How to care for your ferns

Suggestions by Heaton’s Wholesale Nursery

Position – Ferns enjoy moist conditions, sheltered from midday and afternoon sun. Up to 4 hours of sun a day is fine. They are an under canopy plant and therefore enjoy indoor and outdoor life.

Watering – 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, don’t water. The most efficient way to water is to have your ferns in self watering pots. Tip: Let water empty before refilling reservoir.

Repotting – A Fern Potting Mixture is recommended for repotting ferns, or you can add approximately 20% peat moss to any potting mix you have. To see whether or not a fern needs repotting, simply tap the plant out of its pots and have a look at its root system. If the roots have reached the sides and bottom of the pot, the fern needs repotting. It’s best only to go up one or two pot sizes at any one time, or slice the root ball in half from top to bottom and repot into two containers the same size as the original pot.

Soils (Outdoor) – Ferns have a very fine root system, so you need to ensure that the roots have enough air and water available to them. This is achieved be applying a good cover (approx 100mm) of rainforest mulch and leaf mulch, to the area before you plant your ferns.

Fertiliser – A 5-6 month slow release fertiliser with trace elements should be used at the recommended rates when repotting or planting out and a water soluble fertiliser should be used for watering on a fortnightly basis, at half the rates recommended on the fertiliser packaging.

Pests – Ferns don’t have many pests that worry them. Some of the ones that may are slugs and snails, this is mainly outside and can be seen by the fern not producing any new growth. Mealy bug and fern mite can be found on the underside of the fern fronds like little white specks. If either of these problems occur, consult your local nursery for the right advice on which is the best spray to use.

Pruning – Cut off any dead fronds at the base of the plant and if the fern becomes untidy or if you have a bad pest problem, cut the whole fern off just above the ground level and let the fern reshoot. (Warning: Do not do this with tree ferns.) This is best done in late winter or early spring.