Chilean Hard-fern

Chilean Hard-fern; or,
South American Seersucker

"Far down the hillside lies the sleeping lake
Lazily reflecting back the sun,
And scarcely ruffled by the little breeze
Which wanders idly through the nodding ferns."

-Amy Lowell


Chilean Hard-fernWe obtained this baby specimen of Blechnum chilense (aka B. cordatum) or Chilean Hard-fern through the Hardy Fern Foundation of Medina, Washington.

This South American mountain cousin of our Northwest native Deer Fern shares many good features with the Deer Fern (an ideal garden fern) but for a plant that will be much larger. A mature specimen in an ideal location can reach a magnificant five foot height, having upright leathery-tough fronds. Even if it never becomes that much of a giant, it will be an impressive beauty at two or three feet.

Ferns are chiefly for texture rather than color in the garden, but the Chilean hard-fern has rosy pink stems. A recipient of the Award of Garden Merit, it tolerates considerable sunlight if soil never dries out, but in a cool moist shady location it will have finer larger green fronds. It requires organically rich moisture-retentive acidic soil.

When first planted a feeding of bonemeal, kelp, alfalfa, or fishmeal won't hurt, but thereafter it never needs fertilizing. Nitrogen would harm it. A winter topcoating of leafmold (or autumn leaves that will turn to leafmold through the winter) or well composted manure will keep the soil in top condition for this fern.

Like the deer fern, it will produce extremely upright fertile fronds which are not evergreen but turn attractively brown in winter. The more numerous infertile fronds bend a bit & are fully evergreen in Zone 8. In Zone 7 the infertile fronds may suffer some frostburn that can be trimmed out to tidy up the clump. In Zone 9 it will need fuller protection from the sun.

It will eventually form creeping underground rhizomes from which young ferns will erupt. If never attended to this fern might even become aggressive overshadowing & displacing smaller surrounding plants. To keep the Chilean Blechnum from colonizing an area, & to get it to concentrate more of its energy into maximum growth of the parent fern, young plants can be dug out from near the parent, then potted as gifts or planted elsewhere.


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