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Lady fern

Foliage of lady fern.

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."  

Botanical name:

Athyrium filix-femina

All common names:

Lady fern

Family (English):

Shield Fern

Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Ground cover,
  • Perennial


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border

Size Range:

  • Large plant (more than 24 inches),
  • Medium plant (12-24 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • early spring,
  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • early summer,
  • midsummer,
  • late summer

Shape or Form:

  • Arching,
  • Mounded

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:


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.  They are perennials that can be planted closely together to provide the visual effect of a ground cover.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in moist, shady sites.  Provide additional water in sunny sites.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious disease or insect pests

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 8
Commonly found in moist woodlands.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

This plant has finely cut fronds.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size






Location of Athyrium filix-femina (Lady fern) at the Arboretum