Ferns are a very common plant used both inside and outside the house. Dating back to prehistoric times ferns exist in tens of thousands of species. They range in appearance from airy and light to dense and bushy, but their care and needs remain the same. In general, ferns are low-maintenance and hardy, but they do require a bit of upkeep in order to grow lush and large.
Most homeowners buy ferns to add color to decks and porches from spring to fall. They are grown in tropical regions such as Florida. Ferns thrive in humid regions that receive plenty of filtered sunlight, but when frost arrives in the fall, they must be brought indoors.
Tip: After you bring your fern in and you notice it shedding leaves and appearing lifeless it is only adjusting to the lower humidity levels and cooler temperatures. So don’t give up on your fern just give it the conditions it needs to thrive until spring. Most ferns are native yo tropical conditions. It is important that you mimic similar growing conditions the fern would have in these warm and humid regions
Many ferns require shade to grow but as long as the light is indirect then the ferns will not dry out and wilt. They prefer daytime temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, while evening temperatures should be a little cooler. Cooler temperatures reduce the chance of fungus developing, temperatures ranging between 55 and 65 being ideal.
Caring for Inside Ferns
Choosing the right location
Ferns require lots of shade and indirect sunlight. Place your plant near a north-facing window; east and west windows let in too much direct sunlight. You can put your fern next to a south-facing window if a north-facing window is not available. Keep the plant a bit away from the window, so that it does not receive too much sunlight.
Keep the humidity high in proximity to your fern. High moisture levels in the air are perfect for humidity-loving ferns. There are two ways you can create higher humidity levels for your fern: double-pot your fern, or add a humidifier to your room. To double pot your fern, select a second pot slightly larger than the pot your ferns are planted in. Fill the pot with moss heavily soaked in water, and then place the second pot inside. Cover the top of the soil and the rim of the inner pot with the soaked moss, and wet it every few days to make sure it is still moist. If you use a humidifier, place it near your fern for the best growth. You can mist your first with a misting bottle and lukewarm water. But this should only be done every few days because it can cause spotting otherwise.
Keep the temperature constant. Most indoor species of ferns are tropical, although not all require tropical weather. Make sure that the temperature in your home (or at least the room in which the fern is kept) is near 70 °F (21 °C). The ferns can handle temperatures as low as 60, but they won’t thrive as well under low temperature conditions. When in doubt, turn the temperature up.
Consider placing your fern in a bathroom; the temperature and humidity are often higher as a result of showers and baths.
Water regularly. Ferns love a humid atmosphere, but they also prefer moist soil as well. Make sure that your fern’s potting mix is always damp (but never soaking). This may mean you water a small amount on a daily basis, rather than heavy amounts irregularly.
Fertilize your ferns once a month. Visit your local gardening center and find a house plant fertilizer that specializes in species like ferns; ask an attendant for help, if necessary. Spray this fertilizer onto your ferns on a monthly basis to provide nutrients that the potting mix lacks. You should wait until at least six months after you’ve potted your fern to start fertilizing it, though.
Removing Dead Stems
Remove dead or diseased parts of the fern. House-ferns are able to contract some diseases, however they tend to be hardy and don’t succumb to most. If your plant appears diseased, cut off the damaged areas. If your fern begins to die as a result of neglect, do the same by removing the damaged/dead area with a pair of shears. If your whole plant appears diseased, it is best to remove it before it spreads to other house plants.
It is a good idea to transplant your ferns after a year or longer. Ferns will outgrow the original pot it was planted in. Depending on the health of your fern will determine when to transplant them, but you may need to re-pot it in a larger pot as early as 6 months after originally planting it.
Caring for Outdoor Ferns
Choosing the right location
Plant ferns in the ideal location. If you have ferns that are already growing in your garden, you likely won’t need to move them unless they’re showing signs of ill health. Ferns like lots of shade and moisture, and do well under the canopy of a few other larger plants or trees. Plant (or transplant) ferns onto a plot that gets northern sun and no direct sunlight. If ferns are left in an area with direct sunlight, their leaves will burn.
Keep the soil moist. If it does not rain regularly in your area, you’ll need to water your ferns on a daily basis so that the soil is kept moist. Add a dense layer of pine needle or leaf mulch to the tops of your ferns; about 2–3 inches (5.1–7.6 cm) thick is ideal. This will help to lock in moisture and keep the rate of evaporation relatively low, so that the air near the ferns is a bit more humid.
Fertilize the ferns once a month. Six months after the original planting, you can begin fertilizing the ferns for added growth. Select an organic fertilizer that is spray-on, and apply it to the ferns (following package directions). Additionally, you can add a layer of compost and mulch to the soil to create a better growing environment for the ferns. Do keep in mind that ferns have a lesser requirement of fertilizer than other common houseplants.
Keep Plant Tidy
Cut back damaged fronds. Ferns don’t have many natural predators outdoors, other than slugs and one or two rare diseases. If, however, you notice that your fern has damaged or diseased fronds, use a pair of gardening shears to cut them back. This will keep the integrity of the rest of the plant, and if it is a disease, prevent it from spreading to other plants.
Transplant if necessary. Ferns can get quite large over time, and require splitting and transplanting. To divide a large fern into several smaller ferns, carefully dig out the plant and its roots. Carefully break apart the plant into sections; typically, the fern will grow in clumps making it easy to split. Then replant each of these, and water them well.
It’s not necessary to repot a ferns unless you want them to get bigger. When the roots fill the pot, simply trim them to provide more space. If your fern become root-bound you can easily divide them and put in seperate pots. Just make sure the pot is filled with high quality soil and drainage holes on the bottom.
Tip: Unless you enjoy watering all the time it is actually a good idea to repot your fern.
The correct soil mix is essential to the health of the plant, too. To make a potting mixture suitable for ferns, combine equal parts of peat moss, sand, and potting soil. Repot your plant, and care for it as directed.
With proper care and attention, your ferns will grow and thrive for many years to come.