Plant Type
Sunlight Amount


Hay-Scented Fern

Hay-scented fern is a deciduous plant with lacy, green fronds that turn soft yellow in fall and smell faintly like freshly mown hay when brushed, crushed, or bruised. A North American native, it is common in open woods and wooded banks in the eastern and midwestern United States. This aggressive perennial spreads to form colonies and is considered invasive by some gardeners in the eastern U.S. Hay-scented fern suits woodland areas, shade gardens, and cottage gardens. Or employ it in areas where dense shade and dry soil make it hard for few other plants to thrive; this fern will do just fine. BTW: It tolerates full sun as long as it gets consistent moisture.  

genus name
  • Dennstaedtia punctilobula
  • Part Sun
  • Shade
plant type
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • 2 to 3 feet
foliage color
problem solvers
special features
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8

Planting Hay-Scented Fern

Hay-scented fern fills a shaded area with low-maintenance foliage after two to three years in nearly any type of soil. Avoid adding it to a perennial shade garden that contains hosta, astilbe, and other shade-loving perennials; it will quickly choke out these less aggressive plants.

Hay-Scented Fern Care

Hay-scented fern grows best in part to full shade and moist, organically rich soil. An adaptable plant, it also tolerates poor, rocky soil and dry soil once established. This fern spreads aggressively by rhizomes to form dense colonies.

Plant hay-scented fern in early spring. It spreads quickly, so plant multiple ferns about 18 inches apart. Water plants well after planting and continue doing so weekly during the first growing season. Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch around the plant base to prevent evaporation of soil moisture. At the end of the growing season or in early spring, cut back fronds to ground level. Use a sharp spade to divide this perennial anytime throughout the growing season, although early spring is best. Replant the fronds and water well.

Plant Hay-Scented Fern With:

This elegant shade plant has gently arching stems and dangling creamy bells. Solomon's seal adds height and grace to shaded gardens in spring. It's an easy plant to grow, and will slowly colonize -- even in tough areas where shallow tree roots rob moisture and nutrients. The foliage turns golden in fall.

This native perennial gets its name from the shape of its unusual flowers, which resemble the heads of snapping turtles. It's a good choice for heavy, wet soils and spreads to form dense colonies of upright stems bearing pink, rose, or white flowers from late summer into fall. It grows best in some shade, but tolerates full sun with adequate moisture.

In early spring, the brilliant blue, pink, or white flowers of lungwort bloom despite the coldest chill. The rough basal leaves, spotted or plain, always please and continue to be handsome through the season and into winter. Planted close as a weed-discouraging groundcover, or in borders as edgings or bright accent plants, lungworts are workhorses and retain their good looks. Provide high-humus soil that retains moisture. Although lungwort tolerates dry conditions, be alert for mildew.