Ostrich fern question

Lynn NevinsOctober 2, 2005

I'm hoping someone can answer a question I posted here earlier that never got an answer...

I have a potted ostrich fern that I bought a few months ago. From the soil line to the ends of the fronds, the biggest fronds are 3-3.5' long. While the plant is "healthy" looking, all the fronds fall to the sides, and are more horizontal than vertical. Is this normal for such a plant? I'd prefer the fronds be more vertical, as with them being horizontal, it results with the center of the plant looking rather bare and empty. I don't think I should plant the plant any deeper into the soil, since new emerging fronds are already AT the soil line. I understand new fiddleheads do not like to be constantly moist and that for this reason, it's better for them to be just slightly at/above the soil line.

So is it normal for this plant... to be horizontal?

Pix attached. Tx.!

Here is a link that might be useful: fern issue

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triciae(Zone 7 Coastal SE CT)

Yep, young Ostrich ferns will grow exactly like yours. The fronds are long and heavy so they flop. As the plant matures it will send up more fronds and they tend to help support themselves giving a more upright vase-like form. Even this late in the season, I'd recommend getting it out of the pot so it can spread its roots (which Ostrich fern does w/great abandon!). Amend the planting area with lots of organic matter like leaf mould and keep moist. Ostrich fern spreads by underground runners so give it room.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 1:42PM
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Lynn Nevins

Thanks for your response Tricia! Now that you say it, it makes total sense... that the more fronds there are, they begin to act as a "support" for each other. I'm used to putting plants in pots that are double the plant size, but you're saying that for this one, cuz the roots like to spread out, that I should go up another pot size?
OK, will do.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 10:02PM
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triciae(Zone 7 Coastal SE CT)

Actually, I was referring to planting it in the ground rather than a pot. Ostrich is an aggressive fern and I'm thinking it will not prosper over the long haul stuffed in any size pot. It will quickly fill even a 16-20" pot w/roots. These are native ferns and will thrive in your Zone 6/7 garden. If you leave it in the pot over the winter it could become dinner for hungry voles, mice, etc. that get in the pot and eat the roots right off the poor thing and you'll have to make sure the pot doesn't dry out during thaw cycles also. There are many good ferns suitable for pot culture but, IMO, Ostrich fern isn't one of them. Again, this is due to its aggressive growth habits...this is no wimpy, delicate, 'help me or I'll perish' plant. They are awesome interplanted with Oriental lilies since the Ostrich fern can take 1/2 day of sun just fine if it has the classic "well-drained, moist but not wet" soil. The large fronds hide the rather ugly lily stems and the blooms peeking out of the ferns is lovely (smells lovely too!). I like omphalodes cappadocica 'Parisian Skies' planted at the feet of Ostrich ferns too. Anyway, don't worry about your fern...it will do fine.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 7:47AM
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Lynn Nevins

I have no choice but to keep the plant in a pot, as my yard has no "dirt". Oh well, I guess I'll just keep an eye on it, and at the very least, pot it up. I suppose if I ever notice the plant is not doing well, perhaps I could take it out of the pot, and if I see the roots are potbound, give them a little trim?


    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 11:52AM
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triciae(Zone 7 Coastal SE CT)

Ooops, ok...so in the pot she goes!

In that case, I think you're on the right track w/root pruning every couple seasons. I can't imagine how you could harm the plant. They are invasive nightmares to some people throughout NE. I have a stand of them that is held in check only because they are on the edge of a hard, compacted area underneath a CO blue spruce. The ferns line my moss garden which is under that tree tho I still worry one will pop up ten feet away!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2005 at 7:56PM
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Nayls142(Z7 PA)

A friend gave me about 20 ostrich fern last june that he dug from a clinet's yard. I planted one in a pot, just a tiny 4x4x6" deep square pot. It was one vase shaped cluster, when I planted it. Now, only a few months later, there were 2 new clusters of fronds coming up next to the origional, which was sporting fertle fronds.

I planted it in the yard this weekend, and the pot was full of thick roots. I need such a tough native, because my yard is full of foreign invasives. (English Ivy is the least of it.)

If the plant is native to your area, it can't be "invasive" only successfull in the habitat you provide. If you let nature take its course, other native plants would provide competition, and it would never fully dominate.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2005 at 6:48PM
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