Christmas Fern, Dagger Fern, Polystic Faux-acrostiche

Polystichum acrostichoides

Family: Dryopteridaceae
Genus: Polystichum (pol-IS-tick-um) (Info)
Species: acrostichoides (ak-ruh-stik-OH-id-eez) (Info)
Synonym:Nephrodium acrostichoides
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Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round

Suitable for growing in containers


12-18 in. (30-45 cm)

18-24 in. (45-60 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)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Partial to Full Shade


Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:


Bloom Time:



Grown for foliage


Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

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:

From spores

Seed Collecting:

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


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

, (3 reports)

Tuskegee, Alabama

Wetumpka, Alabama

Morrilton, Arkansas

San Diego, California

Centerbrook, Connecticut

Deltona, Florida

Atlanta, Georgia

Cordele, Georgia

Dallas, Georgia

Mokuleia, Hawaii

Plainfield, Illinois

Bloomington, Indiana

Indianapolis, Indiana

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Lawrence, Kansas

Saint Francisville, Louisiana

Brookeville, Maryland

Crofton, Maryland

Ellicott City, Maryland

Lexington, Massachusetts

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Water Valley, Mississippi

Piedmont, Missouri

Exeter, New Hampshire

Crosswicks, New Jersey

Jersey City, New Jersey

Southold, New York

Willsboro, New York

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Thomasville, North Carolina

Cincinnati, Ohio

Glouster, Ohio

Loveland, Ohio

Springfield, Ohio

Williamsburg, Ohio

Stilwell, Oklahoma

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Tidioute, Pennsylvania

Wexford, Pennsylvania

Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania

Conway, South Carolina

Greenville, South Carolina

Rock Hill, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina

Kingsport, Tennessee

Middleton, Tennessee

Viola, Tennessee

Mc Kinney, Texas

Blacksburg, Virginia

Hurt, Virginia

Leesburg, Virginia

Newport News, Virginia

Penhook, Virginia

Roanoke, Virginia

Menasha, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Oct 19, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is one of the easiest and most adaptable of ferns for my climate (Boston Z6a). It's evergreen, and it does not spread. After several years, multiple crowns form, and then it can be divided in early spring.

It prefers partial to full shade, but it will tolerate full sun here if the soil receives consistent irrigation. Needs good drainage, and in shade it tolerates some drought.

In early spring the fronds of the previous year should be removed, as they look ratty. They are more easily removed before the new fronds emerge.

This is one of the commonest ferns native to eastern N. America, ranging from Nova Scotia to Minnesota and south to Texas and Florida.


On Sep 20, 2015, siege2055 from Stilwell, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

These grow wild everywhere behind my house in the woods, and in a few places in my yard. They seem to prefer dry to average wooded limestone slopes, but avoid places that stay too wet. I am not too fond of the way the brownish spore bearing fronds look, but still a nice tough fern. They are evergreen, but if you are growing these in your yard, they will look better if you cut the old fronds away each year, they get ragged overwinter.


On Feb 1, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

This species is very common in the wild in southeast Pennsylvania in the woods. It is green during much of winter, though the fronds eventually fall down and are best cut away in spring. It holds up well to a fair amount of sun, but should not be in full sun all day or a really exposed location, and it tolerates a fair amount of dryness, and is a reliable plant.


On Dec 30, 2009, WexfordBob from Wexford, PA wrote:

I have rescued about twelve of these plants from old farm road construction sites and replanted them under Pin Oaks in a mulched island in front of my suburban home. They look look great among the rocks and mulch as they sit in the summer shade and the winter snows. I am hoping they spread but I assume the mulching restrains that process. The bottom branches of the Pen Oaks are removed so that the plants get the morning (eastern) and evening (western)sun. The area is sloped so that rain and incremental water from lawn watering nearby that is not trapped in the rocks and mulch runs off the area. I could not be happier with these Christmas Ferns.


On Jun 19, 2009, headgardener111 from Exeter, NH wrote:

Rescued several from a construction site 4 years ago. They survived well, lining two sides of a shaded path. Then last winter lost one whole side - about 12 plants for some inexplicable reason. Others still fine. Any thoughts?


On Sep 7, 2008, lnaslund from Jersey City, NJ wrote:

This is one of the few types of plant that stays green and healthy-looking under my big, water-sucking Norway maple. In that environment, it takes a couple of years to form a small clump, but it's alive, well, and attractive.


On Jun 27, 2007, Cretaceous from El Sobrante, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

Native to eastern Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec), the eastern United States (Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Texas), and Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Considered a threatened species in the state of Minnesota, and listed as exploitably vulnerable in the state of New York.


On Mar 2, 2007, bluespiral from (Zone 7a) wrote:

Ours is surviving under a huge silver maple with no artificial watering in summer dry spells; however, it self-sows over mossy stones in shade not so full, and is growing quite lush under an old apple tree where it is very pretty with white bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis alba). I think the difference in its behavior between the two trees is that maple tree roots are said to grow horizontally (certainly do here), whereas apple tree roots (as well as oak tree roots) are said to grow perpendicularly (as in straight down). I would not want to be without the evergreen presence of this fern in the winter garden.


On Apr 8, 2006, ineedacupoftea from Denver, CO wrote:

Although sources may say it is adaptable to high soil pH, I cannot vouch for it in my garden. It appears to have become chlorotic (even in different sites), compared to other Polystichum species.


On Dec 9, 2005, bigcityal from Menasha, WI (Zone 5a) wrote:

Nice fronds of course. Mine is not as big as I would like, but it's a refined looking fern.


On Apr 22, 2005, CaptMicha from Brookeville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

A very beautiful fern of medium size found growing in moist, alkaline hardwood forests. That's atleast where the ones I see are growing.

They enjoy moisture and shade. This is one of your classic wood's ferns.


On Jan 3, 2005, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Dark green fronds are lance-shaped and divided with holly-like leaflets. Although rhizomatous, this fern will not spread or naturalize, however clumps will increase in size over time. Best grown in organically rich, dry to medium wet, well-drained soils. If the soil isn't well-drained, the crown will rot. Requires more moisture in partial sun. Native to the U.S. - mostly the eastern portion.


On Oct 7, 2004, tcfromky from Mercer, PA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Polystichum means: from the Greek polys, "many," and stichos, "row," referring to the rows of sori on the type species


On Jul 4, 2004, lorimaute from Springfield, OH wrote:

I planted two small ferns this spring. I placed them behind my garden pond. This area is moist and shady. I placed them there to give some color to the pond during the winter months. Can't wait to see what they do!


On Jul 3, 2004, lizbar from Montgomery, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I just bought my first fern and it was a Christmas fern. I repotted into a 10 in. hanging basket, it was in a 4 in. pot, so mine is a baby. Nonetheless, I think she is beautiful and can't wait till she grows. Do they grow fast?


On May 16, 2004, Toxicodendron from Piedmont, MO (Zone 6a) wrote:

Christmas fern is very common in our area of Southeast Missouri. In nature, it prefers shady slopes with lots of fallen leaves. In cultivation, it responds well to yearly applications of composted manure. Even though it is evergreen all winter, I cut the old fronds off when I first detect the new fiddleheads emerging (because the old ones will flatten out and start to yellow after the new foliage unfurls). That is when I fertilize them as well. Quite deer and insect resistant, and more drought tolerant than other ferns around here.


On May 15, 2004, henryr10 from Cincinnati, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

We rescued several of these from a construction site several years ago and they have thrived.

Evergreen here in 6b.

They will slowly spread thru underground runners and spores to form a loose open circle dozens of feet across in the wild.

Very well behaved and very much treasured.


On Aug 7, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

This fern grows all over the shady part of my son's back yard in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. It was there before the house was built, growing in a small ravine, and once he installed a sprinkler system, it spread throughout the yard. It does stay green all winter in his yard in zone 7b, even under snow, and is a very pretty, medium size fern.


On Aug 6, 2003, SueP64 from Centerbrook, CT wrote:

Prefers shade. Slow to spread. Stays green all winter. Tends to grow in upright clumps in moist, loamy soil. Has naturalized in my area.