Asplenium is a diverse genus of ferns that contains both very small and very large ferns. The ferns in this genus have a worldwide distribution. Like most ferns, Asplenium prefers partial shade and rich, well-drained, consistently moist soil, as the roots may rot in heavy, wet soils. Asplenium ferns pair well with hosta and ornamental grasses.
The name Asplenium comes from the ancient greek word "splen" (spleen) because the plants were thought to be able to treat spleen disorders. Asplenium is a huge genus of ferns with over 700 species worldwide.
Asplenium prefers partial shade and rich, well-drained, consistently moist soil, as the roots may rot in heavy, wet soils.
More Information About Asplenium
Asplenium is a large genus of ferns with roughly 700 species. It contains a popular group of garden ferns called the spleenworts, another group called the bird's-nest ferns, and a third group called the walking ferns.
The name spleenwort is based on the Doctrine of Signatures, an old philosophy that says that plants have medicinal or herbal uses, and that their appearance dictates how they should be used. In the case of spleenwort, the sori (spore bearing structures on the back of the leaves) resemble spleens and were used to treat spleen disorders. In fact, the genus name Asplenium is based on the Latin ‘splen’ for spleen.
The walking ferns are named such because they produce plantlets on the tips and edges of the fronds. When the frond is sufficiently weighted down by the growing youngsters, it bends to the ground (walks) and the baby ferns root into the ground one ‘step’ away from the parent.
The bird’s-nest ferns were named for their tight rosette of leaves which is the size and shape of a bird’s nest.
This diverse genus of ferns ranges from small to large and are found in most regions around the globe. The small, rock-dwelling species can be one of the trickiest to grow in cultivation. Fortunately, there are a few tough and forgiving species that make great garden specimens.
Asplenium Species for the Garden
Asplenium × ebenoides (Scott’s Spleenwort) This unusual, naturally occurring fern hybrid from Alabama (formerly ×Asplenosorus) is a cross between two native species, Asplenium platyneuron and Asplenium rhizophyllum (formerly Camptosorus rhizophyllus). The 6" tall by 10" wide, rock garden-size clumps prefer slightly moist, alkaline soils. When established, Asplenium × ebenoides will occasionally produce plantlets on the leaf tips. (Hardiness Zone 5-8)
Asplenium platyneuron (Ebony Spleenwort) This widespread US native is found from Maine west to Arizona, but for some reason is rarely seen in gardens. Asplenium platyneuron is evergreen, durable, drought tolerant, and easy to grow — perfect for a woodland rock garden. The shorter, sterile fronds highlight the rigidly erect, narrow fertile fronds that give the plant its anorexic but architecturally unique structure. About the only thing Ebony Spleenwort doesn't like is poorly drained soils. (Hardiness Zone 4-8)
Asplenium rhizophyllum (Walking Fern) (syn: Camptosorus rhizophyllus) This cute fern is found on alkaline outcrops from Minnesota south to Georgia. Asplenium rhizophyllum is one of the most un-fernlike ferns we have grown. The bizarre, narrow, 5-7" long by 1/2" wide, glossy, green leaves lie nearly flat on the ground. Each leaf tip produces another plant where it touches down. This is not for beginners since it requires a specialized habitat such as rotting logs or preferably moist, mossy limestone rocks, although it can withstand short periods of drought. (Hardiness Zone 4-8a)
Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart's Tongue Fern) (syn: Phyllitis scolopendrium) This bizarre fern resembles a giant shiny green tongue sticking out of the ground. Imagine several of these in a small clump and you have a good picture of the Hart's Tongue Fern. This limestone loving fern appreciates a well-drained slightly moist soil. Many winter losses are due to poorly drained sites, not cold weather. Asplenium scolopendrium is native to the USA, Asia, and Europe, although most of the named cultivars are from European descent. (Hardiness Zone 6b-9 possibly much colder)
Asplenium scolopendrium 'Angustifolia' (Wavy Edge Hart's-tongue Fern) This cool selection of Hart's Tongue fern makes a 15" wide by 10" tall clump of narrow, glossy green leaves, each of which is heavily "stitched along the edges.” (Hardiness Zone 5-9)
Asplenium scolopendrium 'Cristatum' (Crested Hart's-tongue Fern) Back in the Victorian era, collectors named several hundred crested varieties of Hart's Tongue Fern, but only a few remain. Asplenium scolopendrium 'Cristatum' is a selection of the European form of this species that makes a tight rosette of shiny green tongue-like leaves, each ending in a petticoat crest. (Hardiness Zone 7b-10)
Asplenium scolopendrium 'Furcata' (Split Crest Hart's-tongue Fern) This alien-looking selection of Hart's Tongue Fern has fronds that split at the tip forming a Y-shape, which is then crested with an attractive petticoat. 10" tall by 15" wide clumps. (Hardiness Zone 5-9)
Asplenium scolopendrium 'Undulata' (Undulate Hart's Tongue Fern) This wild selection of the European Hart's-tongue fern makes a 15" wide by 10" tall clump of evergreen, horizontally held tongues with bizarrely wavy foliage. (Hardiness Zone 5-9)
Asplenium scolopendrium 'Uulong Island' (Uulong Island Hart's Tongue Fern) (coll. #A1K-143) Native from the US through Europe and Asia, this cultivar is the Asian form from Uulong Island, Korea. The 8" long, plastic-feeling, strap-like leaves make a bold-textured, attention-getting rosette to 1' wide. Hart's-tongue fern is amazingly winter-hardy. (Hardiness Zone 5-9)
Asplenium trichomanes (Maidenhair Spleenwort) A widespread species in the United States, this cute fern makes a perfect little clump for the woodland rock garden. The 8" long fronds unfurl to reveal dozens of tiny leaves attached to each side of a black rachis. It must have an evenly moist site but also perfect drainage. This nearly flat little gem, to 15" wide, is great for rock gardens, and rock walls. (Hardiness Zone 2-8)
Plant Delights Nursery has a large collection of over 1000 ferns in our garden. We also have one of the largest and most esoteric selections of ferns for sale in the US. When you are ready to buy Asplenium for your shade garden, check out our online offerings of Asplenium ferns for sale.