to grow and can thrive in a variety of conditions. It prefers a moist, well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter, and can tolerate both full sun and partial shade. However, it is important to keep the soil consistently moist to prevent the fronds from drying out and wilting. Lady Fern can also tolerate a range of soil pH levels, from acidic to slightly alkaline, but it does not do well in heavy, compacted soils.

In terms of climate, Lady Fern is hardy in USDA zones 3-8, meaning it can withstand temperatures as low as -40°F. It is important to note that while Lady Fern can tolerate some drought, it will not survive prolonged dry periods. In hotter regions, it may need to be grown in a cooler, shaded spot or watered more frequently.

Uses in the Garden

Lady Fern is a versatile plant that can be used in a variety of garden settings. It is often used in woodland gardens, where it can provide a naturalistic, organic feel. Its delicate fronds also make it an excellent choice for mixed borders or rock gardens, where it can add texture and interest. Lady Fern can also be grown in containers, either alone or as part of a mixed planting.

One of the great things about Lady Fern is that it is relatively low-maintenance. Once established, it can grow quite vigorously and will often self-seed, forming naturalistic drifts. It is also relatively pest-free, although it can occasionally be susceptible to scale insects or slugs. If these pests become a problem, they can usually be controlled with insecticidal soap or by handpicking.


Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina, is a beautiful and versatile fern species that can add texture, interest, and grace to any garden. Its delicate fronds and naturalistic growth habit make it an excellent choice for woodland gardens, mixed borders, or rock gardens, and its low-maintenance requirements make it a great option for gardeners of all skill levels. Whether grown in a container or planted directly in the ground, Lady Fern is sure to bring a touch of elegance to any garden setting.


Lady Fern is not only a beautiful addition to the garden but also has several practical uses. It can be used to control erosion on slopes and is often planted along riverbanks and other areas prone to erosion. It is also a useful plant for attracting wildlife, as the fronds provide cover for small animals and birds. In addition, Lady Fern is a popular cut foliage plant, often used in floral arrangements and bouquets.

Lady Fern has also been used for medicinal purposes. The leaves and fronds contain tannins, which have astringent properties and can be used to stop bleeding. The plant has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments, including coughs, colds, and rheumatism. However, it is important to note that while Lady Fern is generally considered safe, it should not be consumed in large quantities, as it can cause stomach upset.

In terms of design, Lady Fern is an excellent plant for creating contrast and texture in the garden. Its soft, delicate fronds provide a counterpoint to bolder, more structural plants, and its naturalistic growth habit can help to soften hard edges and create a more organic feel. Lady Fern can also be combined with other shade-loving plants, such as hostas and astilbes, to create a lush, verdant garden setting.

Lady Fern has been cultivated for centuries and has a rich cultural history. In many indigenous cultures, it was used as a medicine to treat a range of ailments, from skin conditions to respiratory infections. The fern was also believed to have magical properties and was often used in rituals and ceremonies. In some cultures, it was thought to protect against evil spirits and was used in protective amulets and talismans.

Lady Fern also has a number of interesting botanical characteristics. It is a member of the Athyriaceae family, which is part of the larger group of ferns and related plants known as the Polypodiopsida. Unlike many ferns, Lady Fern does not produce spores on the underside of its fronds. Instead, it produces small, round structures called sori on the edges of the fronds. The sori contain spores, which are released when they mature and are dispersed by the wind.

Another interesting feature of Lady Fern is its ability to hybridize with other fern species.

In conclusion, Lady Fern is a beautiful and versatile fern species that is a great addition to any garden. Whether used for erosion control, attracting wildlife, or simply as a decorative plant, it is sure to add elegance and grace to any garden setting. With its low-maintenance requirements and adaptability to a variety of growing conditions, Lady Fern is an excellent choice for gardeners of all skill levels.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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