Ferns come in all shapes and sizes and make great garden – and indoor – plants. Tino Carnevale has some hints on how best to care for them.
First of all, pick a fern that’s right for your garden. Most ferns are from the tropics but the Tasmanian ferns have adapted to the colder climate.
Choose the right spot in your garden – few ferns can cope with direct sun and strong winds, so plant in the shade.
Fishbone water fern (Blechnum nudum) will tolerate some sun if there’s some wind protection and plenty of water around.
Provide the correct nutrients. Apply a dressing of blood and bone just before their active growth period. Then in the summer, when they’re actively growing, give them a liquid feed of half-strength or even a third-strength fish and seaweed emulsion. Ferns can be quite sensitive so organic fertilisers are critical.
Mulch – ferns are shallow rooted so mulch will keep them cool in summer and warmer in winter.
Cut back dead fronds when the fern is actively growing in summer – the length of the leftover stubs will be a good indication of how short to cut them. This helps reduce the risk of pests as well.
Ferns can grow out of the soil. Many, including the kangaroo foot fern (Phymatosorus diversifolius) are epiphytic – they grow on rocks or the branches of trees – or even tree ferns!
Hand watering and drip systems are the best ways to water ferns.
Ferns can be happy indoors so long as it’s not too hot or too sunny. Moist areas such as bathrooms are good, especially if they’re on the shady side of the house with no direct sunlight.
To increase humidity indoors, place pots of ferns in a shallow bowl or tray that is filled with rocks covered with water. The water will help keep the air moist without drowning the roots and risking root rot.
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