Abstract Fe–Mn–Si is a well-characterized ternary shape memory alloy. Research on this alloy has consistently shown that the addition of 5–6 wt.% Si is desirable to enhance the reversibility of stress-induced martensite vis-à-vis shape memory. This paper examines the effect of Si on the morphology and the crystallography of the martensite in the Fe–Mn–Si system. It is concluded that the addition of Si increases the c/ a ratio of the martensite, reduces the transformation volume change and decreases the atomic spacing difference between the parallel close-packed directions in the austenite–martensite interface (habit) plane. It is proposed that, in addition to austenite strengthening, Si enhances reversibility by reducing the volume change and the interfacial atomic mismatch between the martensite and the austenite. Although shape memory is improved, transformation reversibility remains limited by the necessary misfit dislocations that accommodate the atomic spacing differences in the interface.