Fashions may change but ferns in pots have always been trendsetters. Potted ferns have been cultivated for centuries as ornamental decoration for homes and gardens. They are a group of plants that remain popular and in demand despite constantly changing fashions in the plant world. Their lush foliage, comprised of intricately formed fronds, lends a unique and special ambience to the garden and home.
GROWING FERNS INDOORS
Ferns adapt well to indoor growing conditions provided that a few simple rules are adhered to:
Ferns enjoy a brightly lit position, away from any direct sunlight reflecting through windows.
Keep your ferns away from areas where strong through-draughts may blow across the sensitive fronds.
Mist the foliage every two or three days to increase the humidity level around the fronds.
Water regularly on a weekly basis to keep the soil in the pots evenly moist and damp but not waterlogged. Do not allow the pots to stand in water.
Apply a monthly application of an organic, water soluble plant food, high in nitrogen. Dilute the fertiliser at the recommended rate as ferns are sensitive to over feeding.
Remove old, spent fronds that start drying off or turning brown.
Repot your ferns every second year.
TRENDY FERNS TO PLANT
There are many different species of ferns found growing around the world. Most of those used as indoor pot plants originate from tropical and sub-tropical regions as they usually adapt best to indoor growing conditions. These are some of the ferns used in the pots featured in this article:
Pteris straminea has lush green foliage and a sturdy, upright growth habit reaching 50cm.
Asplenium nidus (Bird’s nest fern) has large, leathery, bright green fronds with a shiny lustre. Normally an epiphyte from tropical jungles, this handsome fern has adapted well to commercial cultivation. Tall growing, it can reach more than a metre with a similar circumference to the rosette of leaves.
Adiantum raddianum ‘Fritz Luthii’ (Maidenhair fern) is a selected form of the common maidenhair with distinct, triangular shaped fronds and pale green pinnules (leaflets). This fern always looks crisp and fresh. Low growing, it reaches a height of 40cm and is equally as wide.
Pteris cretica ‘Albolineata’ has attractive fronds with a prominent white band in the centre of each pinna. It contrasts strikingly with ferns with finely textured, green foliage. It has an upright habit growing to a medium height of 60cm.
Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Fluffy Ruffles’ (Ostrich feather fern) many hybrid forms of the sword fern are cultivated as ornamentals, although the species N. exaltata is classified as an alien invader. Some are grown for their fine featherlike fronds whilst others have cascading, sword shaped fronds. They’re generally considered to be amongst the easiest ferns to grow in the home. It has a cascading habit growing 40cm high, usually spreading wider than its height.
Pteris ensiformis ‘Evergemiensis’ (Sword brake) is graced with dark green fronds sporting silver, feathery markings in the centre of each pinna. This is an elegant fern with an upright habit growing to 30cm.
Planting and repotting
Ferns are easy to transplant and benefit from regular repotting into slightly larger containers. They can either be planted singly or in groups to create a miniature garden in a single pot or shallow bowl.
Follow these steps:
Step 1 Place drainage material in the form of gravel or pebbles in the base of the container.
Step 2 Add potting soil or growing medium to the container. Ferns enjoy soil that is rich in humus, well aerated and well drained. The addition of peat moss helps to achieve this.
Step 3 Remove the fern from its existing container. Gently coax it out by turning the pot upside down and tapping it on the edge of a table.
Step 4 Loosen some of the matted, fibrous roots to encourage them to penetrate the new growing medium.
Step 5 Place the plant into the new container at the correct level, ensuring that the root ball is 10 to 15mm below the level of the rim of the pot.
Step 6 Fill in around the roots with growing medium. Use a small pot for this to prevent damaging or bruising the fronds. Use a stout stick to firm down the soil. This compacting of the soil removes air pockets and prevents subsidence when the potted fern is watered.
Step 7 After planting has been completed, water the plants thoroughly to settle them into place.
PLANT A MINIATURE FERN GARDEN
When planting a miniature garden ensure that ferns from different sized pots are planted at the correct depth and are held firmly in position. Use little pieces of driftwood, rocks, pebbles and pine bark chunks to enhance the combination. Low growing ground covers such as Selaginella kraussiana (Krauss’s spikemoss) or Soleirolia soleirolii (Peace in the home) are excellent companion plants for ferns and add contrasting texture to the combination. Really easy and richly rewarding, ferns provide a lush and luxuriant feel to the interior of your home and shaded outdoor areas