The stag’s tongue fern is perennial and perennial. It grows clumpy and arching overhanging. Otherwise, this rosette plant is evergreen and not sensitive to frost. Characteristic of this fern are the leaf ribs with forked side veins. Older leaves are dark and leathery, while young leaves bud light green. Like other ferns, Asplenium scolopendrium likes to remain in the same location permanently. It is particularly effective in semi-natural gardens, in shady areas of a rock garden, between low shady perennials and under and in front of deciduous trees and shrubs.


  • Botanical Name Phyllitis scolopendrium, ehemals: Asplenium scolopendrium.
  • Belongs to the spleenwort family.
  • Leaves leathery, between 30 and 60 cm, rarely up to 90 cm long.
  • They are smooth, continuous and tongue-shaped.
  • Rootstock thick and reddish in color.
  • Spore maturity between July and October.
  • Spreads via short rhizomes.
  • Does not produce flowers or fruit.
  • Wintergreen and hardy to minus 10 degrees.

Plant in the garden

Ferns are among the most durable and easy-care plants of all, including the stag’s tongue fern. This can be kept both in the garden and in the apartment. It is best planted in late spring. Before planting in the garden, it is advisable to loosen the soil deeply and work in plenty of compost or peat substitute to improve the soil.

All old, partially woody fronds are cut off at the base. This stimulates the plant to form new roots and shoots more quickly. Now you dig a sufficiently large planting pit and plant the fern so deep that the base of the plant is flush with the soil surface. It is then filled with excavated earth and the earth is pressed down by hand.

Tip: If possible, avoid hoeing between the fern plants. It makes more sense if the soil around the plants is covered with a 2 cm layer of peat dust, bark mulch, compost or leaves or various ground cover perennials such as Vinca minor or golden strawberry so that it remains loose and evenly moist.

Plant in pot

When planting in a pot, ensure good drainage, for example made of gravel, expanded clay or potsherds. Commercial standard soil is just as suitable as a substrate, as is a mixture of equal parts compost and leaf soil, a mixture of peat, sand and compost, but also lumpy peat dust with leaf soil and peat moss (sphagnum). As soon as the pot is well rooted, it is time to repot the stag’s tongue fern into a slightly larger planter in fresh substrate. This is the case about every 2-3 years in spring or autumn.


Asplenium scolopendrium feels most comfortable in semi-shady to shady, as well as cool and humid locations, ideally in the undergrowth of bushes or trees. They thrive on fresh to moist, semi-shady to shady edges of woods as well as in stone plants.
North and east windows are suitable for indoor plants, and very good at temperatures between 18 and 22 degrees. In summer they should be outdoors if possible, whether in the garden or on the balcony, of course in a semi-shady spot. A high level of humidity is also important when keeping them indoors.

Note: This plant does not like a place in the sun, especially direct sunlight. The same applies to dry air, a dry bale and waterlogging.


  • In the garden, the stag’s tongue fern prefers permeable, fresh to moist soil.
  • They should also be humic and calcareous.
  • It also tolerates neutral to slightly acidic garden soils.
  • The substrate for potted plants can consist of commercially available green plant soil.
  • Or from loose, humus-rich compost soil with sand, peat, leaf soil or uniform soil.

watering and fertilizing

Ferns require a relatively high amount of water, as does the deer fern. Depending on the weather, it has to be watered more frequently in summer. This is especially true in the growth phase. The soil should never dry out. It is best to water early in the morning or in the evening.

The use of lime-free water is recommended for indoor plants. Water in the saucer should always be removed, because even if the stag fern needs a permanently moist substrate, it does not cope so well with waterlogging.

With low humidity, Asplenium scolopendrium should be sprayed with water more often. In general, the warmer it is, the higher the humidity should be.

Tip: Watering less frequently, but more penetratingly, can encourage this plant’s roots to penetrate deeper layers of soil, helping it survive brief dry spells.

Spring is fertilized. In the first year after planting, a slow-release fertiliser, for example a long-acting perennial fertiliser, is administered, which releases the nutrients to the plant continuously and over a longer period of time. After that, re-fertilization is recommended every 2-3 years.

Both mineral and organic fertilizers are suitable. Provide potted plants between May and September, during the growth phase about every 2-4 weeks with a low-dose fertilizer, for example a green plant fertilizer.

To cut

  • A conventional pruning is not necessary for the deer tongue fern.
  • The evergreen fern fronds are a good winter ornament in the cold season.
  • Only old or dried fronds can be cut off.
  • Both before planting and later.
  • If the dried leaves remain on the ground, they form valuable humus.


In mild locations, Asplenium scolopendrium or Phyllitis scolopendrium is very hardy and withstands temperatures of up to -10 degrees without any problems. In severe winters, this fern can also freeze back completely. Then it is advisable to cover it with leaves or straw. The rhizome usually survives the winter undamaged and sprout again in the spring.

Excessive watering should be avoided in winter, but the soil must not dry out even now. The spores of the stag’s tongue fern are not sensitive to cold, so they can survive even freezing temperatures and thus ensure the survival of this fern.

Indoor plants should be bright and cool in winter, at temperatures between 8 and a maximum of 12 degrees, for example in an unheated conservatory or similarly cool rooms. There is significantly less watering during the rest phase.

propagation by division

To divide the fern, first remove the plant from the pot or the ground and carefully shake off the loose soil. Then cut the rhizome into several sections. Each individual section should have a few fronds. Then the newly acquired plants are planted in their final location or in pots and watered thoroughly.

Propagation by sprouts

The spores necessary for this form of propagation are located on both sides and at an angle to the midrib. Spore maturity of the stag’s tongue fern is between July and October. You can recognize them by running your fingers over the spore capsules and when a fine dust can be seen, the leaf can be separated. Put it on a piece of kitchen roll or a sheet of paper in a warm place. After 24 to 48 hours, some spores have usually already fallen out of the capsules. The rest can now be loosened from the leaf by gently shaking them and can be used for sowing.

To do this, they are distributed on moist and sterile potting soil, such as deciduous soil or peat soil. Then cover the pot with translucent foil and place in a bright and warm place. Direct sunlight should be avoided at all costs. Signs of initial germination appear after about 3 months in the form of a green tinge on the substrate, which gradually develops into a moss-like covering. The foil must remain on the pot until the first leaves have developed.

Propagation by leaf stem cuttings

To propagate with so-called leaf stem cuttings, an older and larger plant is lifted out of the ground or out of the pot in summer. With older plants, the yield is usually greater. Then the soil is carefully shaken off the bale and the bale is washed out. Washing out will expose the thickened ends of older petioles. These leaf ends should not yet die and should still be green on the inside. Both older leaves and this year’s leaves can be used.

To detach the leaves with the thickened ends from the plant, press them down with your thumb so that they break off the rhizome. Or you can carefully break apart the rootstock and cut off the leaf stalks right at the rootstock. Old, still attached root fragments at the base of the midrib are removed, as is the remaining leaf frond at the other end. Ultimately, a stem base of a few centimeters should be left, with each stem attachment having at least one eye.

Now you fill a flat seed tray with a layer of peat about 2 cm thick and then a layer of coarse-grained, moist sand. Be sure to sterilize the sand beforehand, for example in the microwave. The leaf cuttings are then spread out on the sand with the eye up.

The whole thing is then covered with translucent foil and placed in a shady spot for several weeks. With a bit of luck, small plants will have developed from the eyes by next spring. These can then be planted in pots with well matured compost soil. As soon as they have formed enough roots and it is frost-free outside, you can plant the young ferns in the garden.

Note: Propagation via petiole cuttings is particularly useful because the stag’s tongue fern only has a small root ball.

diseases and pests

Diseases and an infestation by pests are hardly to be feared with the stag’s tongue fern, provided that the keeping conditions are appropriate.

Beautiful varieties

Asplenium scolopendrium “Cristata” – Garden Stag’s
Tongue Fern This evergreen fern impresses with its light green, somewhat leathery and especially curled leaves. It grows to about 40 cm high and is suitable for the garden as well as for indoor cultivation. In the garden you can plant up to 5 plants per square meter. Sufficient humidity must be ensured in the house.

Asplenium scolopendrium ‘Cristatum’ – cockscomb stag’s tongue fern
Asplenium scolopendrium ‘Cristatum’ is a rather small fern with a growth height of up to 30 cm and slightly curled, dark green leaves. It decorates the pond area, just as well as the natural garden or the wooded area.

Asplenium scolopendrium “Crispa”
This fern, which is also winter green, has leathery, light green, curly leaves. It grows upright and is also known to many as a medicinal herb. Planted in the garden, it needs some winter protection. This species is also suitable for indoor keeping.

Asplenium scolopendrium “Undulata” – Curled Stag
‘s Tongue Fern Asplenium scolopendrium “Undulata” is a perennial that forms decorative clumps with tufted leaves. The rich, dark green, glossy and soft fronds of this fern are wavy and can grow up to 35 cm long. It comes into its own in flower or bog beds, under trees and at the edge of a pond, as well as in stone gardens, Japanese gardens or natural gardens.

frequently asked Questions

Which varieties are suitable for indoor culture?
Asplenium scolopendrium “Cristata” or garden stag’s tongue fern but also the variety Asplenium scolopendrium “Crispa” are particularly suitable for a culture as a houseplant.

What are the causes of pale leaves, brown spots on leaves, and curled fronds?
If the leaves are quite pale, this may be due to too much light or a lack of nutrients. Brown spots on the fern fronds can be the result of drafts. Accordingly, the location should be changed if necessary. If the leaves curl up, it may be because the air in the room is too dry or too warm. It is best to keep it a little cooler and spray more often.

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