Outstanding Qualities

“Purple-tinged royal fern (or regal fern) is a handsome, majestic garden fern with large, rather coarse foliage. It is one of the largest of the temperate ferns, growing as tall as 6 feet, with an upright, vase shape. Its bold fronds provide contrast when placed with other ferns and perennials. When the fronds unfurl in spring, they are bright green and they hold that shade all summer. The cultivar ‘Purpurascens’ has been selected because the main stem of its fronds (technically called the rachis) is tinged deep purple. At maturity these sterile fronds are tipped with tassle-like fertile (spore-bearing) leaflets. In autumn their bright green fades to tones of gold and russet. In addition to being ornamental, royal fern’s “”roots”” are used commercially in orchid potting mixes.”

Quick Facts

Plant Type: fern

Foliage Type: deciduous

Plant Height: 3 ft. 0 in. (0.91 meters)

Plant Width/Spread: 3 ft. 0 in. (0.91 meters)

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9

Flower Color: none

Sun/Light Exposure: light to open shade or full sun if in a constantly moist location

Water Requirements: frequent watering on drier sites, less so on moist sites

Resistant to: deer

Colors & Combos

Great Color Contrasts: burgundy, gold, variegated

Great Color Partners: dark green, blue

Royal Fern Care – How To Plant Royal Ferns In The Garden

Royal ferns in the garden add interesting texture and color to shaded areas. Osmunda regalis, the royal fern, is large with twice cut leaves and adds an air of elegance when tucked into shady beds with companion plants of contrasting foliage. Royal fern care is simple when growing a royal fern plant in the right location. Also known as old world royal ferns, leaves are large and sometimes produce bead-like sori (spores) at the tips.

Growing a Royal Fern Plant

Royal ferns in the garden like consistently moist soil that is acidic and rich with organic matter; however, they are adaptable to lesser conditions as long as regular water is provided.

Royal ferns in the garden resist damage from browsing rabbits and deer, making them a good specimen for shady, out of the way areas.

When growing a royal fern plant, allow room for the plant to reach its optimum height and spread of 2 to 3 feet. Also, when growing a royal fern plant, be advised that happily located specimens may even reach 6 feet.

When learning how to plant royal ferns, observe the location first to make sure the soil stays moist and shade is available for most of the day. If the area gets sunshine, it should be from morning sun or limited late evening sun.

A soil test may be needed to determine the acidity before planting royal ferns in the garden. The addition of compost, shredded oak leaves or pine needles will improve soil drainage and add some acidity to the soil. Prepare the soil, if needed, several weeks or months before planting royal ferns in the garden.

Royal Fern Care

Care of royal ferns, once planted in the right place, is minimal. When happy in its location, growing a royal fern plant is simple.

Keep the soil moist and prune browning fronds in fall.

Now that you’ve learned how to plant royal ferns and the ease of care of royal ferns, think of adding them to a shady area in your landscape, such as a water or bog garden or near a pond or stream. Plant them with other shade perennials for an even more attractive display.

American Royal Fern – 4.5 Inch Container

Product Description

(Mature Size: 24-60″T x 24-60″W)

(Osmunda regalis var. spectabilis)

The American Royal Fern is a spectacular, majestic fern that thrives in bogs and wet areas where it frequently reaches four feet or more.

It is not limited to life in swamps, however, and when kept moist grows well in the shady garden although it will be more modest in size.

It will happily tolerate almost full sun as well in northern climates. Look for it as a dominant plant in botanical garden waterside plantings.

As a truly ancient deciduous species it carries its green spores on separate stalks which will persist as tan frond tops.

Although most happy along a waterway, this fern will adapt to the hosta garden and add character next to some large hostas.

Would look great in a sporadic mass amongst large and giant hostas.

This native is easy to establish in gardens from Zones 2 – 10.

Hardy to zones 2 – 10. What’s My Zone?

Color: Dark Green

Size: 2-5 feet tall with speading habit

Type: Hosta Companion Plant

Product Size: 4.5 Inch Container


Ferns emerging in early spring are densely covered in woolly hair, which is quickly lost.

Leaves and stems:

Leaves are twice compound, up to 3 feet long, broadly egg-shaped in outline, the “branches” (pinnule) opposite. The leaflets are about 2 inches long and ¾ inch wide, minutely toothed around the edges, with forked veins, blunt tips, somewhat heart-shaped to nearly straight across the base, and little or no stalk. The leaflets are typically alternate with 7 to 10 on each side of a stem. Stems are brown, slender, slightly grooved on the upper side, initially covered with light brown hairs, becoming smooth with maturity.


Bead-like capsules containing the spores are attached to a stalk growing at the tip of a leaf (Royal Fern gets its name from this “crown” of capsules at the tip of leaf). The capsules are initially bright green but turn rusty colored then dark brown after releasing the spores.


This species doesn’t look much like a fern. It can take on a shrub-like appearance and the leaves look similar to a locust tree or a vetch species. Royal fern can be identified by the double compound leaves and clustered spore capsules at the tip of the leaf. There are 4 or 5 varieties spread across nearly every continent, but only var. spectabilis is recognized in North America, and Minnesota.

Royal Fern

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The royal fern, or Osmunda regalis spectabilis, is a perennial, deciduous fern with green, leaves that get to three to five feet tall that grow in an erect manner. Each plant contains one compound leaf or a tuft of such leaves. The plant looks much like a shrub until observed more closely. The royal fern prefers shade to partially shady conditions with plenty of moisture. The royal fern remains hardy from zones three to nine.

The young leaves and petioles emerge covered with wooly hairs that become glabrous as they mature. These petioles appear light green, tannish-yellow, or brown. These petioles look flattened at their bases and terete throughout the remainder of the leaf.

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More sterile leaves get produced by the plant than fertile fronds. Each leaf grows to a length of three and a half feet, and two and a half inches across. The leaves appear deltate in their outline.

The sterile leaves are bipinnate or tripinnate and include six to nine pairs of pinnate leaflets or two to three pairs of bipinnate leaflets. Pinnate leaflets of the royal fern have eight to 15 pairs of subleaflets that conclude in a terminal leaflet. These leaflets aren’t directly opposite of each other, however. Subleaflets range in size from one to two inches long and about one-third of their length wide. These subleaflets are either oblong or lanceolate in shape and smooth around their outer edges.

The top surfaces of the subleaflets look either yellow-green or medium green. The lower leaves look pale green to almost white. Tips of the subleaflets range from blunt to obtuse, while the bases appear somewhat rounded. They also have one or two basal lobes.

The sporangia of the royal fern vary from pale yellow to reddish brown. The spores themselves look bright green.

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Royal Fern

Royal Fern, or Osmunda regalis, is a deciduous, perennial fern suitable for landscaping near water features or inconsistently moist areas. Easy to maintain while also being pest and disease resistant, Royal Fern is a beautiful addition to any landscaping job. Known for the large, clump-like bushes that feature bright green fronds with a silvery touch. These ferns are an excellent long-term selection for landscaping projects that will develop into a mature plant over several seasons.

Enjoying partial to full shade, Royal Ferns are a great way to add some greenery to an otherwise dark corner of your yard. When well-maintained Royal Ferns are a great base layer to grow other garden favorites with such as orchids or trellised roses and are resistant to grazing animals like rabbit and deer.

On their own, Royal Ferns may grow to around two meters in height and one meter wide. Only light care needed for these ferns, with required minimal pruning each fall. Water is the true concern for these plants, making them ideal for a pond’s edge, in soil that is always damp, or near a gutter downspout.

You are no more pondering what to do about that shady, wet corner of your garden any longer. Royal Fern is the perfect candidate featuring low maintenance, incredible pest and damp resistance, and minimal yearly care.

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The Royal Fern grows best in zones 3 to 9, which means that it has a vast area in which it can flourish and grow. The royal fern grows to a height of around 2 to 3 feet when fully mature and is as round as it is tall at about 2 to 3 feet in width as well. The royal fern, unlike a typical forest fern, has shoots that extend from the top of the leaves as the plant goes through its growing cycle. This fern is named the royal fern for its impressive height; if well-watered and tended, they can reach up to 6 feet tall though this is a different size.

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The royal fern likes part shade to full shade, so it is excellent for just about any location in your landscaping that has overhanging plants, and it also tolerates wet soil and an abundance of water. If you live in a drier area, you are going to need to provide your royal fern with adequate water to grow. The fern is a shallow maintenance plant that requires little more than watering in dry spells, and that will come back each year if tended well. For those that have a very wet yard and still want some greenery, the fern is the plant for you. They are perfect for rain gardens and for areas that have dense shade, and that may even have rabbits and other rodents that may eat the leaves. The fern has vibrant green leaves and fronds that make for a fascinating plant that can make any landscaping instantly more appealing.

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A royal fern may be the ideal shade plant you need for an exotic addition to your shade garden. This native North American fern is found in bogs and marshy woods. If your property has the right conditions, a royal fern can add a good deal of beauty to your landscape.

Royal Fern Features Double Split Fronds

The broad bright green fronds of the royal fern feature unique double cut fronds with large leaflets that are rounded with brown tassel center clusters. These plants are nearly maintenance free and don’t have any pests you’ll need to battle.

Where to Plant Royal Ferns

The royal fern has wet feet, meaning it loves moist soil and even wet bogs, creeks, ponds, and streams. They are a great landscaping choice for a rain garden or a lush, shady garden featuring a pond or stream.

How to Grow Royal Fern

The royal fern is part of the North American Osmundas family. Like most ferns, royal fern prefers shady locations with plenty of moisture.

  • If placed in full sun, this vibrant green plant will survive, but its foliage will fade into a washed out yellow green color.
  • This plant is easy to grow with little upkeep needed other than cutting back dead fronds.
  • According to the University of Vermont, royal ferns have a long lifespan of 100 years or longer.

Type of Soil Needed

Royal ferns prefer moist peaty soil to provide its roots with constant moisture. According to Missouri Botanical Garden, royal ferns prefer acidic rich organic soil, but can survive in less fertile soils if they obtain the necessary water requirements.

Choose a wet area in your yard, such as a pond or creek. If you have a water garden or better yet, a backyard bog, the royal fern will thrive. The fern will initially grow in clumps.

Tips for Growing Royal Ferns

A few tips for growing and caring for royal ferns can ensure successful plantings. The royal fern is considered a “flowering” fern because of its tassel like brown tips.

Royal Fern (Osmunda) Varieties

There are four North American Osmunda varieties. You can select which one best fits your landscape design.

O. cinnamomea Fern

O. cinnamomea (Cinnamon Fern) is an elegant North American fern that emerges with green fronds in the spring but turns to a bright orange that eventually changes into a brown cinnamon color in the fall. Wooly hairs can be found underneath the pinnae (leaflets) of the blade.

O. regalis Ferns

The North American young O. regalis ferns are first reddish-purple. The University of Wisconsin Green Bay explains these slender fronds turn brown by summer. O. spectabilis is a slender form of O. regalis.

O. claytoniana Fern

O. claytoniana (Interrupted Fern) is another North American deciduous species. This fern has vivid green fronds that are interrupted by pinnae growing from the center of the fern. This creates a V-formation of the plant often referred to as a vase-shape. The O. claytoniana fronds grow about 2′-3′ high.

O. ruggii Fern

The O. ruggii is a natural hybrid of O. regalis and O. claytoniana. This sterile fern is rare. According to the book, Flora of North America: Volume 2: Pteridophytes and Gymnosperms, edited by Flora of North America Editorial, the first O. ruggii fern reported was located in Connecticut, but hasn’t been found and is presumed to have died out. There is one documented in Craig County, Virginia. This fern is said to be over 1,100 years old.

Royal Fern From Early Jurassic Period

It’s no wonder that royal fern plantings create a feeling of antiquity. Science Magazine reports fossilized royal fern samples indicate the fern thrived 180 million years ago. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, 70-million-year-old fossils of O. cinnamomea have been found. O. claytoniana are almost identical to their 200-million-year-old fossil ancestors!

Including Royal Ferns in Your Landscape Design

You can add a few royal ferns in your landscape design. In addition to areas with water, royal ferns are great plants for border areas, underneath tree canopies, and woodlands.

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