Fern Propogation Questions

Patti_zone7a(7a)March 26, 2005

My 10 year old son has a large fern that he bought at Wal-mart on clearance. It was badly in need of repotting and when I did so I noticed little ball like "things" in the roots. Figuring they might be some kind of baby plant (I'm not a fern person, obviously), I pulled two out and planted them in moist potting soil.

The last time I checked them, they had both started to grow a little sprout (under the soil). Yesterday, one had popped out of the soil a good half inch or more. The little ball like things have pushed themselves up almost even with the soil surface, too, which is kind of odd.

Now, while I've grown plenty of plants, this is our first experience with ferns! What are these little round ball thingies called (I'm afraid I don't know the type of fern -- they are the huge ones walmart always has for $5-10 that you see everywhere). Is there any other special care I need to give this baby fern? I made a mini greenhouse for the pot today out of a plastic bottle. I'll watch for condensation and adjust moisture if it gets too wet in there -- I know it's hard to keep enough humidity for ferns and it's been rather dry here of late. It's sitting on my desk so that I will notice if it starts dripping too much in there.

Any ideas / information on this would be welcomed...My son likes his fern so much and would love for its "baby" to survive.

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These ball-like parts of the roots indicate they probably are not true ferns, but a type of asparagus. Do a search and check out photos of

Asparagus springerii
Asparagus plumosa
Asparagus densiflorus

    Bookmark   March 26, 2005 at 3:01PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata), one of the commonest ferns grown as houseplants, also produces underground tubers.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2005 at 9:04PM
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deeproots(8b South Ga)

I beg to differ... I've never seen an exaltata make tubers, it seems to be a trait of the species cordifolia.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2005 at 4:43PM
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While I haven't i.d.'ed what it is for sure, this link has a picture of what I'm talking about...


Thanks, folks. I'll keep trying to figure it out...in the meantime, any tips on growing these little babies?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 1:16PM
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Thank you, everyone. I have been searching and searching the last couple of days and have finally found it. It is a Sword Fern -- Nephrolepsis cordifolia (or Nephrolepis depending on what website I'm looking at...some leave out the first s and I am not sure which is correct).

It's considered an invasive in Florida, apparantly, and I can certainly see why. I slid it out of the bucket I had transplanted it into (didn't have a pot large enough and am waiting for one to come my way on Freecycle) and it has several inches of new root growth. Dozens of the little tubers have shot out roots and are sending up fronds. I did find two that had not and pulled those off to plant. In less than three weeks, many of these new roots are as much as six inches long. WOW. I think this will become a favorite here -- I like easy care / fast growing houseplants.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 7:52PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Sorry, I'm not up on current fern nomenclature. I was going by my recollection from years ago of repotting a "Boston fern", which I learned in college was Nephrolepis exaltata. Is this plant actually N. cordifolia, or have these species been confused in cultivation?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2005 at 2:04PM
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Nephrolepis exalta "Bostonensis" is what I remember as Boston Fern. I believe Nephrolepis cordifolia is the very upright and stiff fronded sword fern. The species "cordifolia" IS a very misused species name.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2005 at 2:37PM
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