Bird’s nest fern ( Asplenium nidus )

Bird’s nest ferns want moist soil, not a great deal of sun, no direct sun is fine, and it doesn’t mind the cold. they will do fine in drafty locations. This is one of the easiest houseplants to grow.

Do not mist these ferns! While like most plants, they love humidity, they do not like to have their leaves wet for any length of time. If you feel they need more humidity set the plant pot on a dish of gravel that has water in it.

In a pot this fern will likely reach about 18″ tall.

There are over 700 species of Asplenium worldwide, they are found everywhere. The nested leaves form a catch all place for debri which rots and forms compost to feed the fern. Outdoors you might find insects living there or even other plants that have taken up residence.

Propagate by division. It will form spores on the back of the leaves in straight lines when it is happy.

Possible problems you might have with bird’s nest ferns:
Root rot: no new growth appears, black flies may be around plant, soil might smell musty, leaves turn brown then black.

Solution – Repot. Take the plant out of old soil. Carefully wash off the plant and roots. There is bacteria you must remove before repotting. A little dish soap is ok. Replant in new clean soil. If you are using the same pot be sure to scrub it with bleach or run through the dishwasher first.

Leaf Nematodes: Brown spots appear near the center of the leaf near main vein and spread out to leaf edges.

Solution: You might save the plant by immediately removing infected leaves, maybe not. It might be possible to kill the nematodes by raising plant temperature over 125’F. Fill the sink with water warmer than 125′ and soak the plant for at least 10 minutes. Thoroughly wash the plant, a little dish soap is fine. Repot in clean soil. If you are using the same pot, send it through the dishwasher or scrub it with bleach first.

Scale: Little brown bumps on underside of leaves. Leaves may be sticky.

Solution: Wash with warm water and dishs oap, spray with orange oil if that doesn’t work.

Dwarf Elkhorn Fern ( Polypodium Grandiceps )

This looks like a twisted version of a bird’s nest fern. It wants slightly more light than most ferns and lots of water like all ferns do.

The height is about 18″, the spread is the same. We are at the edge of where it will grow so plan to protect it in the winter, or plant it close to the house. Enough heat leaks out of most homes in the winter to protect smaller plants that only need a little help.

Plant in part to full shade and keep moist in the summer, slightly less water is needed in the winter. This one died during a summer drought.

Propagate by division. This plant should slowly spread through the garden itself.

I had trouble finding information on this fern, I’ll post more information as I can find it. I acquired this at Jerry’s Jungle.

Did not survive below freezing temps winter 2011

Maidenhair fern ( Pteridaceae Adiantum )

This is a recent addition to our fern garden. Like most ferns it wants light to full shade, high humidity and moist soil. If it gets too dry it will die back, but will likely reappear when water reappears. Like other ferns it is susceptible to root rot if too wet during the winter months.

It does very well near ponds or in shallow running water. It can often be found growing among rocks where a trickle of water is going by.

It is a Texas native and endangered in many south eastern US states.

Maidenhair ferns will reach about 2′ tall and across.

I haven’t had any luck with maidenhair ferns, too dry or too hot they just don’t survive the summer here. They appear every spring and fall, but spend summer and winter under ground.

Propagate by division.

It is reported to be a fast grower, it is too soon for me to say on that. This southern fern prefers alkaline soils so may do well where other ferns have failed in your garden.

There are over 200 kinds of Maidenhair ferns spread throughout the world. They grow in temperate climates but are more common in warmer climates especially moist mountain areas. Some are as small as 2″ tall some as tall as 6 feet.

Things to watch for on ferns:

Leaf scotch: appears during dry, windy weather. Water frequently and deeply and provide what shade and shelter you can.

Scale: looks like small brown bumps on stems and underside of leaves. I use orange oil.

Mealy bugs:  Looks like white fuzz on plants.  I just wash them off with a garden hose.

Japanese Holly Fern ( Cyrtomium falcatum )

This fern is native to Japan and a very popular potted fern through out the south US. It prefers rich, acidic soil which is why you are more likely to find it in a pot than the ground here in Houston. I’m trying it in the ground anyhow.

Leave are thick, serrated and sharp. Round patches of spores form on the backside of the leaves.

Holly fern can take more sun than most ferns so you can use it in pots or in beds as a border where you normally couldn’t put a fern. However it prefers part to full shade and must be kept out of our strong afternoon sun. The more sun it receives the quicker growth you’ll see providing you don’t cook it in the afternoon sun.

Like most ferns it wants the soil damper rather than drier. Mine survived our two month drought with occasional watering. So they seem fairly drought tolerant, but are happiest in damp soil. While they don’t mind droughts, they won’t grow during a drought remaining dormant until the ground gets damp

It will reach about 2′ in height and 3′ across when full grown. This is a slow growing fern and won’t take over the place like many more traditional ferns. It tends to grow more upright like a vase and form clumps. I’ve seen thick, dense rows of these running along a row of shrubs and it looks very nice.

Holly fern is not usually bothered by deer.

This has done fine through the heat of Houston summer and the freezes over the winter.

While it was slow getting going, it has taken off recently and done so well I picked up a second one.

Propagation is done by division. Plant divisions slightly deeper than they were planted when you divided the main plant. You can easily try growing this fern from its spores too. Shake some spores on to a while piece of paper ( you’ll never see them otherwise ). Then spread the spores onto some damp peat moss. Keep evenly moist and at about 70’F until large enough to transplant.

This plant has survived an amazing amount of abuse, I divided it up this year and planted it in locations it should like better

Things to watch for on ferns:

Leaf scotch: appears during dry, windy weather. Water frequently and deeply and provide what shade and shelter you can.

Scale: looks like small brown bumps on stems and underside of leaves. I use orange oil.

Mealy bugs: Looks like white fuzz on plants. I just wash them off with a garden hose.

Note: Survived the extreme 100’F heat and drought of summer 2011

Slender brake fern aka silver leaf fern ( Pteris ensiformus ) and ( Pteris vittata )

Pteris ensiformus can reach 3′ in height and 3′ across when filled out.

Like most ferns it prefers light shade, high humidity and moist soil, but it will rot in the winter if the soil is too moist, so let it go a bit drier in the winter.

Slender brake will grow in light shade to full shade.

It does not like alkaline soil, so may not do well in Houston. I’m hoping anyhow.

It winters over just fine down here, this has been through two winters now.

I find it to be a very slow grower.

It is too warm in Houston for this plant in the summer, it died of heat stroke.

It is the most common ingredient in traditional herbal drinks in Taiwan, being high in phenolic antioxidants. ( I have not tried eating it, nor should you with out further research. ) It is also a plant that causes skin rashes on many people so be careful handling it.

Interestingly when planted in areas high in arsenic this plant uptakes far more arsenic than other plants yet shows no toxicity to the arsenic which makes it a great clean up plant, and gives you another reason not to munch on it with out further research. It is currently considered one of the best clean up plants for areas high in arsenic.

Propagate by dividing clumps.

Things to watch for on ferns:

Leaf scotch: appears during dry, windy weather.  Water frequently and deeply and provide what shade and shelter you can.

Scale: looks like small brown bumps on stems and underside of leaves.  I use orange oil.

Mealy bugs:  Looks like white fuzz on plants.  I just wash them off with a garden hose.