This fern is native to Japan and a very popular potted fern through out the south US. It prefers rich, acidic soil which is why you are more likely to find it in a pot than the ground here in Houston. I’m trying it in the ground anyhow.
Leave are thick, serrated and sharp. Round patches of spores form on the backside of the leaves.
Holly fern can take more sun than most ferns so you can use it in pots or in beds as a border where you normally couldn’t put a fern. However it prefers part to full shade and must be kept out of our strong afternoon sun. The more sun it receives the quicker growth you’ll see providing you don’t cook it in the afternoon sun.
Like most ferns it wants the soil damper rather than drier. Mine survived our two month drought with occasional watering. So they seem fairly drought tolerant, but are happiest in damp soil. While they don’t mind droughts, they won’t grow during a drought remaining dormant until the ground gets damp
It will reach about 2′ in height and 3′ across when full grown. This is a slow growing fern and won’t take over the place like many more traditional ferns. It tends to grow more upright like a vase and form clumps. I’ve seen thick, dense rows of these running along a row of shrubs and it looks very nice.
Holly fern is not usually bothered by deer.
This has done fine through the heat of Houston summer and the freezes over the winter.
While it was slow getting going, it has taken off recently and done so well I picked up a second one.
Propagation is done by division. Plant divisions slightly deeper than they were planted when you divided the main plant. You can easily try growing this fern from its spores too. Shake some spores on to a while piece of paper ( you’ll never see them otherwise ). Then spread the spores onto some damp peat moss. Keep evenly moist and at about 70’F until large enough to transplant.
This plant has survived an amazing amount of abuse, I divided it up this year and planted it in locations it should like better
Things to watch for on ferns:
Leaf scotch: appears during dry, windy weather. Water frequently and deeply and provide what shade and shelter you can.
Scale: looks like small brown bumps on stems and underside of leaves. I use orange oil.
Mealy bugs: Looks like white fuzz on plants. I just wash them off with a garden hose.
Note: Survived the extreme 100’F heat and drought of summer 2011