There’s something quite magical about the calming effect ferns have when we enter a room. Foliage plants soften and compliment any room decor and invite us to remember the natural world and pause for a moment. Whether you incorporate ferns in a greenery type environment or add them to a terrarium display, there is a fern for every purpose.
Selecting Indoor Ferns
When selecting ferns, consider not only their aesthetic appeal but what you want to use them for and where you are going to put them. Hanging baskets demand soft, floppy foliage that will cascade out over the sides and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum spp.) are ideal for this. If you are creating a terrarium, use smaller compact varieties to fit your display. A pteris fern in a beautiful ceramic pot will grace any indoor living area, from a formal office to a cosy sunroom. Elkhorns and staghorns make a stunning display mounted on verandah and patio walls. Birds nest fern, Blechnum Silver Fern and Asplenium are bigger ferns and suit more open spaces like lounge and entertaining rooms.
When choosing your fern, it is important to position the plants in the right lighting conditions. Check the label when buying your fern for the amount of light required. If your plant doesn’t respond well to its new spot in the house, consider changing light conditions for a few weeks and observe. Ferns vary in lighting, humidity and frequency of watering, so check the label to see if it is the right fit. Keep ferns away from heaters and air-conditioners that will dry the air.
Potting Indoor Ferns
Ferns prefer a slightly acid potting mix with pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.0. The mix must be able to hold moisture and so it is essential to use one which contains a large percentage of peat moss. Searles Terrarium & Fern Mix is ideal to foster the lush healthy growth and prevent dryout of the soil. When potting up ferns, bear in mind that they prefer to have their roots crowded into a pot rather than being planted into a larger container where the rootball must expand. Pack the mix firmly around the roots to provide the plant with a strong anchor and to reduce water evaporation.
Repotting every two to three years ensures the mix is kept fresh and provides the opportunity to remove dead roots and fronds.
Ferns insist on being kept moist at all times but their type, position and container size determines, to a large extent, how often they will need to be watered.
Plants growing in hanging baskets have more air circulating round them than indoor plants do, and will need more frequent watering. If in doubt, feel the mix and if the surface is moist to the touch, don’t water as too much moisture is almost as harmful to ferns as too little. Never let a potted fern sit in a saucer of water and make sure the pot has adequate drainage to prevent the mix becoming waterlogged. Ferns flourish in a humid environment and regular misting with a fine hand-held puffer, especially if the plants are growing indoors, will help keep the foliage green and lush.
Fertilising Indoor Ferns
Ferns can be fertilised with either a liquid, such as Searles Flourish, or a slow release fertiliser. If using the former remember that they prefer being given small amounts of fertiliser regularly rather than concentrated doses occasionally.
Ferns are susceptible to attack from aphids, mealybugs, scale and caterpillars, which should be treated with a white oil spray, such as Searles Pest Gun.
By maintaining the vigour of your plants you will reduce the risk of insect damage.
Check out other common indoor plants problems and how to solve them. Read more