Hart’s-tongue fern – planting, care and tips

Hart's-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)
Hart's-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) - by Christian Fischer

With its wide, dark green fronds, the elegant hart’s-tongue fern adorns the shaded areas in the perennial bed and rock garden. Here you will find tips on planting and care.

Profile of hart’s-tongue fern:

Scientific name: Asplenium scolopendrium

Plant family: spleenwort family (Aspleniaceae)

Other names: hart’s-tongue

Planting time: spring

Location: partially shaded to shady

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, calcipholous, moderately nutritious, humus rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: group planting, underplanting, winter garden, natural garden, rock garden, forest garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 (-26 °C / -15 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: No

Plant characteristics and classification of hart’s-tongue fern

Plant order, origin and occurrence of hart’s-tongue fern

Hart’s-tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) belongs to the spleenwort family (Aspleniaceae) and is propagated worldwide. The plant species is also led under the botanical name Phyllitis scolopendrium. In addition to Asia, North Africa and the USA, the hart’s tongue fern is also native to Europe. It thrives in moist deciduous forests and is a protected species in some countries.

Characteristics of hart’s-tongue fern


The hart’s-tongue grows persistently and becomes 30 to 60 centimeters (12 to 24 in) high. The tongue-shaped fern fronds are shiny green and leathery, young fronds are fresh light green. In addition to narrow, only slightly wavy, feather-like specimens, curled shapes are also available.


Unlike most ferns, the long, tongue-shaped leaves of the hart’s-tongued fern are not pinnate, but completely closed. The long leaf fronds grow vertically or arched overhanging from the rhizome and stay green even in winter.

Hart’s-tongue fern – cultivation and care


The hart’s-tongue fern likes it best in the shady and cool place. It cuts a fine figure between wood and in beds in the shadows.


The hart’s-tongue fern thrives well in locations with loose, humus soil. It prefers neutral to calcareous places, but also tolerates slightly acidic soil.

Planting hart’s-tongue fern

The best time to plant the ornamental foliage plant is spring, but potted plants can be planted all year round. Loosen the soil in the planting hole well and mix some compost into the potting soil. Keep a distance of 40 centimeters (16 in) when planting. Water the hart’s-tongue fern well after it is planted and do not let the soil dry out for the first few weeks. If you cut off a third of the older fronds after planting, they will take root more quickly.

Care / Watering / Fertilization

Keep the root area of the hart’s-tongue fern evenly moist, but it should not get waterlogged. Watering should be done every day, especially at high temperatures. At the start of budding in spring, the hart’s tongue is given a portion of compost or long-term fertilizer. Dried fronds can be removed at the base. A layer of mulch around the planting hole protects against drying out. In severe winters, the leaf mass above ground can freeze back. Then a cover made of brushwood is a good idea. The rhizome sprouts again in spring.


The hart’s tongue fern can be rejuvenated and propagated by dividing the rhizomes. To do this, dig up the rootstock in spring and divide it with a sharp spade. However, the hart’s tongue tends to stay in the same location as long as possible.


The hart’s-tongue fern is propagated by division or spores. Due to its rhizome, the rhizome in the bed enlarges by itself. The spores ripen between July and October and are clearly visible on the underside of the leaves. Place a frond on a piece of paper for 24 hours until the spores peel off. The spores can then germinate in a moist growing medium in a bright but not sunny location. The cultivation of the fern from spores is very tedious.

Diseases and pests

In an airy, cool location, the fern is very long-lived and vital. Thrips and spider mites can occur in warm, air-dry places, which is particularly common for indoor culture. When planted in the garden, the hart’s tongue is largely avoided by pests, even snails are not a threat to the plant.


Hart’s-tongue fern is hardy down to -26 °C / -15 °F.

Use in the garden

Hart’s-tongue fern likes to stand in the background of a shady bed or in the cool rock garden and offers with its light green fronds a beautiful backdrop for flowering plants. Hosta, rattle root or Rodgersia are great neighbors. Avoid gaps in the bed by combining it with bulb flowers and early bloomers. The hart’s tongue is also ideal as a houseplant for greening unheated winter gardens. Then ensure cool temperatures and sufficient humidity by spraying the fern with water more often. The fronds of the hart’s tongue also form a beautiful green base in bouquets of cut flowers.


  • ‘Crispa’ has strongly wavy leaves
  • Undulatum’, on the other hand, has only slightly wavy leaves that are about 35 centimeters (14 in) long
  • ‘Cristatum’ is only about 25 centimeters (10 in) high and shows curly fronds with a typical tuft at the end of the leaf.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.