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Marginal shield fern (Dryopteris marginalis) is one of our most common native ferns. It ranges from New England to Alabama, west to Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahoma. It is most abundant in the Appalachian and Piedmont regions.
Marginal shield fern is a sturdy evergreen fern that grows 12 to 18 inches tall, with a similar spread. It is very adaptable, taking everything from rich woodland soils to nutrient-poor, sandy acidic soils. Marginal shield fern prefers shady situations - It's typically found along wooded ravines here in Indiana, though it can take full sun up North. It is said to be remarkable cold tolerant, all the way down to zone 2.
Marginal shield fern is an excellent shade garden subject - Ferns just seem to always have a formal look to them, and marginal shield fern is particularly architectural with its leathery fronds. Because it is evergreen, it's a good plant to include for winter interest - In the North, this is kind of moot since the fronds will usually be buried in snow in the winter!
Like many ferns, marginal shield fern has toxic leaves that deter herbivores. We've never seen deer or rabbits chew on these ferns, and we have plenty of both around here.
Marginal shield fern is very easy to grow - Since they are a clump former, they look their best when spaced far enough apart to show off individual plants, with a low-growing groundcover such as green-and-gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) to visually tie them together. For a continuous mass, plant them 12 inches apart; to distinguish individual plants, go up to 18 to 24 inches apart.
Plant Marginal Shield Fern in a well-drained spot that gets plenty of afternoon shade - The plants are very drought tolerant once they're established.
We grow marginal shield fern in our 1-Quart SuperPlugs - These fabric containers result in dense root systems that establish very quickly in the garden.
|Common Name:||Shield Fern|
|Botanical Name:||Dryopteris marginalis|