Japanese holly fern is an upright fern that forms a rounded mound up to 2 ft (60 cm) high and 3 ft (1 m) wide. It sports glossy, very dark green fronds on slender, arching stems. The individual pinnae are leathery, serrated with sharp points, and have a remarkable resemblance to holly leaves - thus the common name. Spores, light green when young and dark at maturity, adhere to the backs of specialized fronds. Japanese holly fern is evergreen in frostfree areas, but loses its fronds in colder climates.
Location Cyrtomium falcatum is native to Japan.
Japanese holly fern likes rich, acidic soil and good drainage. It thrives with occasional fish emulsion or liquid fertilizer. Groom when foliage becomes frayed or unsightly. Ferns will soon regrow after being cut back, but avoid cutting into or damaging the crown. Light: Japanese holly fern does well in partial to full shade. It tolerates more sun than many ferns. Moisture: Grow in a moist but well drained soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 11. Propagation: Divide clumps during the warm season and plant divisions slightly deeper than the parent clump.
A Japanese holly fern fiddlehead unfurls into a new frond.
Japanese holly fern can be used as a house plant in fairly bright light, or grown outside in part shade as filler in shady beds with hostas, impatiens and caladiums, or with other ferns as a contrast in color and texture. Holly fern makes an attractive border around large trees or shrub beds. In arrangements, long lasting Japanese holly fern fronds can be used as background for more colorful flowers.
Japanese holly fern is a tough plant that is inexpensive and easy to propagate. Several selected varieties are available including dwarf versions and some with different shaped pinnae. This fern has been a popular porch plant in Florida and the Deep South since the 1800's.