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Ferns | General Care and Tips

Ferns | General Care and Tips
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Ferns can add a lush, tropical feel to an inside space, making them a popular choice for houseplants. Fern fossils have been found that date back over 350 million years, and little has changed in the structure, reproduction and look of the plant in that time.  This prehistoric plant differs from many other plants as it reproduces via spores and not seeds or flowers, therefore the plants need to be exposed to good air circulation, space and humidity to thrive and reproduce. Ferns are typically not well suited for growing in small enclosed containers such as a cloche.

Fern Varieties and Placement
There are many different species of ferns to choose from. Some common household favorites are: maiden hair fern—light green in color and airy; bird nest fern—with curling extended fronds that group together to resemble a nest; and Boston fern— a New England summer porch and shady area favorite.  Fern’s sport delicate leaves known as fronds that extend outward, making them a natural choice to hang in windows that do not receive full sun.

Optimal Climate and Conditions for Ferns
Ferns do best in humid, consistent warmer temperatures, around 69-70°F. Bathrooms are an ideal place to keep ferns because of the air’s high humidly content resulting from showers and baths.  It is best to keep ferns away from direct sunlight, air-conditioning systems, fans or heat ducts to avoid over-drying. A sign of a distressed and over-drying fern is shriveled and brown leaves.

General Care for Ferns
Make sure that the soil in your fern’s pot is always damp, but avoid over watering. Misting and/or watering a small amount every other day or so is favored over drenching the plant and soil.  Never let the fern sit soaking in soggy or muddy water, and do not allow the soil to become too dry and compact. When a fern leaf has died or has brown tips, it is OK to prune or “deadhead” the discolored areas as they appear.  Simply snip at an angle with sharp scissors directly below the damaged or dead spot. When a fern has outgrown it’s pot it will begin to dry quickly when watered and look crowded in the pot. To repot, moisten the soil around the fern and gently remove it from the container. Loosen the soil that is clumped at the base slightly.  Place in a pot that is approximately 1/3 larger than the previous pot and fill with clean potting soil and water.

Shelley Wigglesworth


Shelley Wigglesworth


Shelley (Fleming) Wigglesworth is an award-winning freelance journalist from Maine specializing in maritime topics and the commercial fishing industry. She is also a certified Maine Master Gardener who writes gardening articles on a regular basis for Yankee Magazine. Her work can be found in the following publications: The York County Coast Star, Portsmouth Herald, Bangor Daily News, Yankee Magazine (online), National Fisherman Magazine, Commercial Fisheries News, Tourist News, Points East Magazine, Coastal Angler and The Maine Lobstermen's Association’s “Landings.” Follow Shelley on Facebook.
Updated Monday, March 17th, 2014
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