Shield Fern Plant Info – Growing Southern Shield Ferns In Gardens

(Image credit: Holcy)

If you’re looking for shade lovers that aren’t bothered by deer browsing, try growing Southern Shield ferns. What is a shield fern? This fern plant is native from South Carolina to Florida, west into west Texas, and south to the Caribbean Islands. In these regions, Southern Shield Fern care is minimal once the plant has been established. 

What is a Shield Fern?

Growing Southern Shield ferns favor shaded to partially shaded areas of dripping limestone, canyons, low woods, stream banks, and swamps. Shield fern plants (Thelypteris kunthii) are known by several common names including river fern, Southern Maiden fern, wood fern, and Widespread Maiden fern. West of east Texas it is referred to as river fern as it is only found growing along or near water while east of central Texas, the fern is only found in moist wooded environments and is thus referred to as wood fern. 

Growing Southern Shield Ferns 

The shield fern plant, like other ferns, is notable for its long, arching, bright green fronds. These pinnate leaves are haired on both the upper and lower surface. This fern plant makes an excellent low maintenance groundcover fern for shaded areas of the landscape. It can be propagated via root division and as mentioned is deer resistant. The plant spreads via rhizomes to form colonies and fill an area rapidly. 

Southern Shield Fern Care

When growing Southern Shield ferns select a location that is in shade to partial shade in an area that has average to rich, moist, and preferably good drainage, although shield ferns do tolerate poor drainage. Care of the fern plant is minimal. Water during dry spells and cut back dead fronds prior to spring to encourage new growth.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.