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Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive fern) Onoclea sensibilis (Sensitive fern)
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Onoclea sensibilis

Sensitive fern or bead fern

A freely running, deciduous fern with broad, deeply pinnatifid, smooth leaves. It spreads in moist soil and stays low to the ground, usually not more than 12-18", though heights of up to 3' are possible in ideal conditions. Very effective as a moist shade groundcover.

Onoclea sensibilis LP32 - 32 per flat Availability
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1-2 Feet


12-18 Inches


12 Inches

Bloom Color

USDA Hardiness Zone 2-10

Sensitive fern Interesting Notes

Onoclea sensibilis, the sensitive fern, is so named because the fronds turn an autumnal yellow and die down with the first frost and are hence “sensitive” (and not because it is in the least bit difficult to cultivate). It is a very willing east coast native. Growers in the challenging cold of Zone 2 climates (think Nova Scotia) can easily establish this species and have a low maintenance ground cover. It will, of course, thrive in warmer climates all the way up to Zone 10, where even there it is deciduous. It is not fussy about soil types. This is a creeper with wavy lobed sterile fronds of a soft green. Plantings are enhanced with a contrasting framework of darker foliaged plants. The fertile fronds are erect brown stalks with clusters of bead like tan pods enclosing the spores. They emerge in late summer, turn woody and are held upright throughout the winter. They are popular in flower arranging but do let the spores drop first! Depending on your climate the fronds can reach 3 feet although they usually mature at around 2. They can quickly spread far and wide, however, especially in wet areas, so chose a spot where you would like it to roam. (Look for it as a common roadside planting from New England south through the Mid-Atlantic States.) - Casa Flora

Onoclea, from the Greek onos, "vessel," and kleio, "to close", referring to the closely rolled fertile fronds. sensibilis, from the Latin, "sensitive." Common Name, termed sensitive because the leaves die quickly when first touched by frost. (

Onoclea sensibilis Growing and Maintenance Tips

Prefers moist, rich, well-drained, neutral to acidic soils in full to partial shade. Needs consistent moisture. Spreads freely by rhizomes especially in moist, loose soils. Propagate by division every few years in the spring. Best used as a groundcover in the naturalized, shaded or woodland garden, as a border or edge.

Key Characteristics & Attributes

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

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
Green Infrastructure
Bioretention/Rain Garden
Native to North America
Propagation Type
Tissue culture