Garden Advice Fern Care
Ferns and their allies are forest floor of epiphytic plants growing in conditions of high humidity and filtered light. They do not flower or produce seeds, but rather produce by rhizome division or by productions spores. Ferns are found from the Arctic to tropical regions, but tropical Ferns are most often grown indoors.
There are more than 12,000 species and varieties of Ferns identified at this time. Ferns have inhabited the earth since the Paleozoic Era, the Age of dinosaurs, when this group of plants dominated the landscape. The Tree Ferns of today closely resemble the early ancestors that made up the earth’s first forest.
East or North windows are generally ideal for ferns. South or West windows may be used if there is a light curtain to screen out hot sun. Most ferns do best in bright or filtered light and will grow well under Gro-Light.
Allow most Ferns to become moderately dry before watering. The Tree Ferns must be watered regularly before they become dry. Maidenhair Ferns are particularly sensitive to drying and will defoliate if not watered properly.
Ferns require high humidity. Avoid placing Ferns near a heat source. You can raise the humidity around the plants by placing them on a tray of pebbles and keeping pebbles wet, but be careful not to let the pots sit in water. Regular misting is also recommended. Because Ferns require high humidity, they are ideal for terrariums. For small terrariums, use dwarf varieties like the Button Fern (Pellea roundifolia) and the Tsus-Sima Fern (Polystichum tsus-simense).
Fertilize once a month with a soluble fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro or Jacks Classic Houseplant Special. Avoid fertilizing from November through January when the plants, except those under Gro-Lights are usually not growing.
Pot Ferns in a loose soil such as Espoma Organic Potting Mix. Use an Azalea or a low pot for Ferns, and do not repot unless the pot becomes filled with roots.
Ferns very rarely develop insect problems or diseases. They are occasionally afflicted by scale, mealy bugs, slugs, aphids, and rarely fungus diseases. If insect problems develop use Bonide Insecticidal Soap at weekly intervals to wash off all insects and eggs. Fungus disease very rarely develop on Ferns grown in the home. Fungus is caused by too much moisture at the base of the plant. Allow the foliage to dry out.
More problems arise with Ferns from improper culture than from insects of disease. Many people assume that because Ferns grow on the forest floor, they will tolerate low light. If the foliage becomes spindly, yellow, and/or brown and becomes brittle, the plant may not be getting enough light. Likewise, too much sun will cause Ferns to dehydrate and “burn” or bleach.