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Japanese Holly Fern

Cyrtomium falcatum

Aptly named Japanese holly fern produces long fronds that resemble holly branches. That’s because the fronds sport leaflets with sawtooth edges and a glossy, deep green, leathery appearance. Less fussy about humidity than most other ferns grown as houseplants, Japanese holly fern flourishes indoors without shedding. Outdoors it grows best in full shade but will tolerate some morning sun. Add it to a shade garden where it will contribute rich texture and evergreen foliage. In zones where this plant is not winter-hardy, site it in a sheltered location.

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Part Sun, Shade


1 to 3 feet


2 to 3 feet

Seasonal Features:

Special Features:




Planting Partners

In Zones 6-10, enjoy Japanese holly fern in the shade garden, where its lustrous leaves light up dark spaces. Pretty planting partners include easy-to-grow ligularia, which sports large leaves and yellow flowers, and ground-hugging lamium, which blankets soil with variegated foliage and petite flowers while suppressing weeds. Hosta's simple but lush foliage contrasts beautifully with the texture of Japanese holly fern's fronds.

Discover your inner houseplant with this quick quiz!

Japanese Holly Fern Care Must-Knows

Japanese holly fern tolerates low humidity, which makes it a great houseplant. Plant it in a 12- to 18-inch container filled with a good quality potting mix. Site it in a room with medium light; direct sunlight can scorch this plant's foliage. When Japanese holly fern is grown as a houseplant, water it regularly to maintain moist but not soggy soil. Feed your fern every month, spring through fall, with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Expect it to grow about 2 feet tall and wide indoors. Divide the plant in spring when it outgrows its container, which should take a few years.

Outside, plant Japanese holly fern in moist, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. This plant grows best in all-day shade or a combination of morning sun and afternoon shade. Avoid planting spots where the soil stays wet for extended periods, which encourages root rot and is especially detrimental during winter. Water plants regularly during dry periods.

Japanese holly fern is hardy in mild winter climates. In areas where the foliage turns brown in winter, cut it back to ground level in early spring before new growth begins. In Zones 6 and 7, cover Japanese holly fern with a layer of straw mulch in winter to protect it from extreme temperatures.

Create a tranquil Japanese garden with these basic elements.

More Varieties of Japanese Holly Fern

Japanese holly fern

Cyrtomium falcatum offers shiny, rich green fronds and grows 2 feet tall. Zones 6-10

Rochford Japanese holly fern

This variety of Cyrtomium falcatum has deeply incised, glossy green fronds with sickle-shape pinnae (leaflets). Zones 6-10

Plant Japanese Holly Fern With:

This plant hardly grown 40 years ago is now one of the most commonly grown garden plants. But hosta has earned its spot in the hearts of gardeners -- it's among the easiest plants to grow, as long as you have some shade and ample rainfall.Hostas vary from tiny plants suitable for troughs or rock gardens to massive 4-foot clumps with heart-shape leaves almost 2 feet long that can be puckered, wavy-edged, white or green variegated, blue-gray, chartreuse, emerald-edged -- the variations are virtually endless. Hostas in new sizes and touting new foliage features seem to appear each year. This tough, shade-loving perennial, also known as plaintain lily, blooms with white or purplish lavender funnel-shape or flared flowers in summer. Some are intensely fragrant. Hostas are a favorite of slug and deer.
Toad lily
No fall garden should be without toad lilies. These Asian curiosities bloom with orchid-like flowers that demand a close look, when the garden is winding down in fall. They do best in light shade in humus-rich soil that retains moisture, and are suitable for borders or less formal parts of the garden and among shrubs gradually becoming large clumps. Some self-seed but not aggressively.
Bleeding heart
It's easy to see the origin of bleeding heart's common name when you get a look at its heart-shape pink or white blooms with a protruding tip at the base of the heart. They grow best in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. Some types bloom only in spring and others bloom spring, summer, and fall, provided temperatures aren't too high.
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