Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Ostrich Fern, Garden Fern, Shuttlecock Fern
Matteuccia struthiopteris

Family: Aspidiaceae
Genus: Matteuccia (mat-TEW-kee-uh) (Info)
Species: struthiopteris (struth-ee-OH-ter-is) (Info)

Synonym:Matteuccia pennsylvanica
Synonym:Pteris nodulosa
Synonym:Struthiopteris filicastrum
Synonym:Struthiopteris pensylvanica
Synonym:Osmunda struthiopteris

14 vendors have this plant for sale.

77 members have or want this plant for trade.

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36-48 in. (90-120 cm)
4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 2a: to -45.5 C (-50 F)
USDA Zone 2b: to -42.7 C (-45 F)
USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

Sun Exposure:
Partial to Full Shade


Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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12 positives
10 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral coriaceous On Jun 19, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

The vase-shaped clumps are handsome in the spring. I notice that the foliage often declines in summer, even on the margins of swamps.

A very aggressive spreader, this is good in spacious natural areas but quickly and persistently invades adjacent cultivated plantings.

The CDC reports that the consumption of lightly cooked fiddleheads from ostrich ferns has been associated with gastrointestinal illness, apparently due to some unknown toxin, and suggests boiling for ten minutes before eating.

Negative Sandylizzie On Jun 18, 2014, Sandylizzie from Frankfort, NY wrote:

My neighbor offered me some Ostrich ferns and I thought they'd make a great backdrop for the shade garden and the property border. They were too aggressive, and last fall I spent a month digging them out and now spend an hour a week digging out the new growth, constantly disrupting the bugle weed and other plants. No matter how well you think you have dug up their root system, they will continue to pop up. Only plant them in areas that you really want covered and have some way to prevent them from invading other areas. The native ferns that grow in my wild area are not a problem at all.

Positive Rickwebb On Feb 3, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

This is a good garden plant if it is in a place where it can spread a lot and not invade something or be confined by paved surfaces or something else. This commonly planted fern in the East and Midwest spreads rapidly by underground rhizomes. In late summer it often becomes browned and ratty looking if there has been dryness. Keep it watered in average soils. It likes draining wet soils best, as in marshes and swamps. Its separate fertile fronds are leafy and look like the regular infertile fronds, but are shorter, though they turn brown in fall and show through the winter.

Positive derbeh On Jun 21, 2013, derbeh from Los Angeles, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

It's not surprising that these ferns suffer in Thousand Oaks - gets VERY hot there in the summer. However, here in Mar Vista, we have them growing in our courtyard in our condominium and they are huge and lush year round. It all depends on where one is. If it gets to be 80 here in the summer, we consider that a terrific heat wave, so compared to the inland valleys and their +100 degree heat in the summer, our climate is far more conducive to growing these beautiful ferns.

Positive JonthanJ On May 29, 2011, JonthanJ from Logansport, IN wrote:

Yes, lightly shaded moist woods and east and north sides of houses are very good. Propagation from a well developed population is surprisingly easy. The individual crowns may be harvested like bulbs when the population is dormant. As with some bulbs good roots improve performance Planted just poking out of the ground, they will grow well the following spring, a bit small, but looking like they did grow there. Once you see multiple crowns the new population is also well developed.

Size in a given year is very much dependent on how wet things were as the fronds were coming up.

Neutral chuck7701 On Sep 21, 2010, chuck7701 from McKinney, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

I've about given up trying to get this to grow in Tx zone 8a. Starts off well in the spring and early summer, but is heat sensitive. Fronds die off, and it goes dormant by late June. Have tried large and small plants the past 2-3 years.

Neutral silverkathy8 On May 2, 2010, silverkathy8 from Chicago, IL wrote:

Beautiful and quite hardy in zone 5. I planted on the north side of our house and they really thrived - too well, actually. They almost took over my entire planting bed! After three years I have transplanted them to a planting bed with cement borders. These ferns will send out underground runners and pop up 1-2 feet away from the original plant. They even broke through my weed-control fabric. Be very careful where you plant these beauties!

Neutral lehua_mc On Jul 2, 2009, lehua_mc from Portland, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

Ditto on the posts which say the Ostrich Fern needs to be protected from heat/intense sun. I have mine tucked away on the east side of the house, but it apparently still receives too much southern sun. The mature fronds in places are bleached and scorched. I water it like a baby, but I can't undo the burnt areas!

Positive CrabgrassCentrl On May 23, 2009, CrabgrassCentrl from New Milford, CT wrote:

Several of these were here in different spots, under trees & along an old rock wall, when we moved here. They love the shade and look fantastic against the rock wall. They are not spreading as aggressively as I've read about here, in fact they're pretty well-behaved and we've added more ferns to fill in along the wall.

Negative RainGardner On Jun 22, 2007, RainGardner from Grand Rapids, MI wrote:

Although beautiful, it is invasive and sensitive to heat. I started with three and it spread to 15 in one season. They were gorgeous! Then the next season, the late July heat came in and they all burned up and looked awful - even with daily waterings. Then the next season, they started invading my hostas, iris patch and eventually escaped past my brick border into my lawn. I dug them all out (and 15 others I found just under the surface) last fall. I am now trying to get rid of 12 new ones that have sprung up. Give this one plenty of room if you want them in your landscape!

Positive Cretaceous On Feb 17, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

This fern has thrived here in zone 9b, growing against the wall of the house where it is shaded from the full sun. Watered daily. Commonly found for sale locally in the gardening departments of stores such as Orchard Supply Hardware.

Native to the north-eastern states in the USA (plus Alaska), Canada, northern Asia, and Europe. (It is listed as exploitably vulnerable in the state of New York).

Neutral shaney On Oct 17, 2005, shaney from Framingham, MA (Zone 6a) wrote:

I've grown this in the shade of a fence in very sandy soil and found that it only needs average moisture to grow, though it is only about 3' tall in those conditions.
This fern can be invasive- it spreads like crazy for me- so only plant it in an area where it can be easily contained or where it has room to ramble. My kids make pretend "bird wings" out of the fronds.

Neutral sanity101 On Aug 30, 2005, sanity101 from Dublin, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

While the theoreticla appeal of these is their height, in my setting (clay/loam soil in heavy deciduous shade), the lady ferns consistently outpreform the ostrich ferns in the same bed, and are roughly twice the height. Not that these don't grow, but they do not thrive compared to other species.

Neutral pirl On May 29, 2005, pirl from (Arlene) Southold, NY (Zone 7a) wrote:

In a woodland setting they'd be fine and actually are in my garden, under the old pines that have lost the lower 20' of limbs.

In a garden they are badly behaved: wandering over and up through lupines, irises and astilbes and they just give me headaches trying to get rid of them.

Positive kdjoergensen On May 18, 2005, kdjoergensen from Waxhaw (Charlotte), NC (Zone 7b) wrote:

An extremely handsome fern. The vase shape makes it really stand out.

Positive Shadyfolks On Apr 13, 2005, Shadyfolks from Chesterland, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

I too love this fern and if it is happy where you plant it, it will give back to you over and over. I was told to plant 18" apart which after 10 years, I can say was too close. I agree as stated above 3' apart maybe 2'. I just dug out 15 plants for my garden club's plant sale. If they get too dense you can not enjoy the beautiful vase habit. Here in northern OH they get late morning sun till about 2-3 in the afternoon, they are next to a hemlock. Those that get more sun are much taller. I am 5'2" and they are every bit as tall as me. They require a lot of moisture, or they will start to go summer dormat for me, we use a soaker hose, because if wated from above the 'vase' will flatten and it does not spring back. It also has great winter interest.

Positive henryr10 On Dec 11, 2004, henryr10 from Cincinnati, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

I don't know of a more shared plant in this area.

I first remember seeing Ostrich Ferns at my G-Aunt's house 40 some years ago. We played in the 'jungle' of ferns bigger than I was.
My Mother took a few home and I've had them ever since.
Thru 6 moves and three states we have always brought some along sharing them as we went.
A few years back I was able to revisit the original stand.
They are still there and going strong.

If you have the conditions, and they are not as tight as usually stated, and the room this is the premiere fern for your garden.

Neutral smiln32 On Dec 7, 2004, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Lovely fern. Spreads by rhizomes. If you're planting more than one, place them at least 3 feet apart.

The edible fiddleheads appearing in spring are a tasty. Eat up!

Positive nevadagdn On Nov 12, 2004, nevadagdn from Sparks, NV (Zone 7a) wrote:

This fern grows fairly well, even in Nevada, if you give it the water, shade and loamy soil it wants.

Positive lmelling On Oct 21, 2004, lmelling from Ithaca, NY (Zone 5b) wrote:

I have added over a dozen of these fern to my shade garden, which were given to me by a neighbor here in zone 5. They thrived, even when transplanted during the summer heat - but I did make sure to water well for the rest of that summer. Now, several years later the colony is growing and provides a wonderful graceful look in the back of the garden. Combined with hosta, impatiens, perilla, coleus and astilbe, and other shade loving plants, the shade garden is a thrill to watch all summer.

And yes, the fertile fronds that appear in late summer are wonderful to use in dried arrangements. I usually let them overwinter on the plant and pick them in spring.

Positive johnnylonghair On Jun 19, 2004, johnnylonghair from Toledo, OH wrote:

a large clump of these came with the house when i bought it.
they are planted where they get almost full sun and seem to tolerate it well. i have dug out several and given them to friends and family with no transplanting problems. they just fill back in.

Positive Ladyfern On Aug 7, 2003, Ladyfern from Jeffersonville, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

Forms handsome colonies where happy. It is happy in moist, loose, organic soil. It is not happy in clay soil! Too much sun will bleach out the leaves. Mine get morning sun only, and it still seems to be too much.

Neutral BotanyBob On May 3, 2001, BotanyBob from Thousand Oaks, CA wrote:

Cultivation tidbit: This plant is particularly sensitive to hot, dry weather and is nearly impossible to grow here in Southern California unless watered 1-2x daily. Of most ferns available in cultivation, this is one of the toughest to grow here.

Neutral Terry On Mar 10, 2001, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

This hardy fern derives its common name from its fronds' resemblance to an ostrich. It is a native to wooded river bottomlands and swamps in the Northeastern US, as well as throughout Canada, Europe, and Asia.

Beaded clusters of fertile fronds arise in late summer. After the spore has left, these cinnamon velvety "feathers" can be cut for dried arrangements or left on the plant to enjoy all winter. Harvesting the young fronds (also known as "fiddleheads") may encourage more and earlier growth. The young fronds are edible. The plant requires very moist (never completely drying out) soil and protection from winds.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (2 reports)
Huntsville, Alabama
Phoenix, Arizona
El Cerrito, California
Los Angeles, California
San Francisco, California
Litchfield, Connecticut
New Milford, Connecticut
Old Lyme, Connecticut
Daytona Beach, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Yulee, Florida
Blackshear, Georgia
Marietta, Georgia
Patterson, Georgia
Waycross, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois (2 reports)
Naperville, Illinois
Washington, Illinois
Bloomington, Indiana
Greenville, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana
Jeffersonville, Indiana
Logansport, Indiana
Petersburg, Indiana
Lineville, Iowa
Independence, Kansas
Wichita, Kansas
Bardstown, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Mc Dowell, Kentucky
Skowhegan, Maine
Annapolis, Maryland (2 reports)
Millersville, Maryland
Pikesville, Maryland
Beverly, Massachusetts
Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Dracut, Massachusetts
Framingham, Massachusetts
Roslindale, Massachusetts
Wayland, Massachusetts
Adrian, Michigan
Belleville, Michigan
Clinton Township, Michigan
Kalkaska, Michigan
Livonia, Michigan
Mason, Michigan
Pinconning, Michigan
Buffalo, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
New Prague, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Kansas City, Missouri
Piedmont, Missouri
Sparks, Nevada
Freehold, New Jersey
Frenchtown, New Jersey
Jersey City, New Jersey
South Plainfield, New Jersey
Whitehouse Station, New Jersey
Buffalo, New York (3 reports)
Ithaca, New York
Southold, New York
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Bucyrus, Ohio
Canton, Ohio
Chesterland, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Cleveland, Ohio
Glouster, Ohio
Jamestown, Ohio
Lakewood, Ohio
Madison, Ohio
North Ridgeville, Ohio
Toledo, Ohio
Warren, Ohio
Williamsburg, Ohio
Portland, Oregon
Fleetwood, Pennsylvania
New Freedom, Pennsylvania
New Hope, Pennsylvania
Schwenksville, Pennsylvania
Tidioute, Pennsylvania
West Chester, Pennsylvania
Conway, South Carolina
Rockwood, Tennessee
Toone, Tennessee
Houston, Texas
Provo, Utah
Great Falls, Virginia
Leesburg, Virginia
Lexington, Virginia
Newport News, Virginia
Roanoke, Virginia
Springfield, Virginia
Spokane, Washington
Vancouver, Washington
Charleston, West Virginia
Ellsworth, Wisconsin
Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin
Cody, Wyoming

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