Widespread and variable group of rhizomatous ferns, once called spleenwort for their alleged medicinal value. These evergreen species resemble one another only in botanical details and in their need for shade and liberal watering. Unlike many other ferns, they need a rest period from late fall to early spring when grown indoors; during that time, reduce watering and withhold fertilizer. Indoor plants like bright filtered light; a spot in an east-facing window is ideal. Outdoors, they prefer gritty, well-drained soil.
A. bulbiferum. MOTHER FERN. Zone TS; USDA 10-11; or indoors. From New Zealand. Evergreen or semievergreen. To 4 ft. tall and wide. Graceful, very finely cut, light green fronds produce plantlets that can be removed and planted. Hardy to 26F. Watch for snails and slugs.
A. x ebenoides. SCOTT'S SPLEENWORT, DRAGON TAIL FERN. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Hybrid of A. platyneuron and A. rhizophyllum. Small evergreen fern of variable appearance, with deeply indented fronds to 612 in. long. Good in rock garden.
A. nidus. BIRD'S NEST FERN. Zone TS; USDA 10-11; or indoors. Evergreen native of Old World tropics. Striking foliage: showy, apple green, undivided fronds 4 ft. long by 8 in. wide, growing upright in a cluster to about 3 ft. wide. Tender; if grown in pots, keep indoors in winter, move to shady patio in summer.
A. platyneuron. EBONY SPLEENWORT. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to eastern U.S. Evergreen; 112 ft. tall and about as wide. Erect, once- divided, dark green fronds have glossy, blackish brown midribs.
A. rhizophyllum (Camptosorus rhizophyllus). WALKING FERN. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to North America; semievergreen to evergreen. An oddity with 5- to 10-in.-long, undivided fronds that taper to the tips; where they touch soil, tips take root and produce new plantlets. Spreads indefinitely. Needs some lime in the soil.
A. scolopendrium (Phyllitis scolopendrium). HART'S TONGUE FERN. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to Europe (rare native in eastern U.S.). Strap-shaped, evergreen, 9- to 18-in.-long fronds form a clump about 2 ft. wide. Dwarf, crested, puckered, and forked kinds are collector's items. Plant in soil rich in humus; add limestone chips if soil is acid. Good woodland plant, fine companion for rhododendrons and azaleas; also makes an excellent potted plant.
A. trichomanes. MAIDENHAIR SPLEENWORT. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to much of the Northern Hemisphere. Delicate evergreen fern with narrow, bright green fronds, 48 in. long; forms a clump to 8 in. wide. Leaflets are only 12 in. long, round or nearly so. Likes lime. Attractive in shady rock garden or on a wall where it can be seen close up.