A very unique and incredibly cold hardy member of the Wax Myrtle family, Sweet Fern is hardy all the way to Zone 2 but has also managed to adapt well to our Zone 8 West Coast climate fairly well. Not a fern at all but named for its fern-like foliage, the leaves emit a lovely fragrance when crushed. Its fall foliage is beautiful but in a unique way. The deep green glossy foliage turns to a bronzey brown in fall that looks a bit like the plant is dying, but it’s also a pleasant shade of brown. So, fear not if you’re seeing these for the first time in the fall as they’re fully deciduous.
A big thanks to Crooks McGovern for turning us on to this plant on the shores of “Mink Bay” in Vermont many years ago. We still grow it in our gardens here and think of those summer days at Mink Bay whenever we see or smell the beautiful sweet fern.
Latin Name: Comptonia peregrina
Site and Soil: Can grow in sun or shade and likes moist, well-drained soil, but also seen growing in near wetland conditions.
Hardiness: Hardy to minus 50° F.
Bearing Age: 1-2 years after planting
Size at Maturity: 3-4 ft. in height by about as wide
Pests & Diseases: Not bothered by pests or diseases
USDA Zone: 2-8