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annual

Sword Fern

Nephrolepis cordifolia

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Sword Fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia) at Rutgers Landscape & Nursery

Sword Fern foliage

Sword Fern foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height:  3 feet

Spacing:  24 inches

Sunlight:  full sun  partial shade  full shade 

Hardiness Zone:  (annual)

Other Names:  Boston Fern, Tuber Ladder Fern, Fishbone Fern

Description:

Elegant, finely-toothed, sword-shaped fronds rise from short, hairy leaf stems; an impressive groundcover for a woodland area; great in hanging baskets or containers, for indoors or out

Ornamental Features

Sword Fern's attractive glossy ferny pinnately compound leaves remain green in color throughout the year. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Sword Fern is a dense herbaceous annual with a shapely form and gracefully arching foliage. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage.

This plant will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, and should not require much pruning, except when necessary, such as to remove dieback. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Suckering

Sword Fern is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • General Garden Use
  • Container Planting
  • Hanging Baskets

Planting & Growing

Sword Fern will grow to be about 3 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 3 feet. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 24 inches apart. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. Although it's not a true annual, this fast-growing plant can be expected to behave as an annual in our climate if left outdoors over the winter, usually needing replacement the following year. As such, gardeners should take into consideration that it will perform differently than it would in its native habitat.

This plant performs well in both full sun and full shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in rich soils. It is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. This species is not originally from North America. It can be propagated by division.

Sword Fern is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor containers and hanging baskets. Because of its height, it is often used as a 'thriller' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination; plant it near the center of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those that spill over the edges. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

 
 
Hardiness Zone Plant Height Minimum Sunlight
Characteristics
Massing  Garden  Container  Basket 
Applications
Foliage Color  Texture 
Ornamental Features


Disclaimer - Rutgers Landscape & Nursery Plant Finder is an online resource representing many of the varieties that we carry over the course of the season, and is intended for informational purposes only. Inventory varies seasonally, so we cannot guarantee that every plant will be in stock at all times - please contact Rutgers directly for current availability.