Chaparral Fern Project

Saratoga horticultural research endowment

Chaparral Fern Project

Saratoga Horticultural Research Endowment

Results of the Horticultural Trial

December 23, 2020

We have tallied all of the surveys that have been administered throughout the course of this project, and are able to recommend four of the six plants that were part of this trial for use in the home garden. Based on their performance throughout the year, Dryopteris arguta, Pellaea andromedifolia, Pellaea mucronata, and Selaginella bigelovii have come out as winners. We would recommend that each of these plants receive weekly water in the summer, especially as they become established. They all performed best in the site with well-draining soil.

Pellaea mucronata was the most adaptable of the ferns; it was more tolerant of clay soil and greater sun exposure than the other species in the trial. Watering once per week kept the foliage a deep grey-green, and broke its tendency toward dormancy in the summer. Those that received water every other week in the summer did not go fully dormant, but lost some of the vibrancy of their foliage color.

Pellaea andromedifolia prefers well-drained soil, and performs better if it has less summer sun exposure. Many of the fronds will tend to go dormant, displaying an interesting red color in the summer, but the plant will not enter full dormancy if watered weekly. Those that received water every other week did go mostly dormant.

Selaginella bigelovii is a very slow growing but attractive ground cover that would be great for smaller rock garden areas. We found that it performs best in well-draining soil, and watering once per week in the summer keeps its foliage bright green, and upright.

Pentagramma triangularis went dormant at the onset of summer and has had the most prolonged dormancy of any of the ferns. Some of them are just beginning to break dormancy now, at the end of December. Although it was one of the favorites of all those surveyed in the spring time, it’s prolonged dormancy, makes it less desirable for gardens.

Most of the Myriopteris covillei in the well-draining soil maintained green fronds throughout the summer. However, the growth habit, was a sticking point for most of those surveyed, due to their very small size. Myriopteris covillei still has a very interesting leaflet texture and color and may be an interesting specimen as a potted plant.

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