Content Detail

Lady fern, with its finely cut leaves, provides interesting texture to shady areas. It can also be used in sunny areas, but consistent watering is then required. 

This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. 

  • Family (English) Shield Fern
  • Family (botanic) Dryopteridaceae
  • Tree or plant type Ground cover, Perennial
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Medium plant (12-24 inches), Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Acid soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring, late spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer
  • Shape or form Arching, Mounded
  • Growth rate Moderate


This plant grows 1 to 3 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide. Lady fern can be used as a clump-forming ground cover. Clump-forming ground covers are plants that are not usually thought of as ground covers, but rather are perennials that can be planted closely together to provide the visual effect of a ground cover.

Native geographic location and habitat:

C-Value: 8. Lady fern is native to the entire continental United States as well as Alaska. It is commonly found in moist woodlands.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

This plant has finely cut fronds.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

This is a non-flowering plant.

Plant care:

Grows best in moist, shady sites. It will benefit from additional water in sunny sites.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

There are no serious diseases or insect pests for this plant.


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