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Thread: Advice on ferns

  1. #1

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    I'm a fern-killer in the past, trying to reform... [img]http://www.**********.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/new/smile_n_32.gif[/img]

    I have some newbie questions, hopefully you guys can help answer. Right now my two surviving ferns are in the pots I bought them in. Currently both are outside in the 90F heat, in trays of water, on the shady patio.

    One, a Boston, has survived its second summer with me, but I nearly lost it last winter. Now it is root-bound and needs re-potting. Advice on soil mix? Dividing?

    The other is a Japanese Painted Fern that did well all spring, and then looked as if it died during the summer heat. Now I see two tiny fronds re-emerging from the core of the dead plant. There may be hope. Advice for this species?

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    chloroplast's Avatar
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    N. exaltata (boston fern) does best when it receives plenty of light and grows in an airy mix (1:1:1 cocofibereat:LFS or 2:1 perliteeat; I use the latter mix). You should also spray it frequently if it's in a centrally heated room during winter--I mist mine every other day. A good shower once per month in tepid water also helps keep the fronds free of dust. It prefers soft water.

    You can divide the fern by simple "tearing" which involves brute physical separation of the rootball. Simply tear the big plant in two, and place each portion into a separate pot. Then, cut off the leaves to ~4" above the soil to prevent excessive moisture loss through the leaves (this doesn't have to be done, but it helps if done properly).

    A safer and equally effective way to propagate the fern is to simply transplant the mother plant into a bigger container. Then, fill some smaller pots with soil, place them adjacent to the mother plant, and place a runner onto the soil. The runner will take root and form a new baby plant.

    The painted fern also likes similar light level and potting mix. It's a hardy fern and also enjoys constantly moist soil. It's a deciduous species which can die back if wintery or other untolerable conditions occur.

    Hope this helps.
    Secretary, New England Carnivorous Plant Society (NECPS) http://www.necps.org/
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    It does, thanks. I didn't realize the painted fern was deciduous. I almost threw away the 'dead' plant. Good thing I'm lazy, and it generated a new frond before I cleaned house. I would never have thought it was still alive. I probably won't divide the Boston then, just give it a bigger pot. Thanks again!

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    chloroplast's Avatar
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    No problem. I almost made the same mistake when I started collecting CPs. I had a D.intermedia that was accidentally "fried" when a compact fluorescent fixture crashed on it when I was away. I had extra space at the time so I decided to keep it and see what would happen. A few weeks after, small leaves began appearing at the base of the stem. It was a delight....
    Secretary, New England Carnivorous Plant Society (NECPS) http://www.necps.org/
    Member, International Carnivorous Plant Society (ICPS)
    Member, North American Sarracenia Conservancy (NASC)
    Member, The Carnivorous Plant Society (CPS)

  5. #5

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    Would you consider planting the Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum') outside? They really aren't house plants per se. I grow about 10 of them up here in zone 5 and they really prefer being planted in the ground year round. A nice location in about 70% shade would be great. They should be just fine outside in your area. One thing, they like rich moist soil so you might want to consider loading up the area where you would plant them with leaf litter.

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    I will consider planting the Japanese outside, but I live in an area where the soil is almost all clay. And in an apartment. It will take some real re-working of the soil to get it loose enough, I think. But at this point there's no harm in it. I'll tuck it under a nearby bush or something.

  7. #7

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    Clay soil can be very challenging. Other than that I don't think I would want to be improving the landscape of somebody else's property. I noticed you are in se Indiana. Why don't you just stick the plant pot and all in a corner of your patio and insulate it with a little bit of straw or leaves and see what happens. You are at least a USDA zone 6 and maybe even a 7 and I suppose it can't hurt to try. Around here if we can't get potted plants in the ground by the time it freezes, we use pre-dug holes the size of the pot and "heel it" it in and let it grow there until the next spring. I've got a few in a sandbox heeled in from this past spring right now. The plants that we have done this to so far have all survived. Worse case scenario if you dig a "heel in" hole", is that you have a hole in the ground to re-fill if you ever move.

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