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Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern)

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Hardy fern grow sheet
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Matteuccia struthiopteris

ostrich fern

Large, lustrous, dark green fronds arch gracefully and give the tropical feel of a palm. Happiest in a cool moist site, it will tolerate more sun at the side of a stream or pond. Emerging fiddleheads are delectable sautéed in a bit of oil.

Matteuccia struthiopteris LP32 - 32 per flat Availability
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3-4 Feet


2-3 Feet


18 Inches

Bloom Color

USDA Hardiness Zone 2-7

ostrich fern Interesting Notes

Large, lustrous, dark green fronds arch gracefully for Matteuccia struthiopteris and give the tropical feel of a palm in your woodland garden. Ostrich fern is happiest in a cool moist site, but it will tolerate more sun at the side of a stream or pond. Overall habit is vase-shaped with fronds reaching 3’-6’ in height and growing in dense colonies up to 8’ wide. This deciduous fern spreads by rhizome, emerging fiddleheads in early spring giving way to ostrich plume-like foliage through summer and dying back by fall. Fertile fronds age to a copper-brown that stand erect through the winter. A classic addition to the shade garden, especially planted amongst early spring ephemerals like spring phlox, dutchman’s breeches, trillium, or trout lily. Emerging fiddleheads are delectable sautéed in a bit of oil.

Circumboreal in its distribution, M. struthiopteris revels in cool, moist summers from Newfoundland to Virginia, and can be found in Europe and northern Asia, as well. Fern prefers light shade to deep shade in medium to wet average garden soils. It tolerates clay soil, deep shade, deer and rabbit pressure, wet areas, and is a helpful erosion control. Plant does not like high heat and humidity in the summer like traditional Southern summers or windy sites which will make the fronds tattered and burnt. Ostrich fern does best in higher elevations in southern climates.

M. struthiopteris is a archetypal shade garden plant and is a great lush, cover for large areas of the garden where it can naturalize and form dense colonies. Traditionally seen as a foundational planting near buildings or houses, this durable fern has earned its place in the landscape by its multiple seasons of interest, key habitat in woodland understories for small animals, and its support of the rare ostrich fern borer moth where caterpillars bore through the roots and fronds of this plant. Ostrich Fern won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit for its reliability, performance, and pest and disease resistance.

Matteuccia struthiopteris Growing and Maintenance Tips

M. struthiopteris is native to moist thickets and wooded river bottoms. Prefers moist, rich, well-drained, neutral to acidic soils in full to partial shade. Intolerant of drought and intense heat and humidity. Spreads freely by rhizomes especially in moist, loose soils. Propagate by division every few years in the spring. Best planted in masses in the naturalized, shaded or woodland garden, mixed with other shady natives.

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Shade
Full Shade
Part Sun
Part Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Cut Flower
Cut Flower

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Green Infrastructure
Wetland Indicator Status
Falcutative Wetland (FACW)
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
Native to North America
Clay Tolerance
Propagation Type
Tissue culture