To help you to enjoy your little bit of green for a long time to come, here are a few tips for looking after it. This applies to both the palm husk and wood stump ferneries. Moss tips are below.
Contrary to popular opinion, ferns are not typically deep shade plants. They are adapted to the dappled sunlight of the forest floor. So make sure your fern is getting enough bright, filtered light to thrive.
On the flip side, however, few ferns can withstand full midday sun and will quickly begin to turn brown.
Ferns enjoy moist conditions, sheltered from midday and afternoon sun. Up to 4 hours of sun a day is fine - morning sun and dappled sunlight are ideal.
Ferns growing indoors should not be placed near windows receiving afternoon sun, or near air-conditioning units. Please also avoid using aerosol sprays around your fernery.
If the position for your fernery is in low indirect light it will benefit from being placed outdoors to get some early sun as often as possible. Otherwise you could try a different lighting for your location.
Light may look white to us, but is in reality made of many different wavelengths as seen in rainbows or when light strikes a prism. It is the red and blue parts that the plant uses for energy and growth, so these need to be provided by indoor lights. Terms you may see for light bulbs that provide these are “natural”, “full spectrum”, or “balanced.”
- Most ferns are adapted to the loamy understory of forests and rainforests. So make sure your ferns are well hydrated. However, a word of caution: unless it's a bog fern, don't let your fern sit in water. Keep it damp, not soggy.
- The only way to really tell if a fern needs watering is to feel the soil around the plant and if it feels dry, it needs watering. If it is still wet, DO NOT water.
The soil should always be moist, not wet. Overwatering may lead to root rot, wilting and fungal diseases. Your miniature greenspace has a waterproof membrane so you can water directly onto the soil without fear of leakage.
If the room is warmer than 18 to 24*C, you will need to water more often. If the room is cooler, wait to water until the soil feels dry when you touch it.
When selecting a location also consider room temperature. Ferns like humidity and the fronds turn brown at the ends when humidity is too low.
Use a spray bottle filled with room temperature water to mist the fronds.
Prune any damaged fronds to promote plant growth. This can involve taking out entire fronds near the plant's core or simply snipping dead or damages leaves from the ends of the fronds.
As forest floor plants, wild ferns thrive on a steady supply of gently decaying organic matter. In the home, this means giving them a steady supply of weak fertilizer during the growing season. A weak liquid fertilizer or slow-release pellet fertilizer is perfect.
Indoor plantings seem to suffer more from caterpillar infestations than those outdoors - generally because you are less likely to have beneficial visits from birds or ladybirds to eat any caterpillars or their eggs.
If removing the caterpillars does not work long term I use Dipel HG Bioinsecticide (Bacillus thuringiensis) which controls leaf-eating caterpillars, does not harm other insects, birds, fish or warm-blooded animals such as mammals or pets, and is safe for bees and ladybirds.
Bacillus thuringiensis is a naturally occurring bacteria which affects the caterpillar after it has eaten the sprayed leaf. The caterpillar may take 3 to 4 days to die and drop off the leaf.
Insects killed by Dipel include:
Armyworm, cotton bollworm, native budworm (Helicoverpa sp), cabbage moth caterpillars, cabbage white butterfly caterpillars, green looper, lightbrown apple moth caterpillar, pear looper, vine moth caterpillars, soybean looper, tabacco looper.
Dappled sunlight is ideal
fronds are turning yellow - the plants have too much water
fronds are wilting - the plants need more water
fronds are turning brown - the humidity is too low, mist more with water.