Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)

Like many popular terrarium ferns, there usually isn’t a wide variety of colors to choose from.

They normally range through all the different shades of green.

However, there aren’t many actual color variations.

Well, that is until you come across the vibrant and colorful Autumn Fern.

The unusual assortment this fern offers a scape is a breath of fresh air, especially when grown in a planted vivarium.

This article will provide extensive details about Autumn Fern’s appearance as well as its care requirements.

Quick Stats:
Scientific Name Dryopteris erythrosora
Common Name Autumn Fern, Japanese Shield Fern, Japanese Wood Fern, Copper Shield Fern, Shaggy Shield Fern
Family Name Dryopteridaceae
Habitat Moist, Woodlands
Temperature 60°F to 85°F
Height 18 to 24 inches thick
pH 5.5 to 7.0
Lighting Bright

What Is Autumn Fern?

Autumn Fern is an evergreen species of plant that is part of the Dryopteridaceae family.

As the name indicates, it falls under a type of plant categorized as ferns.

Ferns are vascular in nature.

Their main classifying factors are that they reproduce through spores and don’t have seeds or flowers.

Ferns have particular tissues that carry nutrients and water as well as have a dominant sporophyte life cycle phase.

Autumn fern is not only known for its multicolored fronds but also for its ability to thrive when neglected.

This is a very hardy plant that will bring life to any enclosure.

Autumn Fern (Dryopteris Erythrosora) Care Guide

Autumn Fern Facts

Besides Autumn Fern, Dryopteris erythrosora is also known as the Japanese Shield Fern, Japanese Wood Fern, Copper Shield Fern, Shaggy Shield Fern, and Japanese Red Shield Fern.

The plant gets its name due to the coloration of some of its fronds and its resemblance to the fall season.

It is known as an accent fern, which explains why many hobbyists have taken an interest in it.

Autumn Ferns’ Japanese name is Benishida, meaning “red fern” from the words Beni and Shida.

Beni stands for red or crimson, while Shida literally means ferns.

Unlike most other ferns, this plant is not a very fast grower.

Nonetheless, it will still reach a significant medium size when provided an adequate environment to reside in and some level of pruning.


Dryopteris erythrosora is a strict foliage plant whose leaf structure resembles that of a Boston Fern.

It has a long stem and lots of small leaves attached to each side.

Some people even describe it as having a large feather-like appearance.

Autumn fern grows in vase-shaped clumps that can reach up to about 24 inches in height.

This fern’s most striking characteristic is its glossy fronds.

They are triangular in nature and can display an astonishing array of colors.

New fronds develop a wide range of diverse tones of orange, copper, yellow, bronze, and sometimes even pinkish reds.

As the fronds mature they turn into an intense green. On the bottom side of each leaf, there are circular spores also known as red sori.

These are fuzzy looking and will uniformly cover pretty much the whole undersurface of the plant.

Like many ferns, Dryopteris erythrosora has a shallow root system better known as rhizomes.

Rhizomes are clumps of wiry stems that grow horizontally beneath the surface of a plant and allow it to absorb all the nutrients needed from the substrate.

These rhizomes are also used by plants to store energy since they are generally thicker than above-ground stems and under the soil where they are more protected from any environmental disturbances.


Autumn Fern is native to Japan, Korea, China, and the Philippines.

It can usually be seen growing in light woodland-shaded areas of small hills or mountains.

Although this fern can survive some slightly dry conditions it will mostly grow in very humid locations.

This fern is not very heat resistant and will not survive in places where the daytime temperatures are too high.

It can, however, adjust to high humidity and winter zones.

Dryopteris erythrosora can grow in temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit with no issues.

On the other hand, the plant will most likely die or wither away if the temperature drops below 50 ºF.

PH Preference

Autumn fern prefers water and substrate that is slightly acidic.

This plant will be able to adjust to other PH levels as long as it has the proper fertilization and nutrients.

Despite its high tolerance for different ranges, Autumn ferns’ ideal levels will range from 5.5 to 7.0.

A PH level of 7 is considered neutral.

Meanwhile, a PH below 7 is acidic and a PH above 7 is alkaline.

Vivarium Type

This type of fern will do great in a variety of vivarium types.

When deciding if rather or not to use this fern in a particular type of enclosure, be sure to go with setups that have tropical, moist terrain areas.

Here are recommended vivariums that this fern will do well in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Ripariums – Mostly aquatic-based enclosures with some terrain features present.
  • Terrariums – Fully terrain-based enclosures with little to no aquatic features.

Vivarium Placement

Autumn fern is a terrestrial-based plant. Although it does require a high level of humidity, it should never be left in a soggy substrate.

With that in mind, make sure that the plant is kept out of aquatic areas of an enclosure.

These ferns’ eccentric and bold colors make them a great tool to decorate and dress up any empty areas of a vivarium.

Due to its horizontal growth, most hobbyists will place the plant towards the bottom of the enclosure and allow it to cover up the substrate.

Autumn Ferns will immediately stand out and grab the attention of any spectator alongside other green flora.

Do remember that Dryopteris erythrosora is not a small plant.

When picking a location to establish the plant, make sure that it will have enough room to grow.

The fronds can and should always be trimmed, but having sufficient space will allow them to flourish and look healthier.


Dryopteris erythrosora does best in moist and slightly acidic terrarium soil.

Even though this fern does not require very rich or fertilized soil, it should certainly have proper drainage.

Combining coco fiber soil, vermicompost, and perlite has proven to be a perfect mix for Autumn ferns.

The coco fiber will help maintain moisture, while the perlite provides that much-needed drainage.

Some fir bark or charcoal chips may also be used instead of (or in addition to) the perlite.

A lack of appropriate drainage can lead to rotting roots and eventually the plant’s death.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to avoid burying the fern’s crown.

Doing so will lead to crown rot and the eventual death of the plant as well.


When it comes to lighting, the Autumn fern is a shade-loving plant.

Although it can survive some levels of direct sunlight, just a few hours of it can prove to be damaging and scorch the plant.

If the vivarium will not have any terrarium lighting, try placing the vivarium near a bright window that receives indirect sun exposure.

A northern or eastern window specifically will provide the best type of light exposure.

When setting up lighting inside of a vivarium, LED lights will work extremely well.

Try to go for cooler colors that resemble a partially shaded day.

Avoid any type of light that has high levels of UV rays.

Buy Autumn Fern

When shopping for possible Autumn fern, expect a few key indicators you are buying the best quality plant.

Since this fern does not grow from seeds, an existing plant must be bought.

It will not necessarily need to be an adult or a large plant.

However, it might be a good idea to buy a plant reasonably in size, in order to have more to work with.

The purchased fern should have vibrant and bold colors.

Try to avoid any browning or wilting leaves. Those are usually signs of a plant that is not doing well.

Click the image below to find out more about the current price and other relative info on Dryopteris erythrosora:

Autumn Fern Care and Propagation

Autumn Fern is known for its hardiness and low care requirements.

Especially once it has been established and settled into an environment. Still, there are a few things that should be provided to give the plant the best shot at success.

Making sure that the plant receives the right amount of water, moisture, and light will make a significant difference in this fern’s overall health.

Removing any dead fronds and periodic trimmings will also promote healthy and steady growth.

Autumn Fern does not have many pests-related issues.

However, proper precautions during buying and transplanting the plant will help avoid any possible issues.

How to grow

Autumn fern can be propagated through two methods: spore production and root division.

The easiest way will undoubtedly be through the process of division.

Parts of the plant’s rhizomes should be carefully separated.

Try not to break off any roots, since that will shock and damage the fern.

Then take the new pieces and plant them at a new location.

Make sure that the soil or substrate is rich and moist.

Ferns can also be propagated through the use of spores.

But this method is not always recommended since it’s not always successful within a vivarium.


Like many ferns, Autumn fern requires a moist and humid environment to thrive in.

The plant is surprisingly drought tolerant once it has settled in and been established in a particular location.

Regardless, a steady and consistent watering routine will allow for a healthier and more vivid-looking set of leaves.

The substrate that the fern is growing it should not be allowed to dry out completely.

Be sure not to overwater the plant.

If the soil becomes, sodden, and completely saturated for long periods of time the fern could suffer drastically.

Plants Similar To Autumn Fern

Even though it is not a necessity, nor a requirement, adding different varieties of flora to a vivarium can be very beneficial.

Not only will it help create a more captivating scenery, but it could very well help the overall sustainability of the enclosure.

Try mixing up different types of plants that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment.

Furthermore, if for some reason you are having a hard time getting your hands on this plant…

Here are some other options that may do well with or in the place of Dryopteris erythrosora:

Mosquito Fern (Azolla Filiculoides)
Silver Ribbon Fern (Pteris Cretica)
Silver Lace Fern (Pteris Ensiformis)


Autumn Fern is by far one of my favorite ferns to add an enclosure.

Due to its medium size, I would not recommend it for smaller vivariums.

I also wouldn’t use it for an aquarium.

A woodland-type setup would be the best suitable environment for the plant to survive.

Dryopteris erythrosora‘s few care requirements make it an easy terrarium plant for even beginners to use. 

Not to mention its striking variation of color that will grab anyone’s attention at a simple glance.

Frequently Asked Questions

The autumn fern spreads quickly through rhizomes, with new fronds developing at a rate of 6 inches (15 cm) a year.

No, autumn fern is not an invasive species. It is a lowmaintenance fern that can be used as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes in USDA growing zones 5 to 8.

No, autumn fern is not an evergreen. This deciduous fern typically goes dormant in winter and emerges in spring.

No, autumn ferns typically turn a goldenbronze color in the winter months and go dormant. While their fronds may stay intact, the leaves of the fern will start to turn brown.

The Autumn Fern typically reaches a height of 1.52 feet (4560 cm) and a spread of 23 feet (6090 cm).

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