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Japanese Holly Fern
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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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.
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.