Onychium (cat's claw fern) is a fine textured fern that contrasts well with coarse textured plants such as hellebores and hostas. In addition to growing in the landscape, it looks great in containers or in cut flower arrangements. Like most ferns, Onychium prefers part shade, consistent moisture and well-amended, well-drained soil. These plants are slow spreaders and can form beautiful, deer-resistant colonies with time. We have found that most cat's claw ferns grow best when planted on a slope.
More Information About Onychium
Onychium is a genus of 10 species native to tropical and subtropical regions from northeastern Africa to Japan. These unusual ferns are related to many of the dryland fern taxa and the true brakes in the family Pteridaceae. The name Onychium comes from the Greek word for "claw" or "fingernail" and Onychium species are known as "claw ferns" due to the shape of the last segment on the blade of the frond or “carrot ferns” due to the resemblance of the fronds to carrot leaves. Members of the genus Onychium are known and cherished for having extraordinarily attractive lacy fronds. They look great when planted along the edge of rock walls, overhangs, or water features, and provide a beautiful lacy backdrop for more bold-textured plants like hosta.
In addition to being a unique feature in the woodland garden, Onychium looks great in containers or in cut flower arrangements. Like most ferns, Onychium prefers part shade, consistent moisture, and organically amended, well-drained soil. They have proven to be exceedingly easy to cultivate here in the Southeast, thriving through our hot, humid summers. Onychium plants are slow spreaders and can form beautiful, deer-resistant colonies with time. We have found that most Onychium grow best when planted on a slope. When you are ready to buy Onychium (cats claw ferns) for your shade garden, check out our online offering of Onychium for sale.
Our Favorite Cat's Claw Ferns
Onychium contiguum ‘Washfield’ (Washfield Cat’s Claw Fern) Tony first purchased this unique fern at the garden of Elizabeth Strangman of England, from an earlier Himalayan region collection. Although reportedly not hardy, we were pleasantly surprised when our plants endured two winters of 0 degrees F without any problems. This deciduous fern arises in spring from a slowly creeping rhizome. Each frond resembles a rabbit’s foot fern...the most exquisite and fine-textured green lace that you can imagine. This is truly one of the most delicate-looking and incredible ferns we have grown and unlike any other cold-hardy species that can be included in the woodland garden. In the wild it grows on rocky cliffs to 14,000', but for us has been very happy in our woodland garden where it grows on a rocky slope. Like the more commonly seen Onychium japonicum, this species is deciduous when temperatures drop consistently below freezing at night but hold their leaves through mild winters. Though the proposal to conserve the name Onychium contiguum was published in the journal Taxon in 2015 with an explanation that the Himalayan material did not correspond to the eastern Asian material, most sites list Onychium contiguum as synonymous with Onychium lucidum. The two are not the same and the material from eastern Asia referred to as O. lucidum is closer to O. japonicum and not nearly as elegantly lacy. (Hardiness Zone 7a-8b, at least)
Onychium japonicum ‘Filigreen’ (Filigreen Cat’s Claw Fern) Onychium japonicum 'Filigreen' is a Plant Delights/JLBG introduction of the tallest form of cat's claw fern we've run across. We imported this from China in 2007, and since that time, it has formed a 10' wide, dense, slowly spreading patch of 3' tall, upright-held, lacy fronds. Onychium japonicum is tardily deciduous when winter temperatures drop below 10 degrees F, but we recommend for appearance’s sake that they be cut to the ground in early spring before new fronds emerge. Onychium 'Filigreen' grows fine in light shade to half day sun and in a variety of moisture regimes. (Hardiness Zone 7a-9b, possibly colder)
Onychium japonicum ‘Sichuan Lace’ (Sichuan Lace Cat’s Claw Fern) (aka Onychium japonicum HH03CH111) Onychium 'Sichuan Lace' is a 2005 Plant Delights/JLBG introduction of a Hans Hansen spore collection from Ping Wu, China at 3,800' elevation. One of the finest ferns we grow, this selection of cat's claw fern has been exceedingly vigorous for us in both full sun and shade. The 30" long tardily deciduous fronds arise in spring from a slowly creeping rhizome that makes a 4' wide clump in 6 years. Each frond resembles an extraordinarily lacy rabbit's foot fern...the most exquisite green lace that you can imagine. In the wild it grows on rocky cliffs to 9,000’ yet tolerates baking sun in our heat and humidity without a blink. We have had reports of this thriving in Zone 6b, so it's worth trying in colder regions. (Hardiness Zone 7a-9b, possibly colder)
Onychium japonicum ‘Waterfall Trail’ (Waterfall Trail Cat’s Claw Fern) (aka Onychium A1TW-154) Onychium japonicum 'Waterfall Trail' is a plant we first spotted hiking on our way to the Taoshan Waterfall in Taiwan's Taichung County at 7,000' elevation. Our plants are spore-grown from what was a diminutive 4" plant in the wild that grew clinging to the cracks in the steep rocky cliff. In the garden, Onychium 'Waterfall Trail' has formed a very compact clump but to 15" tall. The compact clump also spreads quite slowly compared to the other forms of Onychium japonicum that we've grown. The lacy green, deer-resistant leaves create a wonderful fine texture in the open/light shaded woodland garden. (Hardiness Zone 7a-9b, possibly colder)
Onychium japonicum ‘Yunnan Fancy’ (aka: Onychium j. A1C-375) Onychium japonicum 'Yunnan Fancy' is our 1996 collection from the Cang Shan Mountain Range in Yunnan, China at 9,000' elevation. Onychium 'Yunnan Fancy' is the tallest of the Onychium forms we grow, making a 2' tall x 3' wide patch (5 years) of 30" long, lacy, green, deciduous foliage, growing from a rabbit’s foot fern-like, fuzzy, brown rhizome that resides just under the soil. Onychiums prefer good drainage and need a moderate slope to grow their best. We've also found that an hour or two of full sun produces the most vigorous plants. (Hardiness Zone 7a-9b, possibly colder)
Plant Delights Nursery has a huge collection of over 1,000 ferns planted in our garden and offer one of the largest and most esoteric selections of ferns for sale in the US. If you are looking to buy ferns, especially rare, cold hardy, garden ferns, Plant Delights should be your first stop. Providing beauty and texture to the garden, ferns are great garden plants and a staple of any well-designed garden.