Polystichum acrostichoides

Christmas fern
Light Requirements
part-shade, shade
Soil Moisture
dry, moist
Soil Description
acid, rich, average, loam, clay, sand, gravel/rock
Hardiness Zone
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Additional Tags
clumping, deer resistant, evergreen, fall interest, ornamental foliage, rock garden plant, shade garden plant, woodland plant
Polystichum acrostichoides is a stout and robust evergreen species that forms neat, somewhat asymmetrical, vase-shaped clumps up to 2’ tall with erect to arching stems and deep-green, leathery leaflets. The fronds emerge as hairy and silvery fiddleheads that arevery ornamental in their own right, and turn dark green as they mature. The foliage deteriorates late winter to early spring, just before the new growth emerges. It can be removed to maintain a well-kempt appearance, or left in place to create a natural mulch and weed barrier.
Christmas ferns are highly adaptable and will perform admirably in rich, well-drained soils as well as lean, rocky ones. Its native habitat includes open deciduous forests that receive a lot of moisture from fall through spring, but then dry out during the summer months. It is also found along woodland margins that are exposed to a lot of direct morning and/or afternoon light, but are sheltered from the scorching mid-day sun. The root system consists of a thick rhizome and spreading fibrous roots that are very effective at preventing erosion and stabilizing soil on steep banks and bluffs where it is often found growing in abundance. This fern stays in place, forming dense clumps over time. Under ideal conditions it will naturalize via spores, but this far from being an aggressive species and the process is slow. It is beautiful when planted as a specimen, or in large groups. It can be combined with a wide variety of shade-loving plants, including sedges for a striking textural contrast and creating a formidable groundcover. Zones 3-8
Additional Notes
The genus is derived from the Greek words poly, meaning many or multiple, and stichos, meaning rows. This is a reference to the rows of spore cases (sori) on the underside of the fern’s leaflets. The specific epithet acrostichoides gets a bit more complicated, so bear with me. Acros, is also a word of Greek origin, meaning uppermost or topmost. Then there is a recurring reference to the word stichos, and lastly the suffix oides that means looks like. So, the specific epithet means that this fern looks like ferns in the Acrostichum genus that have the common feature of dense rows of sori under the uppermost leaflets of the fronds. The origin of the common name Christmas fern is anyone’s guess, but I don’t think you’d be going out on a limb if you were to suggest that it’s a reference to the fern still being green at that time of year. So, go for it: cut some fronds off for your holiday wreaths or flower arrangements...you’ll have a good story to tell.
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Pricing & Availability

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Potted plants

Tennessee Naturescapes , TN


Only 25 left

Minimum order of 6.

--- To reach this minimum you may MIX & MATCH across any species, sold by Tennessee Naturescapes.

Spring 2021 advance ordering is now in effect. Orders placed now can ship as early as the week of April 5th 2021.

Would you like your plants to be shipped later? You may do so in the shopping cart.

If you wish to have plants delivered before the week of April 5th, please check with us BEFORE placing your order so that we can verify that your requirements can be met.



North Creek Nurseries , PA

32-count plugs, full flat (32 plugs)

10% OFF orders of 5 or more flats of any species from North Creek Nurseries.

20% OFF orders of 10 or more flats of any species from North Creek Nurseries.

See all products that qualify from North Creek Nurseries.

Spring 2021 advance ordering is now in effect. Orders placed now can ship as early as the week of April 5th 2021.

Would you like your plants to be shipped later? You may do so in the shopping cart.

If you wish to have plants delivered before the week of April 5th, please check with us BEFORE placing your order so that we can verify that your requirements can be met.



Quart-size Pot

This size is well-suited for plants in an advanced stage of development. Each quart is about 4” x 4” and 5” deep (exact measurements vary slightly depending on the pot manufacturer).

Whether you are interested in growing a specimen, or creating a grouping, these plants will be quick to establish and put on a show.

32-Count Deep Plugs

32-count plug

Our 32-count plugs are typically the preferred size for plants that are shallow-rooted. The additional width of these plugs allows for horizontal growth of the roots, which benefits many species of ferns and sedges.

Each individual plug measures 2 ½” x 2 ½” across by 3” deep.

These plugs are landscape-ready, but also offer a head start should you be interested in potting them up.


Recorded County Distribution: USDA data

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Native To

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Legal Status

Exploitably Vulnerable NY
Threatened MN

Wetland Status

Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain FACU
Eastern Mountains and Piedmont FACU
Great Plains FACU
Midwest UPL
Northcentral and Northeast FACU

Interpreting Wetland Status






Obligate Wetland


Almost always occur in wetlands


Facultative Wetland


Usually occur in wetlands, but may occur in non-wetlands




Occur in wetlands and non-wetlands


Facultative Upland


Usually occur in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands


Obligate Upland


Almost never occur in wetlands


Kingdom PlantaePlants
Subkingdom TracheobiontaVascular plants
Division PteridophytaFerns
Class Filicopsida
Order Polypodiales
Family DryopteridaceaeWood Fern family
Genus Polystichumhollyfern
Species Polystichum acrostichoidesChristmas fern



Sizes info


Shipping is free on all plants orders!

Your plants will ship using each grower’s preferred method: FedEx Ground, UPS Ground, or Spee-Dee Ground (in select midwestern states).

Our growers ship orders Monday through Wednesday. The farther you plants need to travel, the earlier in the week they will ship. The goal is to have all plants delivered by the end of the week.

Shipping plugs:

Plugs are shipped in full flats, sometimes also referred to as trays. Multiple flats can be shipped in a single box. The flats are wrapped in netting or craft paper to secure the plants, and spacers are used between flats to keep the plants from being crushed.

When you unpack your plugs, the plants will have been somewhat flattened by the netting or craft paper. They will straighten out within a couple of days. You may also gently “fluff” them a bit to speed up the process. In some cases, your plants might have been cut back before packing, if the grower deemed them to have become too tall for safe packaging. Don’t worry, though, these guys know what they’re doing and would not compromise the health of the plants. They’ll fill back in in no time.

After receiving your plants’ journey in a dark box, it will be important to acclimate them to sunlight again. Over a couple of days, you should gradually move them into their preferred light exposure, and water them as per their requirement.

Although we always recommend putting your plants in the ground as soon as possible, they can stay healthy in the flats for a considerable amount of time. The key is to respect their growing requirements: if the species requires full sun, do not store them in the shade. If it is best adapted to dry soil, do not over-water.


Planting plugs:

We consider plugs ready to ship when the plants’ roots have filled the entire liner cell and the plants can easily be pulled out. In some cases you will have to go about it gently, wiggling the plant by the crown, and possibly squeezing the bottom of the liner to compress the growing medium and release the roots. Other times, the plants will appear to be root bound. They are not in the traditional sense. The plants are healthy but they have used up all the growing medium available to them. Plugs are at an aggressive stage of growth. As soon as planted the roots will immediately expand into your native soil. They establish faster than plants in larger containers, because they don’t have the luxury of a lot of growing media that can inhibit the roots from venturing outside of their comfort zone.

We are not going to address area preparation because the process can be complex and is always site-specific. However, as a rule, we recommend disturbing the soil as little as possible, and we do not recommend amending the soil. If you chose the right plant for the right conditions they will thrive. Any disturbance and amendments will only encourage weeds to emerge that never had a chance to do so before.

Installing plugs cannot be easier: dig a hole large enough for the roots to fit snugly inside, then water them in to eliminate air gaps. We recommend using a soil knife, sometimes referred to as hori hori, or a drill-adapted auger if it’s a large installation. If you use an auger, you will need a powerful drill. Depending on the size of the project and the type of soil, the process can be beyond what an average drill will bear. Mulching is recommended after installation to help keep weeds down while the plants establish. Be sure to keep it away from the crown of the plants. For large projects, you may want to mulch the area before planting, rather than tiptoeing through it after the fact. As a side note: if you are installing plugs in the fall, you might want to plant them so that the crown is about ¾” lower than the surrounding soil. The winter’s freeze/thaw cycles can push plugs out if the roots did not have enough time to establish and anchor them in.


Starting and planting seed:

Direct sowing:

For most forbs - also referenced as flowering perennials - the best time to sow is during fall and winter to expose seeds to the natural cycles of alternating cold, moist and warmer weather that they have evolved to require in order to germinate. There are of course some exceptions, and some species will germinate under warm conditions regardless of having first been exposed to a cold period. Most grasses fall under this category. There are also species that will require a couple of years of cycling temperatures in order to germinate, so it is important to understand each species’ requirements and manage one’s expectations accordingly.

Soil preparation:

Like any type of garden, a well-prepared soil makes the difference. Remove any large debris. Kill and remove any grass sod. Till and rake the soil until an even surface is achieved. Starting from seed is the most cost effective way to start your native planting; however, it requires time and patience. Most species we carry are perennials, meaning they will come back each spring for many years. As perennials, the plants will grow slowly and may take several years to mature and flower.


Planting seeds:

Planting these seeds is very similar to planting other types of seeds: small seeds are planted very shallow and large seeds are planted deeper. A good rule of thumb is to plant the seed the same depth as the seed’s thickness. For example, a 1/16” thick seed is planted 1/16” deep. A light straw mulch is recommended for late fall seedings. There are also some seeds that, either due to their small size or light requirements to germinate, should only be surface sown and kept clear of any coverings.

Sowing seed can also be a good way to add diversity to an existing planting. Should that be your application, soil preparation is not necessary because you will be mimicking the process by which plants naturally spread in established environments. To improve germination rates, winter sowing is very effective especially right before a snow event. The snow will hide the seeds from foraging birds and mammals, provide the steady moisture needed to trigger germination, and will help work the seeds down to the soil as it melts.

Once plants are established they will require minimal maintenance. Remove any large weeds, especially if they flower and set seed. If weeds become a problem in seedings you can mow during the first two years to a height of 10-12 inches. This will benefit your perennial plants by providing more sunshine.


Starting your seeds indoors:

If you want to have more control over the germination process and planting - or if you want to start your seed in spring or summer before they are exposed to freeze/thaw cycles - you will want to mimic natural conditions by using a process known as cold/moist stratification:

There are several methods that can be used to stratify seed. For large quantities, the recommended method is to mix the seed into a moist, sterile medium such as sand, perlite, vermiculite, or a combination of the 3, and then refrigerate as required. For smaller quantities, spreading the seeds evenly between moist sheets of paper towels and refrigerating them in a resealable plastic bag will do just fine. You should check regularly to verify that the medium, or paper towels, has not dried out. You also need to check for any signs of germination that might occur before the recommended stratification period has elapsed. Should that occur, or if you have met the recommended stratification period, you should remove the seeds and plant them immediately in your preferred potting medium. Use the previously mentioned guidelines for determining seed depth.

Some seeds have especially hard protective coatings. In nature, those get broken down by soil abrasion or by passing through an animal or bird’s digestive tract. In addition to stratification, those seeds will require scarification to improve germination rates. Several methods can be used to achieve this. Gently rubbing the seeds between two sheets of fine sandpaper is one of them. Another method is to mimic exposure to digestive enzymes and to soak the seeds for 24 hours in some diluted tea.

If you do start your seed indoors, we recommend timing the process so that germination will occur after the last chance of frost. That way you can move your seedlings outside without having to manage appropriate indoor light exposures.