Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumosomultilobum Group’ at Sebright Gardens, Salem, Oregon.
Photos by Mark Leichty

I was a big fan of the TV show “Dragnet” when I was a kid. If you’ve seen “Dragnet,” you may remember that the show’s introduction included the line, “The stories you are about to see are true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.” I think about that line all the time when I see all the name changes of ferns over the last decade. Sergeant Joe Friday would be thrilled. Apparently, a witness protection program has been set up for a whole bunch of ferns. The genus Phylittis is now Asplenium and Polystichum setiferum is now comprised to a number of groups including the Bevis Group, Divisilobum Group and Plumosomultilobum Group. I know that’s a mouthful, but it’s so worth learning to say, because you’re definitely going to want to start growing and selling these ferns.

I spoke with Sue Olsen and Richie Steffen, co-authors of “The Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns” (Timber Press, 2015) about these plants while we attended an event sponsored by the Hardy Fern Foundation in October. Both agreed this is a lovely fern.

The dense, lush fronds of P. setiferum ‘Plumosomultilobum Group’ are stunning eye-candy in the garden.

Specimens of P. setiferum 'Plumosomultilobum Group' are lush and fluffy, almost moss-like. When you see one in a garden, I promise you will want to pet it just as if it were a soft, fluffy kitten, or lay down and rest your head on its billowy fronds. This beautiful fern was discovered in Victorian times and is native to the British Isles and other parts of Western Europe.

It is hardy in USDA Zones 6-9 and is evergreen or at least semi-evergreen. Like other ferns, it thrives in moist, well-drained soil in shade to part-shade. Even though this fern is evergreen, it should be cut down in early spring to allow new fronds to fill in.

Steffen pointed out that like many other Polystichum setiferum cultivars, plants in the Plumosomultilobum Group can be propagated from bulbils. Bulbils are small buds that grow along the rachis (stem) of the fern and will produce new plants if harvested and allowed to grow. This can be done in horticultural production by collecting the bulbil-laden fronds and placing them moistened in a zip-lock bag and keeping them in a moderately shaded greenhouse, preferably with a little bottom heat. In a month or two, the bulbils will have sprouted new fronds and formed roots. They can then be separated and grown in cell trays to be transplanted into larger containers. Hopefully soon, this beautiful fern will be available through tissue culture sources.

Why grow Polystichum setiferum 'Plumosomultilobum'?

  • Its lush, fluffy form is a stunning addition to the landscape and it sells well at retail.
  • It is easy to grow in both the garden and in commercial horticulture.
  • Ferns in general are regaining popularity in horticulture.

Mark Leichty is the Director of Business Development at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery near Portland. He is a certified plant geek who enjoys visiting beautiful gardens and garden centers searching for rare and unique plants to satisfy his plant lust. mark@littleprinceoforegon.com