Ferns aren’t just old; they’re downright ancient. Since their first appearance during the late Devonian period some 360 million years ago, Ferns have changed little since then and are one of the most primitive life forms on earth. The fact that they’ve survived multiple mass-extinction events over time further testifies to their resilience and adaptability.
Aside from having immense environmental importance, ferns make great ornamental plants too. They not only look exquisite but also function as natural air purifiers.
Ferns are used to living in the shade. In nature, they sit comfortably under the shadow of trees. Indoors, they like to be kept in a well-lit spot with plenty of indirect light. Where natural light is rare, the ferns can experience poor growth. You can use a specialized gardening lamp in case adequate natural light is unavailable.
Protect your ferns from direct sunlight, or they’ll get sunburned. Keeping them near a window is fine. But if you notice leaves getting yellow or brown, the fern might be getting too much sun and must be moved somewhere shaded.
In nature, ferns grow in the damp soil of swampy forests. At home, keeping the soil amply hydrated will encourage your fern to thrive. This means watering whenever the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. Make sure your soil stays evenly damp but not wet. To maximize water retention, you can spread mulch over the soil surface.
You should always irrigate your fern with lukewarm or room-temperature water; cold water will harm the roots. Use a long-spouted watering can to evenly distribute the water over the soil. Water thoroughly until it starts draining out from the bottom of the pot.
Ferns usually don’t like the cold–if the temperature is comfortable for you, it will be comfortable for the fern. Most species do well in 60-70 degrees, while some thrive in 50-60 degrees. Keeping ferns near a window can help provide them the optimal temperature. However, keep a lookout for yellowing leaves, a sign of heat damage.
Humidity is the most crucial factor to consider when keeping a pet fern. Ferns are used to swampy and damp conditions in the wild; they won’t like it if things get too dry in captivity. While the humidity level in their natural habitat is as high as 70%, anywhere between 30-50% is enough to keep your fern happy at home.
If you live somewhere with a dry environment, you may need to get a humidifier set up near your fern. Alternatively, mist the plant every 2-3 days with water to keep it damp. An ideal spot for placing the plant is in a kitchen or bathroom, as these places have relatively high humidity.
Ferns get fed in nature with a steady supply of decaying vegetation. At home, you can provide them a weak fertilizer biweekly or monthly. Ferns don’t appreciate overfertilization and may get damaged if you feed them too much. Keep the fertilizer solution well diluted when providing, as something too strong can upset the roots.
Most fern species are non-toxic and can cause no harm to pets or children. Different fern species have found uses in foods and traditional medication.
However, a species called Bracken fern is poisonous and carcinogenic. Consult your local nursery if you want to know whether your fern is safe or not.
Ferns grow at different rates depending on their type. A good indicator of your fern needing repotting is roots growing out of the soil’s surface.
Pick a pot slightly larger than the old one. Instead of pulling the plant out, turn the pot upside down and tap on it. Grab the dislodged plant and put it in the new pot.
A 1989 research conducted by NASA categorized ferns among the most useful plants for removing air pollutants. Ferns can absorb various air toxins through their leaves, where tiny organisms break down any harmful particles. Toxins like formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, xylene, and many others are no match for ferns’ air purification capabilities.
The way ferns have remained unchanged through millions of years shows that they have achieved evolutionary perfection. Their exotic, primitive, and simplistic appearance make them stand out from other plants, and having them around your house can give it an exquisite touch of nature.