DID YOU KNOW? That ferns are one of the oldest houseplants ever? They have been in existence for over 300 million years – this means that if you have any type of fern at home, you have a piece of earth’s history, sitting right there in your home.
Sounds so cool. BUT, somehow, a lot of us find ferns very difficult to care for – in fact, I’ve been told that ferns are not for plant noobs!
With my recent obsession with these beautiful lace-like fronds, I’ve been digging around for tips to help keep ferns happy. There are nearly 12,000 species of ferns, so I won’t be diving into each and every one of them. But here are some general guidelines you can follow to start with!
Knowing their origin is key.
As with most tropical plants, ferns are found living amongst other plants, in shade. Some of them are high up on a tree, and some love the low ground. So keeping this environment in mind, we need to maintain a soil that is rich in organic matter, both moist and well-drained (but not soggy!)
Most ferns prefer a shady space – but they don't do well in low light. The dappled shade provided by tree branches provide the best conditions. Think about how they grow in the forest and try and find similar conditions in your space. In apartments, I can think of placing them behind curtains, or under other plants, in a shelf etc.)
Ferns can handle some direct sunlight, however, the more sun they get, the more moisture they will need.
Nearly all ferns prefer a soil that is moist and well-draining. So that means – loading up with perlite and pumice and some coco bark/orchid bark. Remember where they are found, so we want to replicate the environment as best for them.
Do not let the soil get totally dry. A two-inch-thick layer of mulch will help keep the roots cool and damp. When grown indoors, water the plant slightly every day.
Temperature and Humidity
Most (not all) ferns like a humid environment. I like to mist my moisture loving plants twice a day (but never in the mid afternoon sun), but there are those who don’t mist at all, and instead, use a humidifier. Some say placing them in your bathroom is great too. If you are very good with maintaining the water, you can also keep your ferns on pebble trays – watch out for the mozzies!
Although not essential, you can use a slow-release fertilizer mixed into the soil. Ferns are sensitive to fertilizer, so don't overfeed.
Here are some of our favourite ferns that work well in our space & climate!
- Bird’s nest fern
- Asparagus fern
- Lace fern
- Staghorn fern
- Pteris fern
I’ll sign off with one of my own favourites, the heart leaf fern – Hemionitis arifolia – the pretty heart-shaped leaves and how some grow low and some grow tall, is like a pretty little fairy city in a pot.
Oh, and one last thing.. and I can’t emphasise this enough – dig deep into the soil to feel if it’s moist or dry! This really helps you ascertain if your plant baby needs more water OR NOT!