Fern Plant Care

Gardenerdy Staff Oct 8, 2018
A bright example of tropical greenery is the fern plant. Popular for both indoor and outdoor gardening, ferns are easy to grow and care for. Here are some DIY tips to help you go about it.
Ferns are believed to be 300 million years old. It is said that they dominated a major part of vegetation during the Carboniferous Period, which was known as the age of ferns.
Except the Antarctica region, fern plants can be spotted in almost any part of the world, with around 12,000 species of them in the world today. These plants have a reproduction method that takes place through spores and not seeds.
Fern plants in the wild grow under heavy shade and therefore can adapt to less brightened areas inside the house. They are a great choice for both outdoor as well as indoor gardening. Here's how you can take care of your ferns...

Light

☞ Ensure that the fern plant does not get exposed to direct heat or too much of light from the sun.
☞ Best way of providing appropriate lighting condition or a low lighting condition is to place the plant under a bright window, and maintaining exposure to indirect lighting. This can be managed by covering the window with a transparent curtain.
☞ Another method can be placing the plant near a west or north window of the house, as this provides perfect low-light (but not total dark) conditions for the plant.

☞ Avoid choosing windows at the south or east.
☞ It is important to note that the fern plant dislikes cold weather; conditions which can cause the fronds (green strands) of the plant to freeze. So take care not to keep the plant outside, especially during colder months and maintain a normal temperature inside the room.
You can help the plant maintain a round shape given its tendency to move towards the light. So all you have to do is turn the plant every two days.

Watering

☞ The fern plant loses more moisture than other common houseplants. This is due to their fronds, which make them dry out quickly.
☞ Watering should be done heavily until the potting mix becomes entirely moist. Once the top of the mix becomes dry, water again.
☞ Most species of the fern plant generally wilt in absence of enough moisture. So it is a good practice to mist the plant with lukewarm water to increase the humidity level, and hence the moisture.
☞ It is advisable to use an atomizer, plant mister or a plastic spray, so as to maintain a fine mist. Mist enough to moisten the fronds, but also take care that water droplets do not sit on the fronds, as it may harm them.
☞ You would know that you are overwatering your fern when its fronds start turning brown or even black in patches.

☞ You can also place your fern in the kitchen and bathroom as in such places the plant will have access to plenty of moisture.

Mulching

☞ Mulching helps improve the growth and health of ferns by keeping the soil cool in summer. This not only keeps the soil moist, but also inhibits the growth of weeds.

☞ Mulching should be done in the spring and fall. You can keep a 2-3 inch layer of mulch using chopped leaves or chopped straw. 

Fertilizers

☞ Fertilizers you choose for your fern plant must be rich in nitrogen. This helps in keeping the plant and its foliage green and in good shape.
☞ Most experts advise using a slow release fertilizer, as fern plants have low tolerance for over fertilizing.

☞ Spring is an ideal time to fertilize the plant. Needless to mention, always follow package instructions for better results.

Pests and Diseases

☞ Ferns are not usually troubled by pests or diseases. In most cases, using horticultural oil or insecticidal soaps are good enough to take care of pests like scale insects, nematodes, mealy bugs, mites, aphids, etc. Sometimes, even simply rinsing the plant under running water dislodges the insects from it.
☞ Rubbing alcohol is also effective in taking care of most pests that attack ferns. Make a mix that comprises rubbing alcohol (10%) and water (90%), and spray it on the affected parts of the plant. This method is especially helpful in killing mealy bugs and scale insects.
☞ Equally important is to get rid of leaves that have been heavily infested, especially by nematodes. In such cases, repotting the fern may also help.
Note that not all species of the fern plant have similar requirements. For instance, Blechnum (hard fern) enjoys growing in moist to wet soil, while species such as Asplenium nidus, and Phlebodium require lesser watering. Again, the species such as Blechnum Gibbum and Platycerium need not be misted as it is in the case of other species.