Western Sword Fern
The sculptural fronds of ferns provide lots of winter interest, and Western Sword Fern is one of the toughest, most drought tolerant, and easiest ferns to grow in the Rogue Valley.
This native fern can tolerate our dry summers and wet winters and even take a little sun. It prefers to be an understory plant but established ferns in good, composty soil will tolerate quite a bit of sun. The key is to get them well established with deep waterings the first few summers and applications of yearly leaf mulch or compost mulch. Western Sword Fern has a courser texture than some more delicate ferns but that makes their fronds last longer, allowing them to be used in cut flower arrangements. The leathery, dark green fronds can be 2-4' tall depending where they are grown and can be used alone or look especially good in clumps or drifts.
We like to use Western Sword Ferns under large trees - like oaks, combined with Euphorbia purpurea, Heuchera sanguinea or the purple leafed varieties of Coral bells, Mahonia repens, and other dry shade perennials and shrubs. All ferns are deer resistant and the Western Sword Fern is no exception. They are evergreen but will look their best with an annual shearing of the oldest fronds in spring to allow the new fronds to uncurl. Leave the old, pruned fronds as a natural mulch. Ferns are always interesting to watch throughout the seasons and Western Sword Fern makes an especially nice evergreen specimen in the shade garden.