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PlantFiles: Onoclea, Sensitive Fern, Bead Fern
Onoclea sensibilis

Family: Dryopteridaceae
Genus: Onoclea (on-oh-KLEE-uh) (Info)
Species: sensibilis (sen-si-BIL-iss) (Info)

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

26 members have or want this plant for trade.

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18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

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)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets)

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

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There are a total of 31 photos.
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8 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

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

Native to much of North America and Asia, this fern gets its common name from its sensitivity to frosts, turning brown right away after experiencing frost. It is a fast spreading groundcover of bright green, coarse-textured fronds that are simply pinnate, not doubly pinnate as the typical fern. The fertile fronds bearing the spores are not leafy, but are brown stalks that bear clusters of bead-like structures on top. I've seen some wild colonies in the woods of French Creek State Park in southeast Pennsylvania.

Positive jg48650 On May 24, 2007, jg48650 from Pinconning, MI (Zone 6a) wrote:

We dug up a few of these ferns from my grandparent's yard, and planted them under a pine tree in our front yard last year. This year, they popped up in mid-May. I really like this fern. To me, it is so nice because it has such a different pattern than other ferns.

Neutral Cretaceous On Apr 10, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Native to the central and eastern parts of the United States (except for the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico).

Positive Malus2006 On Mar 7, 2006, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

This fern can be grown both wet and in a regular garden. I have it mixed with other ferns in a moist sandy soil that is a bit of a south slope in shade. It also grow into a wet non draining container. It tend to develops long shallow rhizomes and then grows from one edge, like iris but much quicker. This can result into its popping up all over the place. The name Sensitve Fern comes from books that said it is sensitive to frosts but I can't really see much of a difference compare to other ferns.

Positive CatskillKarma On Dec 2, 2004, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

This occurs naturally by springs in our meadow. It is robust enough to compete effectively with colonies of mint and raspberries and withstand regular trampling by deer. It is quite handsome to me, but my mother always called it "ragweed fern" and thought it looked like ragweed : ). I also use the dried fertile fronds in winter arrangements, but the infertile greenery wilts when picked--perhaps thats why its called "sensitive" fern. Our colonies have wet feet all summer but thrive in bright sun.

Positive lmelling On Dec 1, 2004, lmelling from Ithaca, NY (Zone 5b) wrote:

This very pretty fern travels by underground root. Colonies will spring up in shady locations or full sun, but if continually cut down will eventually die off where cut and travel onward as long as they have abundant moisture.

This fern is wonderful in a woodland setting or at the perimeter of a field, but it does have an invasive nature and once in your garden, will travel and pop up all over - creating a nuisance. We have colonies of these that started in our hillside garden years ago, and when pulled, cut or generally weeded out, have traveled down now to the rocks at the base of the garden. If I dig down in the rocks slightly, I can find the long rootstock that keeps this traveler going. I almost hate to pull them as they are a very pretty fern.

Fronds are approximately 8" - 15" tall, a dark cinnamon brown, and branch at the end where they are covered by what looks like tiny beads. The fronds may be gathered in early spring and are generally dry when you cut them. They make wonderful accents for dried arrangements. I generally go out and hunt for these in the field next to my fence where they grow in abundance.

Positive melody On Nov 30, 2004, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

One of the nicest wild ferns in this area. It grows happily even in full sun if it has enough water, and large stands of them can be seen along roadside ditches.

I've transplanted this fern from the wild with great success, but one of my biggest surprises was the first one I ever relocated. It was a tiny little thing, only 3 or 4 inches tall....needless to say, it got a new home before the summer was through.

I like the fruit stalks with the spores for flower arrangements too. They have a lovely cinnamon color when they are mature.

Positive Linnea On Jun 1, 2004, Linnea from Tilton, NH (Zone 4a) wrote:

This plant is comfortable and frequent enough up here in New England to leave its natural boggy habitat and grow happily in the woods.

I use the spore-bearing frond in dried flower arrangements.

Positive dogbane On Nov 15, 2003, dogbane from New Orleans, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

This is a common fern in the pine savannahs of Louisiana and Mississippi. It's really quite elegant, both in the wild and in my garden.

Neutral Toxicodendron On Oct 13, 2003, Toxicodendron from Piedmont, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

This is a native fern here in Missouri, although not very commonly seen. It needs consistently moist soil to look good, but the rhizomes can withstand dry spells and will make new foliage when the rain returns. It does well in boggy places. I put some in a moist flower bed and just dug out buckets of it this fall. It makes runners all through other plants, so I recommend that you put it in a natural setting, not in a formal bed. It has a soft green color in the shade, more yellowish in full sun. It reaches heights of 30 inches with adequate moisture. The spores are located on separate, fertile fronds that appear in late summer and fall. I have seen a few plants that have come from spores here. The foliage is rather coarse, not fine like other ferns. The best use of this plant that I have seen is to use it behind and around the sides of a large wooden garden bench (Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis).


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

Morrilton, Arkansas
East Canaan, Connecticut
Demorest, Georgia
Chicago, Illinois
Machesney Park, Illinois
Newburgh, Indiana
Oakland City, Indiana
Benton, Kentucky
New Orleans, Louisiana
Brookeville, Maryland
Columbia, Maryland
Crofton, Maryland
Millersville, Maryland
Silver Spring, Maryland
Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Halifax, Massachusetts
Marlborough, Massachusetts
Millbury, Massachusetts
Detroit, Michigan
Pinconning, Michigan
Isle, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota (2 reports)
Piedmont, Missouri
Potosi, Missouri
Saint Louis, Missouri
Exeter, New Hampshire
Tilton, New Hampshire
Frenchtown, New Jersey
Jersey City, New Jersey
Maplewood, New Jersey
Moorestown, New Jersey
Neptune, New Jersey
Princeton Junction, New Jersey
West Orange, New Jersey
Buffalo, New York
Cicero, New York
Ithaca, New York
Jefferson, New York
West Kill, New York
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Winston Salem, North Carolina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Glouster, Ohio
Warren, Ohio
Williamsburg, Ohio
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Kintnersville, Pennsylvania
Mountain Top, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania (2 reports)
Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
Hope Valley, Rhode Island
Conway, South Carolina
Christiana, Tennessee
Morrison, Tennessee
Pocahontas, Tennessee
Houston, Texas
Broadway, Virginia
Leesburg, Virginia
Lexington, Virginia
Bellevue, Washington
Augusta, Wisconsin
Ellsworth, Wisconsin

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