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Wonderful Ostrich Ferns

I've written about the gorgeous ostrich ferns around our home before, so I thought I'd repost that information, because we're currently in the midst of a dramatic change in the landscape thanks to these wonderful plants.  It's always amazing to me how quickly the ostrich ferns unfurl within a week to two week time span.  Many of the magnolia trees around the neighborhood have already bloomed, the cherry blossoms have a few more days left before their blooms fade, but the ostrich ferns are here to stay for several months.  If you have any around your home do enjoy them!

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 areas of the grounds 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.

I'm standing in front of our home looking east toward the bottom of the hill.  There is roughly 100 feet or so of ostrich ferns running down this side along a stream.

An old well and a teak bench settle into the landscape quite naturally around the ferns.

Looking down toward the glade, there is a small area of ferns that wasn't there the year before.  I love it!  They seem to be taking over, but that's OK.  There is plenty of room for them here.  Our azalea is just beginning to bloom, but I'm not too hopeful for it because the deer always eat it up!

There is nothing like freshly mown grass.  This scene looking from the back of our house never gets old for me.  
 If I'm in the mood, I head down this path toward a small bridge which leads onto some trails.  

 You can see how wonderfully shaped each trumpet is if you look straight down at one.

 This frond hasn't quite finished unfurling.  I give it a few more days before it joins its counterparts.  

I couldn't resist gently prying one open for you to see.  Don't worry, I didn't damage it.

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! 


  1. I have bare patches under some trees that will not, no matter how hard we try, grow grass. I'll bet some fern would be the perfect solution!
    Spring has been reluctant to come and stay in our area, but we are seeing 70's this weekend. Could it be that it's finally here to stay?

  2. Thanks Paula! Nancy, you may try ferns or even pachysandra in areas that are bare. Both are great ground cover. As for Spring, I hope it's here to stay because I'm tired of the cold weather! I want my warm temps and nice breezes.


  3. wow, you have alot of ostrich ferns and they are beautiful. Did you plant all of them or are they wild in your area? We have alot of them here in the mountains of South Carolina but not like that. I have a bunch of them growing across the front of my house and they did well this year.

    I need to divide them but sure how and when is the best time. I want to spead them around our property.

    Ostrich Ferns Gone Wild

  4. Michael,

    The ostrich ferns here are wild, so they grow wherever they want to scatter. They're nice to have because they cover a lot of ground, so I'm glad you have them in your neck of the woods!


  5. hey David,
    Would you be interested in selling me some of those Ostrich ferns?

    send me an email.



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