Ferns are among the oldest plants in the world, first appearing in fossils dating back some 360 million years ago. Many of the current ferns now, date back roughly 145 million years and include over 10,000 unique species. They are different from almost all other houseplants in that they do not flower or produce seeds, and instead, reproduce by spores.
Commonly kept as houseplants for their lush, green fronds, ferns can be a bit tricky to keep without the right conditions. Those that master the art of keeping ferns in their house benefit from their ability to purify the air and don't have to worry about their pets and children as ferns are non toxic and pet safe!
Ferns prefer to be shaded. Terrestrial varieties of ferns live along the forest floor, getting spots of indirect light, but never feeling the warmth and strength of direct sun rays. Epiphytic varieties, while suspended in tree limbs, are generally still covered by the forest canopy and protected from the harsh sun. Because of this, ferns can take residence in any room of your home or office, as long as they receive some natural, indirect light.
The key to fern keeping, and what most people struggle with, is water and humidity. Ferns like to be moist at all times. If they dry out, they quickly brown and whither away to nothing. They also like higher humidity levels, but prefer to have their fronds stay dry. Tanks, Terrariums and Domes will help maintain your ferns for years, as they can create a moist, humid environment with less need to water. Humidifiers also help if your fern can not be enclosed and a bathroom with a shower can be an ideal location for your ferns, as long there is a window for some diffused light.
While it is not completely necessary, you can use a general purpose, high quality fertilizer from Spring through Fall. We recommend diluting the fertilizer to about 50% strength. Fish Head Farms soil conditioner is a great option to use year round to provide essential nutrients and promote strong, healthy growth.
Terrestrial ferns are not too picky with their soil needs. We have seen them successfully grown in anything from Cactus mix and Peat Moss, to regular potting soil. Just be sure that whatever you use is a high quality to prevent fungal gnats. Epiphytic and Semi-Epiphytic ferns, such as Staghorn, Birdsnest and Rabbit's Foot ferns, will benefit from a loose, airy mixture. Mixing chunky perlite or vermiculite in to Peat moss or a Cactus blend will suffice. These ferns can be grown quite well with just Sphagnum moss, as long as you keep it moist.
Ferns are moderate growers, especially once they are established. We recommend repotting every year or 2, but only if they are noticeably pot bound. Even then, you only want to move up 2" or so in pot sizes to reduce stress. This should be done in the Spring or early Summer months. If you have just recently purchased your plant, do not repot it for at least 6 months.
The most common pest issues for ferns include Mealy Bugs and Red Spider Mites, however, even Scale Bugs can cause issues. It is always best practice to isolate any new plants you bring in to your home for a few weeks to watch for little pests. For help and tips on prevention and treatment of pests, see our At Home Pest Recipes here!
If you have any more questions, or need further assistance, please feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email!