Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Japanese Holly Fern Is Tough And Dependable

Japanese Holly Fern - Cyrtomium falcatum
Ferns might seem lacy and delicate, but few are. Given the proper environment, most are tough and dependable. Japanese Holly Fern, also known as Japanese Netvein Holly Fern, is a good example. It even looks tough.

Its botanical name is Cyrtomium falcatum (pronounced sir-TOH-mee-um fal-KAY-tum) which means “arched” and “sickle-shaped.” The coarse, evergreen fronds arch and the large, glossy pinnae (leaflets) are sickle-shaped. Japanese Holly Fern forms bold clumps from 18 inches to 30 inches tall, and as wide. There’s nothing delicate about it. Cyrtomium falcatum is the ferny equivalent of Aspidistra elatior (Cast Iron Plant). Many southern gardeners rely on it.

Japanese Holly Fern is reliably cold hardy in USDA climate zones 7 to 11, but is known to survive in zone 6. A quick look at the USDA PLANTS Database shows that where it has escaped cultivation, it tends to do be distributed in areas where winter temperature is moderate or moderated by bodies of water.

Japanese Holly Fern performs best in partial shade to full shade. Slightly moist soil is preferred, though care must be taken to avoid over-watering. Once established, Japanese Holly Fern is reasonably drought tolerant. Recommended soil pH is 6.1 to 7.8.

You'll be pleased to know that Japanese Holly Fern has no serious insect or disease problems, and it's deer resistant. Having said that, I wish I knew how many times I’ve been contacted by desperate gardeners wanting to know what all those bugs or diseases are on the undersides of the pinnae. Those are not bugs or diseases, but are spore-producing organs called sori. Not to worry.

Before planting, take a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension Service office for testing. The results will specify any necessary soil amendments.

Prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 10 inches deep, removing all traces of weeds. Composted manure may be incorporated into the soil. If your soil sample report indicates the need for fertilizer, avoid synthetic fertilizers contacting any part of your plants.

Space the plants 18 inches to 24 inches apart. Small plants may be planted closer together. Dig planting holes into the cultivated soil a little less deep than the depth of the growing container. Water the plants in the pots, then drain. Place the ferns into the holes and back-fill, watering as you go. Press soil around the root balls. Do not cover entirely the root balls with soil. The tops should be slightly exposed. Add a top-dressing of mulch around the plants, not on top of them, about 1 inch deep.

Shade gardeners will love Japanese Holly Fern. Its beauty is irresistible. Use if for ground cover, borders, accents. Gardeners in colder climates can grow it as a house plant. If you need a tough, dependable fern, you need Japanese Holly Fern.

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