As temperatures cool, Christmas ferns peek their green fronds out from below fallen leaves and early white snow. Their glossy green colour and well-behaved clumps make Christmas fern, Polystichum acrostichoides, a favourite of local woodland gardeners. But you don’t need a woodland to grow these vivacious plants.
Christmas ferns grow 30 to 60 cm tall and prefer moist, well-drained locations. Plant in full to part shade, in sandy or loamy soils with lots of organic matter. Avoid afternoon sun and waterlogged or poorly drained soils. Slightly acidic soils are best. When grown in full shade, they will tolerate occasional dry conditions.
Plant in early spring along a shady fence or below hardwood trees about 45 cm apart. Combine with Wild Ginger, Solomon’s Seal and Northern Maidenhair Fern for full, lush gardens. Alternatively, consider adding them to a rock garden with low-growing evergreen shrubs like Creeping Juniper for low-maintenance greenery.
By the end of winter, the fronds will fade and fall away from their roots before spring brings fresh, silvery fiddleheads that unfurl in the centre of each plant.