Tips On Deer Fern Care


Deer fern, botanically called Blechnum Spicant (BLEK-num, SPIK-ant), is a fern species in the family Blechnaceae. 

The term “Blecknum” is a Greek word for a type of fern while the “spicant” means “having spikes”.

Deer Fern aka Blechnum SpicantDeer Fern aka Blechnum Spicant

This type of fern is native to Europe and the Pacific Northwest in Western North America. 

It is also found in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, British Columbia, California Redwood Forest, and California Mixed Evergreen Forest, and along the coast of Santa Cruz. 

Deer fern (Blechnum) has a few common names as follows:

  • Sword fern
  • Hard fern
  • Lomaria spicant
  • Osmunda Spicant 
  • Struthiopteris Spicant 
  • Chain fern
  • Ladder fern

Another Blechnum you may like: Silver Lady Fern

Deer Fern Plant Care

Size and Growth

This evergreen fern grows in deep shade regions, reaching the size of up to 2’ feet tall and wide. 

It produces pinnately compound rosette leaves, known as fronds. 

Deer fern produces two types of fronds – fertile fronds (fertile leaves) and sterile fronds (sterile leaves).

The fertile fronds grow from the center in an erect position, for up to 8” – 32” inches long while the sterile fronds spread longer and narrower from the lower side, for up to 12” – 36” inches long. 

Older and mature deer ferns contain more sterile leaves than the young ones.

Flowering and Fragrance

This plant type – fern – is a non-flowering plant. 

They do not produce seeds and therefore they don’t flower. 

Hard ferns reproduce with spores. 

These spores are usually formed on the underside of the leaves.  

Even though deer ferns do not bloom, they have a fresh, woody aroma which captures the essence of the forest.

Light and Temperature

Hard ferns perform best in full shade to part shade. 

However, they are capable to grow in all sorts of light conditions, except for full, direct sun in an extremely hot climate. 

Surprisingly, these ferns are cold-tolerant and easily thrive in chilly winter temperatures.  

They are winter hardy in USDA zone 5.

Ideally, the USDA hardiness zones of the USDA plants are from 5 – 8.

Watering and Feeding

Deer ferns prefer regular watering to maintain moist soil. 

However, allowing the soil to dry before watering stresses these plants. 

When it comes to fertilizing, feed the plant once in a month, except for in the winter season. 

Apply an all-purpose liquid house plant food to ensure the optimum growth of the plant.

Soil and Transplanting

  • These North American native plants prefer a compost-rich, acidic or neutral soil, with a pH value of 5.0 – 6.5. 
  • The soil must hold an adequate amount of moisture. 
  • Excessive moisture in the soil hinders the development of the plant.
  • Deer ferns are easy to transplant in spring. 
  • This is the time when the plant is dormant and produces no active growth. 
  • Dig deep and lift the clump with as much soil as possible.  
  • Transfer the clump (along with the entire root area) to a newly prepared hole. 
  • Cover the location with wet soil. 
  • Water thoroughly after transplanting and layer the soil with mulch to retain moisture.   

Grooming and Maintenance

Occasional pruning is a crucial aspect of deer ferns. 

If not pruned, they may become bushy and difficult to look after. 

Therefore, lightly prune the plant in winter or spring. 

Trim any yellow or brown fronds to improve the plant’s appearance and the airflow around it. 

Cutting back damaged fronds also reduces the occurrence of mold or fungal problems.  

More Ferns You May Like:

How to Propagate Blechnum Spicant

These clump-forming plants are easy to propagate by dividing the roots in the winter or spring season. 

Divide a fern with roots, making sure to cut the rhizomes apart. 

The divisions you make must contain at least one rhizome with healthy roots and leaves. 

Plant only the healthy divisions in a well-moist soil and discard the damaged ones. 

Generously water the plant and ensure it drains fast.

Blechnum Spicant Pests and Diseases

Deer ferns are susceptible to aphids and spider mites. 

If not treated quickly, the plant may be infested by a hundred of such pests. 

To protect the plant from these pesky creatures, water the plant frequently and keep it in a dark spot. 

Many organic and inorganic pesticides also help decrease the population of aphids and spider mites. 

Deer ferns are generally disease-free, but lack of care may cause the plant to suffer from sori – a common fungus in ferns.

Deer Fern Uses

The evergreen fern is best known for its landscape uses. 

They are best suited for ground covers, border plantings, woodland gardens, rock gardens, and trellises. 

The attractive plant is also used as a houseplant. 

The roots and young shoots of the plant have edible purposes. 

They are often eaten as emergency food for relief from hunger attacks. 

The vibrant green leaves are also eaten to quench thirst in dire times. 

The fronds are also chewed as a treatment for life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, lung diseases, and stomach problems. 

They are also used externally as a medicine for skin lesions.

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