Matteuccia struthiopteris, Ostrich Fern

A colony of Ostrich Fern in mostly shade conditions.

Ostrich Fern is one of the colony-forming ferns, like Sensitive Fern or Interrupted Fern, spreading rhizomatically. It is tolerant of sun as well as dappled shade, and various soil types as long as there is moisture. Because of these traits, one must place Ostrich Fern wisely. Consider planting it where it can form a colony up against natural or unnatural barriers, like a retaining wall (it will travel underneath a fence). If you like to cook fiddleheads, this is the fern to plant. Its prolific nature will offer you an abundant supply in just a few years. As always, please eat only plants you are absolutely certain is the right species and is cooked properly.

In the above garden, Ostrich Fern has done exceedingly well, going head to head with the equally successful Hop Sedge. Not tolerant of repeated mowing, it's spread can be contained with a mixture of sun, lawn, and mowing. When planted in full sun and on drier sites, Ostrich Fern is likely to brown earlier than those planted in shade, but either way it trends toward decline by August. That is a cue to the sort of plant that can grow alongside it -those that make headway in August for fall blooms -try Blue Lobelia, Physostegia, Turtlehead, American Germander and other ferns.

Height: 2 to 4 feet

Conditions: sun to shade, wet to medium soils