Polystichum setiferum (Divisilobum Group) 'Herrenhausen'

Common Name: soft shield fern 
Type: Fern
Family: Dryopteridaceae
Zone: 6 to 8
Height: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 1.50 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Heavy Shade


Easily grown in fertile, humusy, moist but well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Consider planting rhizome at an angle to help combat potential crown rot problems which most often occur in poorly drained soils. May not be consistently winter hardy in the St. Louis area where it should be planted in a protected location.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Polystichum setiferum, commonly called soft shield fern, is a tufted evergreen to semi-evergreen fern with lance-shaped, bi-pinnate, medium green fronds that grow in shuttlecock form to 3' tall. Stalks and most midribs are covered with attractive cinnamon-brown scales. Pinnae have serrate, spiny margins. This fern is native to Europe.

Genus name comes from the Greek words polys meaning many and stichos meaning in a row in reference to its spore cases being in rows.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin words setae meaning bristles and fer meaning bearing in reference to the bristle-toothed pinnae.

Divisilobum Group has spreading, 3-pinnate fronds (3-parted in contrast to the 2-parted fronds of the species). The pinnae are narrowed and leathery.

‘Herrenhausen’ is a soft shield fern cultivar that typically forms a dense, erect-arching clump to 18” tall. This is a compact, finely-cut, semi-evergreen fern that is considered to be part of the Divisilobum group. Dark green fronds are tripinnate.


No serious insect or disease problems. Crown rot may occur in poorly drained soils, particularly in winter.


Excellent selection for shaded borders and rock gardens, woodland gardens and wild gardens.