Hardy, symmetrical plants with medium-size, evergreen (except on P. braunii) fronds. Among the most useful and widely planted ferns, they combine well with other plants and are easy to grow. Do best in rich, organic, well- drained soil. Use in shady beds, along house walls, in mixed woodland plantings.
P. acrostichoides. CHRISTMAS FERN. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to eastern North America. Grows to 11 ft. tall, about 3 ft. wide, with dark green leaves that make a fine contrast to snow or to the brown of dead leaves during the winter holiday season. The easiest evergreen fern to grow in the Upper, Middle, and Lower South. Stiff fronds stay upright until pushed over by heavy snow or hard frost.
P. aculeatum. PRICKLY SHIELD FERN, HARD SHIELD FERN. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Europe. Grows 24 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide. Glossy, firm, fairly upright, once- or twice-cut fronds; final segments are tipped by soft prickles. Pale green young fronds make an attractive show against the dark green mature ones.
P. braunii. BRAUN'S HOLLY FERN. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Semievergreen to deciduous. Native to northern latitudes of North America and Asia. Grows 13 ft. tall and wide, with twice-divided fronds. Silvery green new growth.
P. makinoi. MAKINO'S HOLLY FERN. US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8 Native to China and Japan. Grows 2 ft. high and wide, with glossy, olive-green fronds. Formal looking.
P. munitum. WESTERN SWORD FERN. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to western North America. To 24 ft. high and wide, with leathery, shiny, dark green fronds that emerge erect, then spread at the top to give plant a wide vase shape. Old plants may have 75 to 100 fronds. Once established, needs little water.
P. neolobatum. LONG-EARED HOLLY FERN, ASIAN SABER FERN. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to Asia. Upright, arching growth to 2 ft. high and a bit wider, with shiny, dark green fronds that have pale green undersides. Upper leaflets closest to midrib on each frond are enlarged and a bit rounded, like little ears.
P. polyblepharum. TASSEL FERN, JAPANESE LACE FERN. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to Asia. Handsome, dense, lacy plant to 23 ft. tall, 3 ft. wide. Resembles P. setiferum but is taller, darker green, and somewhat coarser; shiny fronds are a little more upright (to 2 ft. high).
P. setiferum. SOFT SHIELD FERN. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Europe. Finely cut fronds give effect of dark green lace, spread out in flattened vase shape. Many forms, 24 ft. tall and wide. 'Proliferum' makes plantlets on midribs of older fronds; these can be detached and planted. Other fancy selections are sometimes sold under the name English fern.
P. tsussimense. KOREAN ROCK FERN. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. From Asia. Forms a neat, dainty clump 1215 in. high and wide. Erect, leathery, dark green fronds are held on dark stems. Use at front of shaded borders, among rocks, in pots. Established plants can take short periods of dryness.