The Dryopteris Erythrosora (Autumn Fern) Full Care Guide

The Autumn Fern, otherwise known as the Dryopteris Erythrosora or Japanese Red Shield Fern, Copper Shield Fern, Aspidium erythrosorum, is a well-known fern plant by gardening enthusiasts around the world.

Best known for its low maintenance and slow growth, this fern will likely liven up your house (or garden) with its green-colored leaves. But, only if you learn how to take proper care of it for it to thrive.

Fortunately, taking care of your Autumn Fern is not too difficult – as long as you follow our guidelines in this Autumn Fern Care Guide. Now let’s get started.

The basic care guidelines you need to remember for your Autumn Fern are the following:

  • Water: The Autumn Fern grows best with regular watering to keep the soil moist during the dry season. Reduce watering once the plant is established.
  • Light: Keep your Dryopteris Erythrosora in an environment where it can receive full shade on a daily basis. 
  • Soil: Make sure to keep the Autumn Fern in soil with well-draining, to moist but well-draining, and to even poorly draining properties; so ideally, one that is made of clay, loam, chalk and sand.

And as with many other plants, these are the only three care factors you need to remember to make sure your Autumn Fern is, for the most part, healthy and well to survive.

Scientific / Botanical Aspects

In botanical terms, the Autumn Fern belongs to the Polypodiaceae family, the genus Dryopteris and the species Erythrosora, hence its scientific (or botanical) name Dryopteris Erythrosora (drye-OPP-ter-iss ehr-ith-roh-SO-ra).

As with other Dryopteris, the Autumn Fern is a herbaceous plant, which means it will die back to the ground every year. 

Growing Region

The Autumn Fern is a plant native to China to Temp. Eastern Asia.

As a rule of thumb, we recommend always keeping in mind your plants’ native region and environment, since these are the conditions that your Autumn Fern is most accustomed to, thus where it can most favorably.

With this in mind, the Dryopteris Erythrosora will be most used to the heat zones in the 5 – 9 region, as the plant hardiness level falls between 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b, 12a, 12b and the ideal climate zone is between 2, 2A, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24.

Growth and Size


In terms of size and growth, the Autumn Fern is a relatively slow grower, which makes things easy for any plant enthusiast.


But, how big does the Autumn Fern actually get? What should you expect in terms of size? Let’s dive right in…

The Dryopteris Erythrosora can grow up to 1′ – 2′ (30cm – 60cm) in 1′ – 2′ (30cm – 60cm) and 1′ – 2′ (30cm – 60cm) in 1′ – 2′ (30cm – 60cm). This is why this plant is considered a relatively medium size for a fern, so it’s best to keep that in mind since it will likely impact where you want it to be placed. 

Also, expect it to grow in a wonderful spreading shape, which is something worthwhile to remember when making your garden landscape plans.

This is why experts recommend keeping an area of approximately 18″ – 24″ (45cm – 60cm) free so the Autumn Fern can spread to its best extent.


In terms of watering, the Autumn Fern is a fairly complicated plant to take care of. This is mostly because it has a not so straightforward watering schedule and somewhat regular watering needs.

Specifically, most experts agree that the Dryopteris Erythrosora grows best with regular watering to keep the soil moist during the dry season. Reduce watering once the plant is established.

Which is why it is considered a plant with relatively average needs in terms of water. 

As a rule of thumb, you should remember to keep your Autumn Fern in soil with well-draining, to moist but well-draining, and to even poorly draining characteristics, as these will guarantee the right conditions for your plant to grow and thrive. 

When you consider this, this is why you should aim to choose soil that has good drainage, and moist properties to keep the right moisture levels at all times. 

However, in our experience, the best solution to knowing the right amount of water for your Autumn Fern is with the ‘thumb’ technique. Basically, you insert your finger into the soil, and based if you feel the soil moist or dry, you determine if it needs any water, which is the most appropriate way to go about watering your leafy friend.

Soil Mix

As mentioned earlier, the Autumn Fern prefers to have soil with good drainage, and moist properties at all times, reason why you need to make the soil mix out of clay, loam, chalk and sand.

This is why most experts agree that the Autumn Fern requires soil with clay, high organic matter, and loam (silt), which will give you the right conditions it needs.

In addition to this, expert gardeners recommend having preferably alkaline, acid or neutral soil.

Light and Placement

In terms of light and exposure, the Autumn Fern requires full shade in order for it to thrive under the right conditions. 

Most experts agree that this fern will do well as long as you keep it in partial sun to shade and it will be able to grow properly. 

Specifically, we recommend that you place your Dryopteris Erythrosora in from full or deep shade (no direct sunlight or at most 2 hours per day), to little to partial shade (only 2-6 hours of direct sunlight a day), to dappled or moderate shade (under other plant’s canopy).


Being a herbaceous plant, the Autumn Fern will die back to the ground every year. But, you can expect it to have its ‘prime-time’ during the spring (early, mid, late), the summer (early, mid, late), the fall, and during the winter.


The leaves from the Autumn Fern have a beautiful green color during most of the year.

In particular, they have a compound (pinnately, bipinnately, palmately) and fronds arrangement with an rosulate organization in its leaves.

You can expect the leaves from your Dryopteris Erythrosora to be around (> 6 inches) in size.

Attracts, Tolerance and Resistance

The Autumn Fern is well known for its tolerance to clay soil, drought and animals like rabbit and deer, so don’t worry if any of these come along, your Dryopteris Erythrosora will be fine.


Now, let’s talk garden and how your Autumn Fern will look best in it.

Most Dryopteris Erythrosora owners agree that this fern will look great in most cottage and rustic gardens of all types. Other owners consider that they compliment well most gardens of informal and cottage, and in prairie and meadow styles. 

In particular, the Autumn Fern’s best location within your garden is in beds and borders, and in underplanting roses and shrubs, others use it for landscaping in a urban garden, mass planting, ground cover, edging, cutting garden, container, border, or a woodland garden.

Companion Plants

Autumn Fern’s do well with some other plants beside it. One good companion plant is the Heuchera, which will pair up nicely with your leafy friend.

Others consider that a nice Dicentra will work well too, so choose whichever you find works best for you!


So that’s it! These are the main plant care requirements that you need to keep in mind in order to have a healthy Autumn Fern in your garden or home.

Martin Duran

Hey y'all! My name is Martin Duran and I am from Cali, Colombia. Since 2018 I have been learning about plants and how to take care of them. Here's is my journey... “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

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