Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) is an ornamental, large, feathery fern and grows up to 2-5 meters tall. It has light-green color and twice-pinnate fronds with finely toothed leaflets create the illusion of a dainty fern, despite its large size. Stems are greenish-yellow to red. The fronds arise from stout, ascending to erect rhizomes. The rhizomes are scaly and are observed to have old leaf stalks at their bases.
The orange-brown colored spots on the underside of the leaf are sori, clusters of spore sacs. On the lady fern, these spores are covered by a crescent to horseshoe-shaped insidium. As the leaf drys spores pop off and reproduce in the moist ground below. The rhizomes and young leaves are considered edible after they have been cooked.
Species: A. filix-femina
Scientific Name: Athyrium filix-femina (L.) Roth
Common Names: Lady fern and Female fern
How to grow and maintain Lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina):
It thrives best in Partial to full shade or an area that gets dappled sunlight year-round.
It grows in well-drained, moist soil, and require organic matter to grow. The soil pH should be neutral or very slightly acidic for the ferns to grow properly.
Water your plant regularly and always keep the soil evenly moist but never allow your plant to sit in water.
It thrives well in room temperatures between 65 degrees Fahrenheit – 75 degrees Fahrenheit / 18 degrees Celsius – 24 degrees Celsius are ideal, and no lower than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).
During spring and summer, fertilize weekly or biweekly with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Deformed leaves with brown or yellow spots or edges are a sign of too much fertilizer.
Re-pot your ferns once every 2 years in the spring, moving the plant into a pot only one size larger.
Remove yellowed leaves and older fronds to protect the crowns and tender shoots. Keep to desired height and shape with light pruning or clipping at any time.
Lady fern can be propagated by sowing spores in mid to late summer or by division in spring. To divide the plant first slowly remove the plant from its container and separate the plant into 2-3 clumps ensuring each clump has at least 1 growing tip. Then replant these clumps in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil and ensure the clumps remain moist, at least until the new fronds start to appear.
Pests and Diseases:
It has no serious pest or disease problems. They are susceptible to attacks by scales, spider mites, and mealybugs.
Benefits of Lady fern:
- Lady fern is used for lung and breathing problems, cough, and digestive tract illnesses, but there is no good scientific evidence to
support these conditions.
- Young shoots are harvested before they have fully unfolded, can be eaten cooked. They must not be eaten raw. Used in spring, they are bitter emergency food. Rhizome – peeled and slow-baked.
- The fresh shoots contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, however, huge amounts can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase. Although we have found no reports for this species, a number of ferns also contain cancer-causing agents so some caution is advisable.