Thursday, October 25, 2012

Southern Wood Fern (aka Florida Shield Fern) For The Southern Garden

Dryopteris ludoviciana
Take a stroll in southern forests draped with Spanish Moss and you'll likely come upon Southern Wood Fern. Its glossy, dark, evergreen fronds make it one of the most beautiful of our native ferns. Its moderate height and adaptability make it one the most useful for the southern garden.

The botanical name is Dryopteris ludoviciana (pronounced dry-OP-ter-iss loo-dough-vik-ee-AH-nuh) which literally means "oak fern from Louisiana." According to the USDA PLANTS database, its range is from North Carolina and Kentucky southward to Florida and westward to Texas. It's usually found growing near the coast or in the coastal plain.

Southern Wood Fern is also known as Aspidium ludovicianum, Dryopteris floridana and Nephrodium floridanum. Guess why? It's found in more places in Florida than in Louisiana. So another common name is Florida Shield Fern.

You don't need to live near the coast to grow Florida Shield Fern. It performs well in USDA zones 6 to 10.

Choose a planting site in full sun to partial shade. Florida Shield Fern prefers moist soil, particularly if planted in full sun. It will tolerate dry soil periodically if planted in partial shade. (Take care not to over-water.) Soil should be high in organic matter and well-drained with pH between 6.1 to 7.5. Take a soil sample to your nearby Cooperative Extension Service for analysis. Follow the recommendations. Such a site as described probably won't require tilling.

Florida Shield Fern grows to 48 inches high and up to 24 inches across. Dig planting holes about 18 inches to 24 inches apart. The holes should be no deeper than that of the root balls. Water the plants in their pots, then plant them, watering more as you go. When planted, the tops of the root balls should be visible; do not bury them under soil.

Florida Shield Fern Fern is deer resistant. It's great in massed plantings and for naturalizing as a ground cover. Include it in fern collections, native plant collections, shade gardens and woodland gardens.

Return to Ferns at

No comments: