sensitive fern

Sensitive fern. Photo: Stephanie Pully, University of Maryland Extension

Updated: March 6, 2023

About sensitive fern

Onoclea sensibilis
Dryopteridaceae Family

Maryland Distribution: Swamps, moist/wet meadows and floodplains throughout the state.

Height: 2 feet

Blooms: Fertile fronds appear in summer and persist into winter; erect.

Sun: Full sun (with ample moisture) to full shade.

Soil: Adaptable but prefers moist soil; pH neutral to slightly acid.

Garden Use & Maintenance:  Spreads by underground runners. Use in summer to provide large areas of lush, exuberant groundcover. Useful for massing in rain gardens, ditches, woodland edges, and island beds. Nearly maintenance free as the ferns will crowd out most weeds. On the same note, do not plant them in the same bed with more retiring species unless you have a plan for protection of the latter. Foliage fronds disappear with the first frost, hence the name sensitive fern. In winter the fertile fronds remain to provide texture and interest.  

Deer proof

Additional resource

Publications for Gardeners | Maryland Native Plant Society

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