Plant of the Month: Ferns. That’s what the poster said when I recently found myself at the local garden and pets’ shop for a new cat food bowl (I broke one, oops). Now there’s two things you should know. The first one being that I have not managed to keep a fern (especially a Boston fern) alive for long. The second thing? Ferns are my absolute favourite so - unsurprisingly - I couldn’t resist despite definitely being aware of thing number one. I took a big, beautiful Boston fern (I named him Bob, don’t judge) and a smaller, cute Blue Star fern home with me, determined that third time WOULD be the charm. I did the research and here you go: a blog post full of tips and to-do’s for me and my fellow, fern-lovin’ pals!
First thing’s first: when you look up the Boston Fern online, it nearly always says that this is one of the easiest ferns to grow indoors, and I don’t believe it for a second. They are extremely picky when it comes to their surroundings and are easily stressed when you move them even just a little bit. So, tip number one: if you’re not ready to stress out about this drama queen, try adopting and caring for a different fern type instead. The one fern I’ve managed to keep alive for almost a year now is a Bird’s Nest Fern. He just keeps sprouting new leaves and I couldn’t be happier about that. Whenever he starts to look a bit unhappy, I just give him a bit of water and he livens up immediately. Top desk buddy!
Now, if you (like oh, so optimistic me) DO think you’re ready for the challenge of - say - the Boston fern , here’s everything you need to know about the little tyke!
Humidity. This is probably the most important thing to keep into consideration when you adopt any type of fern; they love a high humidity spot. And by ‘high’ I mean to the level that no average home can naturally offer, so you’ll have to work for it. Do you have room in your bathroom or kitchen for this pretty fella? Then it’s probably best if you start with placing him there. Unfortunately, that often won’t be enough so there’s a couple of other things you can (and should) do. Like putting the fern on a tray of pebbles, which you fill with water at all times. The water will evaporate and make the air around the fern more humid, OR use a pro-humidifier if you’re willing to invest in one of those. Another thing to do is to mist the fern regularly. Don’t spray directly onto the leaves, but aim above the fern so the water can softly settle on the leaves instead. I told you this plant was a drama queen, right?
Soil. I’ll let my girl Miranda take this one:
At all times, whichever fern you have, keep their soil moist and they should be happy campers. Pay special attention not to soak the plant, though! Moist, instead, is key. A double pot is a safe play, by the way, just so the eventual over-supplied water can get away.
Light. Ferns grow in the forest so you would assume they don’t need a lot of light, but that’s a no-go. They do enjoy quite a lot of filtered light (especially if you want them to grow), so a spot near a window that gets a lot of morning or late afternoon light should be perfect. I believe that’s a north- or east-facing window, for those of you who like having the excuse to finally use that phone app. Avoid direct, strong and hot sunlight at all times, but especially in Summer.
Temperature. Tropical ferns (like the Boston fern) prefer a room that does not go under 15°, and over about 21°. Tougher ferns can endure 10°, but not over 16°. In other words, if you’re from Belgium as well, you should be fine. If not and you live in a warmer country, air conditioning is definitely advised, but be sure to keep those ferns out of the draft, though! Also, whether I just told you you should be fine or not: daily, (big) shifts in temperature stress out many plants so you should always keep an eye on that thermostat anyway.
Fertiliser. This is a tricky one, because no matter which time of year: it’s often difficult to tell if your store-bought plant is still growing at the time of purchase. That’s why I always play it safe and just wait it out a bit before using fertiliser. The natural growing spurt of ferns occurs in summertime, so you should definitely fertilise it then, every 2 to 4 weeks. Don’t use it at full-strength or put it in the soil, by the way, but mix it with water in your plant mister, and remember that just a few drops will suffice.
Repotting. Here I am again with the whole drama queen thing, but you should never ever repot a fern before its roots fill the entire the pot (which is after about two years IF your fern is even growing). They’re too easily stressed out to risk it sooner. If you do need to repot, make sure you use the right soil and look up all the other tips and to-do’s, because rules truly are different for a lot of plants!
Grooming. Last but not least, cut away the brown, dried tops of leaves, and entire dead leaves altogether. This may sound logical if you want your plant to look beautiful at all times, but it is something I tend to forget sometimes. Which is bad, because those diseases do spread throughout the entire plant if you don’t keep an eye on them, and can even transfer to other plants.
Q || What’s your favourite indoor houseplant?