How to Grow Matteuccia – Ostrich Fern 

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Matteuccia–commonly called ostrich fern–is a terrestrial clumping fern that resembles a shuttlecock; it has a narrow base and spreading top. Fronds are long-stalked, lance-shaped, pinnatified, and erect. Fronds commonly grow 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) long but can reach 6 feet (1.8m) tall in moist, moderate climates.

Matteuccia spreads by underground rhizomes. They grow best in humus-rich, slightly moist soils. plant Matteuccia in moist shade, in a woodland garden, damp shady border, or at the edge of a pond.

Matteuccia is a genus of three species of deciduous, terrestrial ferns commonly found in moist, deciduous woodlands in North America, Europe, and East Asia.

Get to know Matteuccia 

  • Plant type: Perennial 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 2 to 6 
  • Hardiness: Hardy to extreme cold
  • Height and width: To 6 feet (2m) tall 
  • Form and habit: Clump-forming 
  • Foliage: Erect or creeping rhizomes of lance-shaped, pinnate to 2-pinnatifid sterile fronds, that resemble ostrich feather, in regular shuttlecocks; the sterile fronds are followed by in mid- and late summer by distinctive, densely contracted, smaller, more erect, darker, and longer-stalked fertile fronds, which persist over winter; fronds are edible 
  • Uses: Woodland garden, waterside plant, stream banks, alongside ponds, groundcover, dramatic foil to water feature 
  • Garden companions: May be too aggressive to combine with other perennials, unless you have the time to dig out the extras 
  • Common name: Ostrich fern 
  • Botanical name: Matteuccia 
  • Family name: Dryopteridaceae (Polypodiaceae) 
  • Origin: Europe, East Asia, and North America 
Ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris
Ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris

Where to plant Matteuccia 

  • Plant Matteuccia in shade; will tolerate sun as long as the soil never dries out.  
  • Plant Matteuccia in humus-rich, moist but well-drained, neutral to slightly acidic soil. 
  • Shelter Matteuccia from strong winds or fronds will break.  

When to plant Matteuccia 

  • Set container-grown Matteuccia in the garden in spring or autumn.
  • Sow Matteuccia spores at 59°F (15°C) as soon as ripe. 

Planting and spacing Matteuccia 

  • Space Matteuccia 3 feet (1m) apart.  

How to water and feed Matteuccia 

  • Give Matteuccia ample water. 
  • Feed Macleaya with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring. 

How to care for Matteuccia 

  • When conditions are ideal, Matteuccia will form extensive colonies.  

Matteuccia pests and diseases 

  • Pests and diseases are infrequent.  

Matteuccia propagation 

  • Divide established Matteuccia clumps in early spring.  

Matteuccia varieties to grow 

  • Matteuccia struthiopteris, Ostrich fern, rhizomatous fern with erect shuttlecocks of broadly lance-shaped, pinnate, pale green sterile fronds, 4 feet (1.2m) or more long, with narrowly lance-shaped, pinnatifid pinnae. Shorter, contracted, lance-shaped, dark brown fertile fronds, 12 inches (30cm) or more long, which appear in late summer, have linear pinnae with very thick, strongly inrolled margins. Vigorously spreads by horizontal rhizomes, producing offset plants 4-8 inches (10-20cm) from the parent plant. To 5.5 feet (1.7m) tall and 3 feet (1m) wide. Europe, East Asia, East Norther America.  

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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