The Japanese holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) is a species of fern native to eastern Asia. It gets its name from the resemblance it shares with the holly branch, with its pointy and serrated leaves found on its long fronds.
Its unique and intriguing appearance made this plant a household favorite piece to have in many homes, with its deep green color and lush appearance serving as a sure standout no matter where it’s placed.
Unlike most other ferns, the Japanese holly fern is able to handle changes in humidity a little better; it is typically seen growing in wetter areas such as stream banks and coastal cliffs.
While it may have originated from Asia, naturalization has allowed the Japanese holly fern to grow in different parts of the world such as North America, Hawaii, and Australia.
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About the Japanese Holly Fern
- The Japanese holly fern is part of the Dryopteridaceae family. According to the Pteridophyte Phylogeny Group classification of 2016 (PPG I), this species falls under the subfamily Dryopteridoideae.
- Cyrtomium is a genus that contains about 35 different species of fern plants native to East Asia.
- Some closely related species include the Coral Bells (Heuchera), Bleeding Heart (Dicentera), Hosta (Hosta), Ligularia (Ligularia), and Lungwort (Pulmonaria).
- It is native to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. However, this plant has propagated to other countries outside of Asia.
- The holly fern thrives in moist soil, so be sure to place it in well-draining soil.
- It is evergreen in mild environments, and while it may be winter-hardy, it cannot survive in icy areas.
- If you want to propagate the holly fern, it can be done through two methods: One technique involves taking a section from its rhizome or rootstock; the other involves sowing its spores.
- This plant is quite robust when kept indoors as it is more tolerant of low lighting, gas fumes, and dry air compared to other ferns. It only needs occasional grooming when the foliage looks unpleasant or when it sheds during the winter.
Japanese Holly Fern Features: An Overview
- It can reach a height of 24 inches and has multiple vividly green leaflets. This plant is known for its glossy, dark green leaves that can grow about 1 to 2.5 inches long. Each leaflet may have irregularly shaped edges, which adds to their unique appearance. They also have a fine, net-like veining pattern.
- This plant prefers filtered bright light and partial shade. While it can survive for a short while in low-light conditions, you should provide ample light as soon as possible.
- The spores of this fern appear as tiny patches on the underside of the leaflets, which are easily carried by the wind. They first appear greenish but change into a light brownish shade over time.
- This plant can be grown in different climates. It can handle lower temperatures at about 50°F (10°C), but it thrives and enjoys being at room temperature (68°F/20°C). When placed in warmer conditions, it’s crucial to increase humidity and maintain the plant’s moisture.
- Whether it is grown indoors or outdoors, the holly fern does not produce any flowers nor does it have a fragrance.
- It is non-toxic to cats and dogs, so it’s safe to put in the house if you have these kinds of pets.
- Popular for its hardiness and handsome foliage, this fern makes an excellent groundcover or border edging in shaded locations. The stiff, glossy, dark green fronds of holly-like leaflets with coarsely fringed margins add excellent texture to container plantings. Evergreen in mild winter regions.
- This unique Fern is an excellent potted specimen. It grows in shaded niches in rock gardens and on the north side of buildings. Thicker than other Fern, it stands up to coastal breezes without tattering. Above all, it is among the few that survive well with salt air or saline water supply.
- Best with fertile, evenly moist, well-drained soil. Shelter from harsh afternoon sun. Water deeply, regularly in first growing season to establish an extensive root system. Fertilize periodically during growing season. Provide winter protection in USDA zone 6. Remove old, faded fronds after new growth begins in spring.
- 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, the Japanese Holly Fern 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.
- Holly Fern Plant Pot: Holly Fern is a beautiful drought-resistant plant with leathery, shiny, deep green fronds that feature coarsely fringed margins. The dark green color of the fern makes for a great contrast when grouped with more colorful plants
- Indoor Plants: Holly Fern, named after the pointy tips on its leathery leaves, is native to Africa and Asia. An ideal texture for container plantings, they also make great border plants or groundcover. The USDA hardiness zone for outdoor planting is 6–11
- Easy Maintenance: Holly Fern plants are easy to care for; they grow well in bright, indirect light or full to partial shade, with the ideal temperature being 65–80° F. A heat pack is included for each plant if your region experiences cold weather
- Home and Garden Decor: Our Holly Fern plant pot is perfect for windowsills, countertops, desks, and tables in your home or garden. The plant, which can reach heights of up to 2′, is also a great gift option for friends and family
- Health Benefits: Live plants purify the air in their surroundings and thus enable you to inhale clean, fresh air while also helping to boost mood levels. The plant is safe for humans and pets
- Unique fern with an antler-like shape that adds a natural touch to any space.
- Low maintenance plant that thrives in bright, indirect light and high humidity.
- Can be mounted on a wall or hung in a basket, making it a great space-saving option.
- Pet-friendly plant, safe for households with cats and dogs.
- Excellent air-purifying benefits, improving the air quality of indoor spaces.
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Growing Japanese Holly Fern
When caring for a holly fern, one of the most crucial things you need to know is that it enjoys moist, well-drained, and acidic soil. Additionally, you can further help it thrive by making sure that soil is also rich in organic matter.
When grown indoors, the fern should be exposed to bright, indirect sunlight; conversely, when outdoors, it grows better when placed in only partial sunlight.
You can opt to give your plant some liquid fertilizer after every two weeks if it is still young. When repotting your holly fern, place it in a container that is a bit larger than its previous one during spring. It is recommended to use a potting mixture made up of coarse peat moss or half leaf mold.
Once the repotted plant shows signs of new growth, you can fertilize it using a diluted slow-release fertilizer. You can also opt to feed it with some fish emulsion or a water-soluble fertilizer, but be sure to avoid overfeeding your holly fern. Once matured, it can grow to be around 2 feet tall with a 3-foot long spread.
Compared to other ferns, this one is tougher and more robust, able to tolerate gas fumes, lower light, and drier air far better. However, it is still best to keep it somewhere at approximately 68 to 70°F (20 to 21°C) even if it can tolerate lower temperatures.
The plant can survive in poor lighting conditions but only for a short period of time. In warmer environments, the plant will need more humidity and moisture. You can better retain soil moisture by placing some damp rocks and pebbles on top of the soil.
When planted outdoors, it’s best to keep it in an area where it is exposed to all-day shade or morning sunlight. During the winter season, be sure to keep the fern covered and mulched. Cover the soil with a layer of shredded bark or straw to protect it from the cold. It is normal for it to get a little droopy during this time but it’s okay as long as it doesn’t freeze.
The holly fern doesn’t need a lot of maintenance. Its leaves should only be cut when they begin to look dull, wilted, or unshapely, but be careful when grooming as you might accidentally cut or damage the crown. You can leave old foliage during the winter to protect the plant from the cold temperature.
You might get troubled with fungal spots since this plant does enjoy moist conditions. Luckily, this can easily be addressed with fungicide. Check the plant for any scale bugs which appear as yellowish bumps along its stems and leaves. You can get rid of them by gently wiping some pesticide onto the infested area, but avoid using pesticides that contain oil.
Watering Japanese Holly Fern
Keeping the soil damp and moist is essential for this plant to thrive. On average, you would need to water it at least once a week or once every 10 ten days. The first thing you have to do is to check the top of the soil if it feels dry.
Water deeply and make sure that the excess fluid runs all the way through. It helps to keep the fern in a pot with good drainage, especially if it is kept indoors.
You should water even less if you live somewhere where it rains frequently or if the indoor temperature drops to 54°F (12°C) or lower. However, if you’ve placed this plant in a warmer area, it’s likely that it won’t need a resting period during the winter. Keep in mind that overwatering could put your holly fern at risk of developing root rot.
Propagating Japanese Holly Fern
The quickest way to propagate holly ferns is through division, particularly during the spring. An easy way to do this is by watering the plant a day before and then removing it from its pot. Gently pull apart a section from the rhizome or rootstock, preferably one that already has a few dark green fronds. You can usually divide it into 2 or 3 sections.
Replant the sections in a moist, humus-rich medium and place in an area where it is exposed to filtered bright light. Make sure they retain enough moisture by frequently misting them until new growth is visible. They can be transferred once they have developed roots.
You can also propagate the plant using its spores. If you see black, green, yellow, or brown dots on the underside of the fern fronds, those are clusters of spore cases. Once they ripen, the cases open and small, dust-like spores fall out.
From here, you can collect them by cutting the frond and placing it pore-side down on a piece of wax paper. Leave it for a few days until the spores fall onto the paper. Alternatively, you can place the cutting in a plastic bag and shake it occasionally.
Prepare a small container with dampened peat moss or a moist potting soil mix before transferring the spores. Cover it with a plastic lid or some plastic wrap and place in an area with bright, indirect light. Small green plants should begin sprouting within 1 to 2 months.
The Japanese holly fern is a great plant to have around because of its simple necessities and standout appearance.
If you’re looking for something to add to your garden, this plant’s lush and deep green leaves are sure to provide a beautiful contrast to your other, more colorful flora.
Moreover, they serve as excellent groundcover plants that not only help you cover up unsightly patches but also enhances the overall look of your garden.
With proper care, this fern is a wonderful houseplant and doesn’t need too many things to grow healthy and happy. Despite not having any flowers or fragrance, the holly fern still draws attention and has no trouble livening up a space.