How To Grow Autumn Fern (Dryopteris Erythrosora) In Your Garden

Dryopteris erythrosora, also known as the "autumn fern," is a shade-loving plant that offers an attractive solution for gardeners looking to beautify areas devoid of full sunlight.

This versatile fern thrives in both cooler climates and warm or tropical regions, presenting an array of growing possibilities.

Loved for its hardiness and eye-catching foliage, the Autumn fern springs into life in late spring, revealing papery fronds in bright orange-red to coppery-red hues.

Dryopteris Erythrosora
Dryopteris Erythrosora photograph by Leonora (Ellie) Enking; CC

Its stunning fall colors, which linger for weeks, are a key inspiration behind its common name. As the growing season progresses, the fronds transition to a vibrant green, embodying the traditional fern look that many gardeners admire.

The autumn fern is an ideal choice for compact spaces due to its relatively restrained spread. It can readily be used for ground cover, in woodland gardens, and in borders. It is also a good choice for container gardening, whether placed indoors or outdoors, adding an element of nature's beauty to your living or working space.

How to Grow Dryopteris erythrosora

The watering requirements for Dryopteris erythrosora hinge on the rainfall you get in your area. Boasting drought-resistant properties, this fern typically needs minimal watering in rainy conditions.

Applying a layer of mulch around the base is beneficial under any weather circumstances, aiding in moisture retention and offering an organic source of nutrients.

Shade is important for growing Autumn fern. This is because excessive sunlight can result in sunburn, which may mar its attractive foliage.

As for the soil conditions, this fern thrives best in environments mirroring its native eastern Asian woodland habitat, favoring an acidic soil with a pH below 6.0.

The soil should also contain a high proportion of organic matter and possess good drainage qualities.

Autumn fern / Japanese shield fern image by James St. John; CC.

If you reside in a dry region, then the fern will require deep watering during its first year, until it becomes well established. Similarly, for indoor or sheltered plants, frequent watering—several times per week in warm weather—is essential to keep the soil moist.

The Autumn fern can withstand a wide range of climates, enduring cold winter weather and warm summers. However, it is susceptible to hot, dry conditions, and strong winds that can desiccate the soil.

Be aware that in USDA zones 5 and 6, the foliage may die back in winter, but you can expect a spectacular resurgence come springtime.

Feeding and Maintenance

Autumn ferns planted in organically-rich soil generally require only a springtime application of an all-purpose fertilizer.

Container plants however, require more frequent feeding, ideally once a month during the growing season; thus will help to sustain healthy growth. Be sure to pair this feeding schedule with regular watering to maintain soil moisture levels, and to prevent soil from drying out.

In summary, Dryopteris erythrosora, with its unique seasonal color changes and hardy nature, is a valuable addition to any garden, large or small, requiring a a touch of woodland charm to the landscape.

Quick Dryopteris erythrosora Growing and Care Guide

Scientific Name: Dryopteris erythrosora

Common Name(s): Autumn Fern, Japanese Shield Fern, Copper Shield Fern

Growing Zone (USA / UK Hardiness): USDA Zones: 5-9 RHS Hardiness Rating: H5 (-15°C to -10°C)

Best Used For / Garden Location: Ideal for woodland gardens, shaded borders, and as ground cover. It should be planted in a location with part to full shade.

Plant Details

Life Cycle / Plant Type: Evergreen or semi-evergreen fern

Plant Height: 1.5-2 feet (0.5-0.6 meters)

Plant Spread: 1.5-2 feet (0.5-0.6 meters)

Blooms: Does not bloom as it is a fern

Frond Details: Young fronds are coppery-pink turning green as they mature

Fruit: Does not produce fruit

Growing Conditions and Location

Best Light Conditions: Part shade to full shade

Suitable Soil Types: Moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil, slightly acidic to neutral

Planting: Plant divisions or young plants in spring or autumn.

Germination time: Ferns do not germinate from seeds but grow from spores which can take a few months to produce a tiny fern plant.

Propagation: By division in spring or fall.

Plant Care: Water regularly during dry periods, and mulch with organic matter in the autumn.

Growing in pots and containers: Can be grown in containers, but will need to be kept consistently moist.

Growing as a Houseplant: Can be grown as a houseplant, provided it's kept in a high-humidity environment and away from direct sunlight.

Further Information

Miscellaneous: Autumn Fern is deer-resistant and can provide year-round interest with its changing frond colors. It can attract certain insects and small birds but is not known to be invasive.

Pests and diseases: Generally pest-free but may suffer from rust diseases.

Common Cultivars / Varieties: Dryopteris erythrosora 'Brilliance' has particularly bright new growth, with fronds that turn a lustrous dark green as they mature.

Family: Dryopteridaceae, the Wood Fern family.

Native: East Asia.

References and Further Reading:Royal Horticultural Society – Autumn Fern; Missouri Botanical Garden – Dryopteris erythrosora; University of Florida IFAS Extension – Autumn Fern

Common Questions

Is Dryopteris Erythrosora a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Dryopteris Erythrosora makes a good choice for gardens and landscaping. Its attractive fronds provide a lush and vibrant look, especially in shaded areas.

Is Dryopteris Erythrosora a fragrant plant?

No, this fern is not known for its fragrance. Its appeal lies in its ornamental foliage rather than its scent.

What is the perfect location to grow Dryopteris Erythrosora?

Dryopteris Erythrosora thrives in partial to full shade, making it an excellent choice for shaded areas of your garden. It prefers well-draining soil that retains moisture but doesn't become waterlogged.

Is Dryopteris Erythrosora invasive in the USA?

No, it is not considered invasive in the United States. It is generally well-behaved and does not pose a threat to native ecosystems or other plant species.

How do I remove Autumn Fern from my garden?

To remove Dryopteris Erythrosora from your garden, start by digging around the plant's base to loosen the roots. Gently lift the fern, ensuring you remove as much of the root system as possible. Dispose of the plant responsibly, either by composting or disposing of it in accordance with local regulations.


Dryopteris erythrosora is an attractive fern with vibrant coppery-red fronds in autumn. Plant in well-draining soil in a shaded or partially shaded area. Keep the soil consistently moist.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this guide on how to grow Dryopteris erythrosora. You may also enjoy the following Fern growing guides: How to grow Macho Ferns indoors, Lady fern, and Asparagus fern plants in the garden.

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