Ostrich Ferns

Matteuccia struthiopteris or ostrich ferns, are beginning to show their glory at our house right now and it always seems like they magically appear overnight.  For me it's a dramatic event every spring when the first fiddleheads pop out of the ground and continue to grow for about a 3-4 week period into enormous, broad ferns.  This type of fern, which is deciduous, does well in zones 3 through 7 and prefers areas that receive partial shade to full shade.  The ferns will spread if given ideal growing conditions, so they're perfect for covering large patches of ground. 

Here in the woodland around the house, there are several swaths of ground that have ostrich ferns and I absolutely love them.  In the wild, these ferns can grow up to 6 feet in height, but if cultivated at home, they will more than likely grow between 2-4 feet.  This clump-forming fern grows vertically with a beautiful, somewhat trumpet shape to it.  Many people will plant ostrich ferns as a form of soil erosion control, so keep this in mind if you live in an area that is prone to flooding.  The only drawback that I can think of is that ostrich ferns will lose their beauty toward the end of summer and well into fall & winter when they become dormant.  The infertile fronds (these are the showy green parts) will brown, dry out and die down; spore-bearing fronds which stay about 2 feet tall, remain brown year round.  Take a closer look at these beautiful ferns and think about planting a few if your garden needs some ground cover.   

This photograph shows the fronds just coming out.  This was taken in mid March.

As you can see from this picture, the fronds are tightly wound and will shoot up anywhere from 2-6 feet.

Around this area behind our house, a colony of ostrich ferns has taken hold and will cover a good 40 feet of woodland.  The daffodils in the background (most of them have already bloomed & died) will soon be entirely dwarfed by them.

On the eastern side of the house where an old well resides and a teak bench sits, the ostrich ferns are quickly unfurling.

This photograph was taken on April 10th early in the morning.  As you can see, many of the trees in the woodland are just starting to bud with the first leaves.  The temperatures have held in the 50s during the day, so spring is definitely here in earnest!

OK, a bit of cheating.  This photograph was taken last summer, but just to show you what it will look like in a month or two, the same area is now completely engulfed by beautiful ostrich ferns.  Don't they make a gorgeous ground cover?  By the way, where is the bench?  It's been swallowed up by the fronds.


Here I am standing next to a patch of ferns (last summer) surveying some of the trees.  You can see how high these ferns get; some will continue to grow past my head! 

This was taken a few days ago early in the morning as I was standing on the back porch.  I think I'll cut a few ferns soon and arrange them in clear vases for the house. 

This is a fast forward to what the glade will look like by the end of May. 


  1. Oh David these ferns are wonderful. I can imagine how peaceful it would be to just stand looking at them!

  2. David when planting them. Did you plant them in a row or scatter. Do they multiply?

  3. Co.Co., the ferns here were planted in rows and also in arcs. What you will find is that they do spread/multiply prolifically if they're in ideal conditions.

    We discovered some of them in areas that didn't have any in years past!

  4. I believe I may plant a few this spring.
    I'm excited to see if they do as well?
    Thank you David for the beautiful pictures.
    And as always the inspiration.


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