Cyrtomium fortunei belongs to the Dryopteridaceae family and is known as the Japanese holly fern. The distinctive features for this dense clump-forming plant also named as dwarf Japanese holly fern are ovate-oblong pinnate leaves made of dull green sickle-shaped pinnae with smooth marginal lines. A tough growing fern, the Japanese Holly Fern mainly naturalises in limestone crevices in open areas or forests with altitudes 100–2400 m. The fern is native to China and the rhizome part of the fern called Guan-Zhong has been widely used as traditional medicine since ancient times as an agent for clearing heat and dampness, cooling blood and hemostasis, and an insecticide.

The fern is an easy-growing plant that can be kept as an indoor plant and it adds colour and structure to a shaded garden. The Japanese Holly Fern can withstand light frosts Few factors such as soil pH, soil type, soil drainage moisture in the surrounding environment, light, use of fertilizer, etc should be kept in mind before planning to keep this fern as a houseplant.


Cyrtomium fortunei Japanese holly fern should be placed in partial sunlight when it is grown outdoors; conversely, when grown indoors it should be exposed to bright, indirect sunlight. The plant can survive lower light but for a shorter period of time.  During winters it is better to keep the fern-covered and mulched. The soil should be covered with shredded bark or straw to protect it from cold. In winter the fern may get droopy but with proper care one can fix them back. In areas where the leaves turn brown, it should be cut to ground level in early spring before new growth begins


Compared to other ferns dwarf Japanese holly fern is more robust and tougher. Temperatures between 68 to 70°F (20 to 21°C) are suitable for the growth of the fern. A warmer temperature may be harmful to the leaves. In a warmer environment, the fern needs more moisture and humidity.

Soil conditions

Soil pH, type, and drainage must be taken care of for keeping the Fern healthy. The fern can be grown in both acidic alkaline pH. Japanese holly fern can tolerate most soil types including chalky, clay, loamy, and sandy soil. The moisture of the soil plays an important role as holly fern likes moist, but not soggy soil. To keep the soil moistened pebbles can be kept on the surface of the soil.


As holly fern thrives in a moist environment, keeping the soil damp and moist is essential. One needs to water it once a week or once every ten days. The fern should be watered whenever the top of the soil feels dry. After watering deeply, one needs to make sure that the excess water runs away. It helps to keep the fern in a pot with good drainage especially when it is kept indoors.


To keep the holly fern healthy and happy one needs to ensure that the soil is enriched with organic matter. Liquid fertilizer or fish emulsion can be used. That plant should be checked for the appearance of any fungal spots or scale bugs that can be observed as yellowish bumps. To get rid of this fungicide may be applied gently onto the infested area. A pesticide that contains oil should be avoided. Overfeeding of liquid fertilizers is also harmful and it can damage the leaves and rotting of roots. Rather a diluted, balanced, slow-released fertilizer is appropriate after the new growth emerges in spring. When it is grown in outdoors, a b 2-inch layer of mulch should be applied in spring and in autumn.


Dwarf Japanese holly fern loves moisture and humidity. In their native environment, they need at least 70% or higher humidity. But it can withstand relatively low humidity. A humidifier can be used to raise the humidity when kept indoors. Japanese holly fern also loves being misted with water from time to time.

Periodic grooming       

Periodic grooming is a necessary step for the proper development of the fern. It involves cutting/ trimming the plant whenever it looks shaggy or overgrown. The leaves should be trimmed when they look dull and unwilted. While one should avoid cutting or damaging the crown. In winter one can leave old foliage to protect them from extreme cold.

However, with proper care and attention Cyrtomium fortune, Japanese holly fern can be grown as a happy and healthy plant. Because of its simple necessities and standout appearance the Japanese holly fern is a great plant to have around. This plant’s lush and deep green leaves provide a wonderful contrast to other, more colorful flora. Though the fern has no fragrance and flowers, it still draws attention and does not have any problem in livening up space in the home.

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