Wart fern admired by ArtisTree Plantopinions experts, warts and all.

Wart fern doesn’t really have warts. Instead, it’s those little spores on the leaves that inspired its name and built notoriety with fern fans in Zones 9 – 11. While some ArtisTree Plantopinions experts favor wart fern more than others, all generally agree on its good points. It’s a “cool fern” sporting a green leathery texture and low-profile personality, warts and all.

Wart fern
“Warts” are actually leaf spores that create this fern’s characteristic little bumps.

Joe Mantkowski, VP Landscape Design, thumbs up:

I like this plant because unlike all the fern varieties out there, it also does well in sun. It thrives in deep shade but can tolerate periods of drought. Fun name, interesting texture and stays small enough to create a nice border plant against anything with color. Wart fern is a slow grower reaching about a foot or so and covers landscape beds well. A nice durable choice with minimal upkeep.  

Clinton Lak, Landscape Designer, thumbs half up:

I don’t use wart fern often. However, it does have its place as a ground cover in cooler shady locations where other plants can’t grow. It’s ideal under mature canopy trees, stairways and cantilevered architectural elements. Lower and compact in stature with a unique lush green texture. Best to not use against houses, stucco walls or driveway edges that absorb solar radiation. It will fail due to the heat.

Wart fern
A showy display of wart fern is the perfect choice for this shady defined area.

Chris Culp, Landscape Designer, thumbs mostly down:

Honestly, I’ve never used this fern in my designs. In my opinion, ferns are easier to maintain when planted in hanging baskets or in planters so they don’t spread. But just because I’ve never used wart fern doesn’t mean it’s a bad plant. You can use in shady areas, and while it spreads, it doesn’t get out of hand. You just have to keep an eye on it. Two of the big upsides is that this fern doesn’t grow very tall and provides a natural Florida look that’s very appealing.  

Wart fern
Wart fern is one of the only ferns that does well in shade or sun.

Brian Clouser, Landscape Designer, thumbs up:

I like using wart fern as a ground cover in filtered light to shady areas. Its spreading habit is nice for areas with large surface roots (such as raised oak tree roots) where landscape companies can’t fit larger plants.  It has a very tropical look opposed to more traditional southern ground covers such as jasmine and liriope.

Wart fern

Elisabeth Owen, Landscape Designer, thumbs up:

Wart fern is my go-to ground cover in established, shady areas with dappled light (most commonly under oak trees). It requires moderate watering but like all ferns appreciates a good soaking on a regular basis. It’s happiest in a higher-humidity environment with well-drained soil. This ground cover adds a nice leathery texture to the landscape and only gets 1-2’ tall. Yes, it will try to creep and climb trees and nearby structures, but that’s easily controlled with occasional clipping and removal of dead leaves within. Great for use in the foreground of a landscape that receives morning sun or filtered light against Ti plants, gingers, bromeliads, crotons, etc. for color.

Conan Michel, Operations Manager, thumbs up:

I like wart fern. It’s hardy and does well in shaded areas, and is very drought resistant once established. It does tend to spread so be careful where you plant it and clip as necessary. Many homeowners find wart fern to be a great substitute for grass in shady areas. Don’t confuse it with sword fern, which spreads much faster and grows up to three feet. Wart fern is also easier to remove than sword fern.

ArtisTree VP/Landscape Joe Mantkowski & landscape designers Clinton Lak, Chris Culp, Brian Clouser, Elisabeth Owen, plus Landscape Operations Manager Conan Michel.

ArtisTree “Plantopinions” is a roundtable debate between multiple ArtisTree experts on the virtues of various plant specimens. Sometimes there’s consensus and sometimes not. In the end, you are the judge!

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