Polystichum minutum

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USDA Hardiness zone: Zn5a -15º to -20ºF

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Polystichum minutum

Western sword fern is one of the most ubiquitous plants on the west side of the Cascades. In many forests in the Coast Range and Cascade foothills it is the sole understory plant. Western sword  fern is a large species with long arching fronds. Adaptable to a host of situations. Often self sown spore will show up in the oddest places. I’ve seen it as an epiphyte and even self sown into hot concrete steps. In rich, acidic soil this evergreen fern soar- provided soils rich in humus, organic matter and protected from direct sun with consistent access to water. Very well adapted to our winter wet/ summer dry climate- it will cruise through dry summers unscathed. In the garden it does useful duty in the toughest, dry, shadiest sites. Along with Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) and Ophiopogon (Lily turf) it is one of the best dry shade inhabitants. As an understory component it is often accompanied by Cascades Mahonia (Mahonia nervosa), Inside-out-flower, (Vancouveria hexandra), and Pacific Blackberry (Rubus ursinus). To 4′ x 4′ in ideal situations. Though it is evergreen western sword fern does go through a transitional period before new croziers unfurl in spring. The 3′ long fronds begin to lie flat on the ground by winter. This is the time to remove tired, old leaves. and make way for fresh, new, unfurling foliage. Though very tough western sword fern does look its best with consistent light water.  Supremely deer and rabbit resistant. Long lived and not a slow grower.  Oregon native plant.

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