Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina

Lady Fern

Athyrium filix-femina

Sun Shade:
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Zones: 4, 5
Soil Conditions: Clay, Loam
Soil Moisture: Dry, Medium, Moist
Color: Non-Flowering
Fragrance: No
Height: 1-3 feet
Spacing: 1-2.5 feet


Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina, is a deciduous fern that features lacy-cut, erect or ascending, 2 to 3-pinnate or pinnatifid, finely-divided, lanceolate, light green fronds which grow in a dense circular shuttlecock-like clump to 2-3 feettall. Each frond (leaf) has twenty to thirty pairs of elliptic non-opposite pinna (leaflets) with narrow pointed tips. Each pinna is divided into deeply-cut lanceolate to oblong pinnules (subleaflets). Sori and indusia are found on the undersides of the pinnules.

Habitats include moist to mesic woodlands, rocky ravines, shaded seeps, and edges of swamps. In Illinois, Lady Fern is typically found in deciduous woodlands (e.g., Maple-Basswood), although it is also occurs in coniferous or mixed woodlands in areas north of the state.

This fern is easily grown in rich, medium moisture, well-drained soil in part shade to full shade. It tolerates drier soils than many other ferns. Will tolerate full sun, however, only if soil is kept constantly moist. Shelter from wind to protect fronds from breaking.

Plant Notes and Herbal Uses
  Effective in shaded areas along streams or ponds.
  This fern is cultivated in woodland gardens because of its ornamental foliage.
  The rhizomes of Lady Fern contain an oil that has been used to expel intestinal worms (particularly tapeworms).
   Divide clumps in spring every few years to reposition crowns at the soil level.
Further Information

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 Wisconsin Native Plant Nurseries

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