Complete Guide to Growing Fern in Garden Home
Ferns are beautiful on their own or in any other setting and it should not prove difficult to find a fern of your liking, seeing you get to choose from over 10 000 (or 250 indigenous) species, ranging in size, form, color variations, leaf texture, and hardiness. Ferns fall into one of four types:
(a) Crown-shaped ferns. Ferns that have their fronds emerge from fleshy roots in a crown-shape.
(b) Epiphytic ferns are non-parasitic plants that grow attached to other plants like trees and feed on soil and organic matter lodged around their root systems and get water through rain.
(c) Rhizomous-rooted ferns have rhizomes from which non-crown-forming fronds arise.
(d) Spleenworts grow ideally horizontally.
Ferns are of the oldest plants on earth and have been incorporated into indoor decorating schemes for centuries. They also make great fillers to other plants, indoors or outdoors, hence their popularity with florists.
Potting Mediums and Growing Requirements
Given a damp and shady spot to grow in, ferns are mostly very easy to grow and can be left to their own devices. Outdoors ferns need little to thrive and cutting dead fronds off and supplying topdressing annually should prove enough. That is if planting preparations were thorough. The planting area’s soil should be dug deeper and mixed with organic matter, ensuring a light and fertile growing medium. Add to planting holes a little bone-meal fertilizer before planting. Follow with a generous amount of organic mulch after planting and top this up when needed.
You could mix your own potting medium or alternatively buy a commercial medium. Ferns will benefit from foliar feeds or a liquid fertilizer once a month. They also need a fertile, moist potting mix and ideally, it should contain:
1 part river sand, 1 part peat moss, 1 part leaf mold and 3 parts fibrous loam. After mixing this, add (to each barrow-load) 2 cups each of blood and bone meal and granular fertilizer. Always make sure your ferns get enough water and provide shade, humidity, and frost-protection to those species that need it.
Ferns are usually propagated from spores, but most people will get more success from dividing creeping rhizomes, splitting uprooted sections or layering. In its natural environment ferns propagate from spores which are wind-borne, falling in moist, fertile soil and germination takes place.
Painless Spore Propagation
Collect spores from perfect specimens after removing a mature frond and placing it, in a warm place, between sheets of blotting paper. The ‘dust’ you should see after a couple of days, are spores after the coverings of the sporangia burst. Collect this ‘dust’ and sow as soon as possible in a tray filled with a sterilized, moisture-retaining medium (like peat moss or sphagnum). Sow by scattering thinly over the surface and cover with glass or plastic sheeting. Place this tray in bright light (out of direct sunlight) in another tray of water.
After 1 ½ – 2 months the first stage of germination would’ve taken place and a tiny green leaf-like shape will appear. This is called the prothallus and isn’t a true fern yet. The true fern will take several months to develop from this prothallus.
Wait for the tiny true plants to grow to manageable and strong sizes before planting out.
Tips for Growing Ferns Indoors
Growing ferns can be a wonderful hobby and can brighten up any deck, porch, or room. Ferns are rumored to be exceptionally easy plants to grow, however, this is not necessarily true. A novice may not have a very good first experience with growing a fern unless they are taught how to do so properly. We are going to go through the steps of growing your very own indoor fern. Why indoors? Because it’s a lot easier to control the conditions inside your home than outside and will likely provide a better first-time experience for the fern novice.
So, it’s off to your local garden center to pick out a fern. There will likely be loads of different ferns to choose from, so take your time and get one that will really compliment the room you have picked out for it. You will also need to purchase a large plastic pot complete with drainage holes in the bottom (and preferably a water plate to catch the excess water), as well as a larger plastic pot in which to sit the first pot. If you want a hanging fern, you’ll need to choose a single hanging pot. These are fairly cheap, but they can be a little messy during watering. You will also need to pick up a small bag of potting soil and some sphagnum moss if you don’t already have some.
Once you get your fern home, it will be time to transplant it. Place a bit of potting soil in the bottom of the pot you purchased. Gently remove the fern from its original pot and place it into its new home. Go ahead and fill the pot until all of the fern’s roots are fully covered with soil. Make sure that you haven’t packed the soil too firmly in the bottom of the pot, as this could create a blockage for the drainage holes. It’s very important that any excess water is able to escape through these holes because wet soil can allow the water to pool around the roots, causing them to rot.
Place the pot containing the fern into the largest pot, then fill the gap with sphagnum moss. The moss should be kept moist or wet at all times. This will ensure that your fern is able to absorb water through the drainage holes should it become too dry or warm. This step is not a necessity, but it can be very handy in the event that you forget to water your fern. Go ahead and place the water plate under the pots and give the soil a good watering.
Now it’s time to choose a spot for your fern. When growing ferns, it’s important to know that these plants don’t like direct sunlight. The native areas for this species are often shady and humid; therefore a corner plant stand would work well. Anywhere with indirect sunlight will suffice, though. The ideal temperatures that encourage fern growth are between 70 and 85 degrees F; however, ferns can survive in temperatures as low as 50 degrees F.
You must keep your fern moist pretty much all the time, but be careful that you don’t wet the soil through. The idea is to keep it nice and damp without soaking it. If you are worried about finding a good balance between soil and moisture, you may want to keep a water bottle on hand. With a water bottle, you can apply a nice mist directly over the leaves of the fern. Balance this out with light watering whenever the soil starts to lose its moisture.
If you like, you can fertilize your fern with a 15-15-15 fertilizer once a month during the growing season, which is normally April through September. It is not necessary to fertilize your fern during the first six months, though. Ferns do not require fertilizer during the dormant period, so don’t worry about adding any fertilizer unless you see new growth.
As you can see, growing ferns isn’t exactly rocket science, but it isn’t a simple case of setting it by the window and watering it once a week, either. Just remember the key details of fern growth: indirect sunlight, watering often, and temperatures anywhere from 50 to 85 degrees F.
Interesting Facts about the Cinnamon Fern
Ferns come in a variety of species, each unique such as the cinnamon fern. This particular species of fern is quite large, with leaves growing up to six feet long and one foot wide. In their natural environment, these ferns are found growing in large clumps in moist areas such as marshes, ditches, banks along streams, ponds, and rivers, and in woods. Interestingly, the leaves of this fern come in one of two types. First, the leaves are large and green in color. Second, the leaves are small that initially have a vibrant green color that soon turns to the color of cinnamon, thus the name.
One of the unique features of the cinnamon fern with the smaller leaves is that they have sori. The sori are what produce spores that are similar to seeds in that they are used to produce another fern. As the wind blows, these spores drop from the fern and when settled, a new fern would start to grow in that very spot where they landed. For this reason, seeing the cinnamon fern in clumps is common.
During the early springtime, young fronds will start to grow. At first, the fronds are nothing more than a thin, wispy stem, which uncoils into the leafy frond. When young, the fronds of the cinnamon fern are known as “fiddleheads”, a favorite food of many types of wildlife such as rabbits, white-tailed deer, etc. However, after a number of fronds have grown into a large size, others that are still small will develop sori. In a few months, the cinnamon fern will stop producing new fronds altogether, instead of growing spores that again, help create new ferns.
Along with the cinnamon fern being an important food source for animals, the fiddleheads are enjoyed by humans. This part of the fern can be boiled to produce a tasty food item although not many people eat the fiddleheads. Instead, this type of fern is a popular addition to the backyard, garden area, or grown in large containers. If you wanted to create a more inviting space on the backyard deck or patio, placing several containers with this type of fern inside would add beauty and interest.
Another interesting fact about the cinnamon fern is that they have rhizomes, which are stems that actually grown beneath the ground. For this, the fern will grow underground and spread, soon resulting in new ferns appearing on the surface. When looking in nature and seeing a huge group of ferns, which is called a “colony”, this is an identifier of the rhizomes doing their job. In other words, multiple ferns will start growing below the ground’s surface so when they appear on top, they are in large bunches.
The cinnamon fern is also found often growing beneath several types of trees to include the Eastern White Pine, Red Maple, Virginia Pine, Black Oak, White Oak, and Loblolly Pine. Additionally, this species of fern is found growing next to certain plants such as the Greenbrier and Highbush Blueberry. No matter where the cinnamon fern grows, because of the size this plant becomes a natural place of protection for smaller animals in the wild. Because of this, it is common to find frogs, squirrels, birds, snakes, and a variety of insects making their home within this type of fern.
Care And Feeding Of The Foxtail Fern
The Foxtail fern resembles a foxtail and a fern but in fact, is neither. The Foxtail fern is a member of the asparagus genus, and one of the so-called asparagus ferns. The “fern”, like the asparagus plant, is actually a member of the Liliaceae, or lily family, and spreads by seeds and tubers rather than by spores. The Foxtail cultivar is called meyersii, and the fern sometimes goes by the names Meyers fern, or Asparagus Myersil fern. Most often however it is advertised as a Foxtail fern.
Watch Out For The Thorns, And Don’t Eat The Berries
In USDA Zones 9 though 11 the Foxtail fern is often grown as a ground cover. It grows to a height of about 2 feet, and blooms in mid-summer. The white blooms are rather inconspicuous, and the plant is grown primarily for its handsome foliage. The fronds themselves, while appearing soft and “frond-like” actually contain many small and sharp thorns, so one needs to be aware of that when handling them. The plants will sometimes, though not always, set berries, red in color, and considered to be toxic. The berries are collected and dried when saving the seeds, although the plant is more often propagated by its tubers. Since the roots of the plant can spread rather rapidly, the Foxtail fern can be considered potentially invasive and can be difficult to get rid of if masses of it have been planted.
Growing The Foxtail Fern Indoors
In most of the country the Foxtail fern is grown as a house plant, and an attractive house plant it is. It is a relatively easy plant to grow. As a potted plant, it will grow to about 2 feet in height, the same as outdoors, and will eventually attain a spread of about 3 feet once it matures. A mature Foxtail fern can be quite a showpiece inside or on a patio. Unlike some house plants, this plant is not affected by many diseases or insect pests. The fronds are popular with florists as they are used as green filler in floral arrangements.
The Foxtail fern grows best in a brightly lit location indoors, although it can be conditioned to grow in moderate light, but not in deep shade or in a poorly lighted room. In general, the brighter the light, the faster the plant will grow. As a house plant, it can be set outdoors during the warm summer months. It will tolerate temperatures just above freezing for short periods, but it is not frost hardy. As the plant tends to become root bound, which it will over time, it becomes more thirsty and needs frequent watering. It can be heavily watered once or twice a week, rather than every day, as long as excess water is allowed to run off. When it is not root bound however, the Foxtail prefers things more on the dry side, and can even put up with a certain amount of neglect. A monthly feeding of regular house plant food is all that is required, besides light and water, to keep the plant healthy. The Foxtail fern is not considered to be a heavy feeder, and if you miss a month’s feeding, it’s not going to get sick and die on you.
Easy To Propagate
If you already have a Foxtail fern and want more, simply remove the mature plant from its pot and cut off several tubers, as many tubers as you want new plants. Place the tubers in individual pots filled with a good quality potting soil and you’ll soon have a new generation of attractive and low maintenance Foxtail Ferns.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Kimberly Queen Fern
The Kimberly queen fern is also known as the Australian sword fern, and you’ll be delighted at how easy this plant is to grow. The fern is native to Australia, and many people consider it to be one of the most beautiful types of ferns. The Kimberly queen fern is perfect to be grown as a potted plant indoors, or outside in your yard as a sort of backdrop. It grows to be between two and three feet tall, and they’re very easy to care for, even if you have the blackest of thumbs!
If you decide to grow your own Kimberly queen fern, then you’ll need to start it in a six to eight-inch pot. Table ferns will generally do well in six-inch pots, but if you want it in a hanging pot, then you should opt for the larger size.
If you want to plant the fern outside, then you might consider using it as a groundcover or as a border along with your other plants. You’ll need about two to three feet of space between plants. You’ll also need some potting mix, even if you plan to grow the Kimberly queen fern outside. This will ensure that the plant gets all the nutrients it needs, especially early in its growing life. The best pH for the soil is between 6.1 and 7.5, or mildly acidic to neutral. This gives you quite a wide range if you’re less than soil-savvy.
Your Kimberly queen fern prefers partial to full shade, although it can do alright in the bright sun. Just be sure to watch the soil more carefully so it doesn’t dry out in all that sunlight. The best temperatures for this type of fern are between 60 and 85 degrees. However, the plant will still survive in colder temperatures. It simply stops growing when it gets too cold outside. This truly is the perfect plant for those who are green-thumb challenged.
Returning once again to the topic of watering this type of fern, it’s very important to make sure that you don’t overwater it. The number one reason most ferns die is that they are overwatered. You simply want to make sure that the plant doesn’t ever completely dry out.
Another interesting fact about the Kimberly queen fern is that it’s been shown to have detoxification properties. This means that instead of buying an air purifier that requires electricity, you can simply buy this fern and place it in your home. It needs no power and looks much more attractive than an air purifier, and it works by clearing the air naturally.
Anyone can truly grow this type of fern. In fact, you may have a difficult time getting rid of it once you plant it in your yard. It’s truly one of the hardier plants you could possibly put in your yard, and it requires almost no maintenance, a dream come true for anyone who wants a beautiful yard but doesn’t want to work for it.
Transplanting Ferns – An Easy Task
About the only problems a person is apt to run into in transplanting ferns is that in many places it is illegal to transplant ferns that are growing in the wild. Transplanting ferns that are in your yard or have been purchased at a nursery is a different matter of course. Individual ferns sometimes require different growing conditions, and to do things right, one generally has to know a bit about the particular species one is attempting to transplant. In most cases, damp fertile soil will work and most ferns do not like a direct sun or at least very much of it. A few varieties, such as the Staghorn fern, do not grow in soil but grow on wood, but that’s a rather special case. Most ferns grow in humid rain forests, not just tropical rain forests, but also in the coastal rain forests of more temperate zones.
Very often, when transplanting ferns, the plant is divided, yielding several plants. When dividing some plants, great care must be taken when separating the root ball. Ferns, on the other hand, are rather tough customers. The root balls can be difficult to separate at times, but the ferns can generally tolerate a fair about of abuse in case one has to hack away or use considerable force in pulling the root ball apart. Still, it’s good practice to use a sharp knife, as the less damage that is done to the root ball the better.
Best To Transplant When Dormant
Dividing and transplanting ferns is best done in the early spring before the season’s growth has begun. Ferns purchased in pots or containers can be transplanted any time, though it may not always be advisable to divide the root ball when the plant is in the midst of its growing season. Also, a fern that is in the midst of the growing season needs to be transplanted with care if its root ball is not particularly large. A young plant may be better off being left in its pot until it goes dormant if its root ball is small. If one has a garden featuring many ferns, a spring ritual of dividing and transplanting ferns, while at the same time looking for new and different arrangements of the plants can be enjoyable, and at times challenging experience.
Work The Soil And Use Plenty Of Mulch
Even though ferns should be grown in shady parts of the yard or garden, when transplanting them it’s a good idea to cover the soil with mulch once the plants have been put in place, to help keep the soil moist. Mulching to a depth of 3″ to 4′ is not excessive. Most ferns have a very shallow root system and do not easily tolerate being in soil that has been allowed to dry out. The fern will not necessarily die in such a situation, but in drought conditions, the plant tends to die back and go dormant. To keep this from happening, the soil should be worked to a depth of 6″, 8″ is even better. Mix in plenty of leaf mold or compost, and the result should be a planting mix that will retain moisture quite well.
A useful piece of advice when transplanting established ferns is to lift them from the ground by their root system and not by lifting them by the fronds. While a fern plant can tolerate being “pulled by the hair”, its fronds can easily be broken. While the damage to the plant itself will usually not be too severe, the attractiveness of the plant will undoubtedly suffer. A fern with several broken fronds is usually not the most attractive plant in the garden.
Understanding the Process of Fern Reproduction
Ferns are a popular type of plant because of their beauty but also because the process for fern reproduction is usually easy so they can be grown and reproduced easily. Ferns come in a wide variety of species, making them the ideal plant choice for gardens, container plants (indoors and outdoors), and just placed sporadically around the yard to add interest.
Before we get into the information about fern reproduction, we wanted to provide a brief summary of what type of plant constitutes a fern. This type of plant is a part of the Polypodiophyta family, which is comprised of virtually thousands of fern species. In addition, ferns are grown all over the world although they grow in abundance in tropical rainforests. Of all plants known to man, ferns and other family members such as the horsetail and club moss are the oldest known.
We also wanted to provide you with information as to the most common types of ferns grown but no matter the species fern reproduction is much the same for all of them. Favorite ferns of this family are characterized by triangle-shaped fronds, which are divided multiple times into leaflets and small pinnules. A few of the species that are most popular include the Boston Fern found in a shipment of other fern species coming from Boston, the Tropical Sword Fern, Maidenhair Fern, often used to treat respiratory illnesses, and the Christmas Fern, which is dark green and resembles an evergreen.
However, when it comes to species best known for fern reproduction, the Walking Fern is known for being strong, hardy, and beautiful. Grown heavily in areas with limestone, the vegetative fern reproduction associated with this species includes new plantlet roots being produced at the top of the long fronds. Two species known for their fern reproduction include the Rattlesnake Fern and Adder’s Tongue Fern. With this, sporangia are produced but in spikes rather than sori.
The process of fern reproduction involves generations being alternated. Because this type of plant is a sporophyte, a plant capable of producing asexual spores, the spore-bearing sacs called sporangia are borne in clusters, which are called sori. The sori first appear as small brown streaks or dots located on the underside of the leaves. The sori work much the same way as a seed in that when the wind blows or if something were to brush up against the plant, the sori would drop to the ground, which then begins the process of fern reproduction.
One of the interesting things about fern reproduction is that of species known today, none has seeds. However, numerous fossils have been uncovered over the years that show older species of this plant were in fact seed-bearing. Because of that, experts believe that ferns were initially seed-bearing plants that over time, evolved into the ferns we know today that use sori for fern reproduction. Because this process is so simple if you were to purchase one fern, upon maturity more ferns could be produced from the original plant.
Table of Contents
- 1 Complete Guide to Growing Fern in Garden Home
- 2 Tips for Growing Ferns Indoors
- 3 Interesting Facts about the Cinnamon Fern
- 4 Care And Feeding Of The Foxtail Fern
- 5 Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Kimberly Queen Fern
- 6 Transplanting Ferns – An Easy Task