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Ferns question

Posted by peggy1155 z6 PA (My Page) on
Sun, Aug 24, 03 at 19:37

I just bought 2 different ferns, Lady Fern (athyrium felix femina) and Autumn Fern (dryopteris erythrosora). I planted them near each other, was this a bad idea? On researching the Lady Fern it grows much bigger than the Autumn Fern does. I just planted them in the ground today so if I should move one I need to do it soon. I don't know how fast these ferns grow or how soon the height difference would start to cause problems. I bought them to help fill in a spot on the shady side of my house. Should I probably separate them more? Right now they are about 20" apart. Any help is appreciated!

Peggy in Bucks County, PA


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Ferns question

Hi Peggy,
I don't know why you think that the height difference will cause problems. Personally, I like to snuggle a couple of smaller ferns in almost under one with a taller, more erect shape. There are many types of lady ferns with different habits so, in order to give good advice, we might need to know which one you have.

You may find that they are planted a bit too close. My autumn ferns start out erect but flop over by mid summer and cover an area about 3-4 feet wide. The lady ferns are the really variable ones--some varieties are small and mounding and some are pretty tall and erect. If you have a tall and erect variety, I'd consider moving them much further apart and filling in with a small, mounding plant. But if the lady fern itself is small and mounding, you might not need to move it or you might want to move it only 6" or a foot.

Ferns are easy to transplant, though, so you could do it next year after you see how they mature for a bit. Generally, when I've purchased ferns in 1 gallon pots, they have reached their mature size during their second year in the ground.


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RE: Ferns question

Thanks sammie070502 for the suggestions and advice! I was concerned that the larger one might overshadow the smaller one so it would get no light or air. I really know nothing about ferns except that I love how they look.

The card that came with the Lady Fern says it is athyrium felix femina and will grow to 30" and spreads *vigorously*. The Autumn Fern says it grows to 16" and that's about all of the info on that card. I was worrying a little too soon, I guess! I wasn't sure how they take to transplanting later on and was worried that the little Autumn Fern would get crowded out by the Lady Fern. Right now they are both small, about 10". I really didn't read the cards (except to see if they like shade) until after I had planted them. Duh. I'm learning things the hard way.

If you think I can wait until next year to transplant them if they need it I'll leave them alone for now. Is there anything special I need to do for them in the winter? The only ferns I've ever dealt with have been houseplant ferns and I've managed to kill everyone I ever bought. I've always loved the look of ferns, though, so now that I have a yard I thought I'd try again with outside ferns.

If there's anything you can think of that I should know to help them survive, please don't hesitate to let me know!

Thank you!!

Peggy


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RE: Ferns question

Your houseplant ferns probably died because they got dry between waterings - that's been my failure with them year after year. Make sure you don't (didn't) bury the crown of the fern and try to make their environment one that they don't get windburned (and so too dry) during the late fall/winter. They like to remain somewhat humid/moist so I've learned that the depth at which they are planted has been the deciding factor for the varieties I've had.


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RE: Ferns question

Hi Peggy,
You will probably find that you've planted them too closely. But, as I mentioned before, you can transplant them fairly easily--even when they are a bit more mature. Ferns have really dense, fiberous root balls. My Autumn Ferns grow to a height of about 30 inches tall and tend to flop later on in the growing season. Your Lady Fern also sounds like a bigger variety with a fairly erect shape. I'd probably leave at least 3-4 feet in between mature plants and fill-in the middle with something moundy or sprawly like geranium, hosta, pulmonaria, heucheras etc.

About overwintering, I can't offer you any tried and true advice since you are a couple of zones colder than I am. I did Google for some info and found that the Lady Fern is good to zone 2, so you shouldn't have to worry much about that one. The Autumn fern seems a bit more tender. You might need to mulch it heavily, but I don't really know. I leave the fronds on until Spring and cut them off just before new growth emerges--just leaving the spent fronds on the plant will add a bit of winter protection.

Good Luck!


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RE: Ferns question

Thank you both for the great advice! I really would like these ferns to survive, I love the lok of ferns so much. I'll leave the foliage alone through the winter and not transplant them until next year if they look like they're too close, which they probably are. I planted them next to a dark green hostra so next year I'll put one on either side of it. There is about 20' of space that I can use but part of it is over a low overhang so I'm trying to avoid that area. (I was thinking nothing would get any rain under the overhang so bad for plants.) I have the ferns mulched already with cedar chips and I'll be laying down more as the colder weather comes. Right now they are between the hostra and a large spirea (at least i think it's a spirea) and the house foundation is to their backs. That leaves just their fronts to face any cold winds. We never know here if the winter will be mild or hard, it's always a toss up. There is about 2' of clear space between them and the hostra and another 2' between them and the spirea. We had a lot of rain last week so they've been well watered.

Loniesmom, you're probably right about the watering of the houseplant ferns. Although I did have one table fern that actually died within hours of me bringing it home. I did have a rabbit foot fern that lasted a few weeks, ditto with all of the many Boston ferns I've tried. Also a stag horn fern that lasted for a bit. It was probably my watering habits that helped knock them off. Hopefully Nature will help me out with the outside ones!

Thank ou both again!

Peggy


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RE: Ferns question

Wow I've never heard of any plant kicking the pot hours within arrival at home! Did you buy this plant in the middle of winter? Maybe it got frozen. Maybe you left it in the hot car for too long? Maybe you placed it over your radiator?
I'm asking because I killed an Alocasia by bringing it to work during 35 degree weather with high wind- I don't know WHAT I was thinking!!!
The secret to indoor ferns is loose soil and steady watering. Mine are in front of a north facing window. During 95 degree NYC heat I keep a misting fan on at all times- ferns do really badly in temps over 85 degrees. I water twice a day- early morning and at twilight. During 70 degree weather I only water every 2 days or so. I never mist- it's a waste of time. The fan I got sprays this very fine mist that cools the air and hightens the humidity- I don't have central air so that helps a lot.
Keep trying with ferns- they rock.
I would stay away from all the really frilly Boston types- they are finicky. I would try Holly fern and macho fern- both put up with lots of abuse and tend to resist indoor pests better than other ferns.
I would also try to stay away from Pteris (table/spider) ferns. They are so pretty but very hard to keep happy. If you forget to water them just once they die quickly after- I suspect this happens because I buy them at Home Depot for 4 bucks and they are already weak.
Don't give up!
Michelle


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RE: Ferns question

What can I say, Bronx fernie? When I get a fern it seems to be a death sentence! :^) Actually the two outside are doing pretty well so far. (fingers crossed) The one that died within hours, literally, no joke, they advertised as a "table fern", I think it was actually a maidenhair fern. I brought it home in the Springtime, moderate temps. I spent the whole day moving it from one spot to another as it dwindled minute by minute. Sun, shade, table, bookcase, within 8 hours it was a tiny stick in the pot. It was small to begin with, only about 8" high. Looked healthy when I bought it had been watered at the nursery so I didn't even have a chance to over or under water. I was living in an apartment than and it was the last fern I bought for a long time. I thought, if I can kill them that fast there's no sense in even trying. I think the apartment may have been too dark and the air too dry...I don't know...it died so fast I don't know what it could have been. Maybe I had bad karma or something with that plant. It was so pretty in its little pot and by that night...a twig. It was a few years ago now but it stayed with me. I think I'll stick with the outside ones for right now. If I don't kill them off I might be willing to try another houseplant type fern. I do do okay with other houseplants, it's just the poor ferns that I am the grim reaper to.

Peggy


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RE: Ferns question

  • Posted by jkom51 Z9 CA/Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Mon, Sep 15, 03 at 15:34

You might also want to try a Microlepia strigosa, or Lace Fern. I have two, one in a bed where it is shaded and watered regularly, the other in a bed with half-day morning sun and indifferent watering. After a slow start the fern with irregular watering is almost as large as the one getting regular water! It has a graceful and lacy appearance; I've been very impressed with it so far.


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RE: Ferns question

I haven't read this thread in a while- I wish I had kept up because this question is quite interesting. It sucks that the plant croaked- believe me that was one amazing swan song you witnesed. The ones available at Home Depot / Walmart might have poor root systems and low humidity stress while they were in transit probably helped as well- especially in tough weather like winter or mid summer.
For people who hate to see 10 dollar ferns die (like moi) there are a few great options.
1. The "Medusa fern" which looks real cute with curled fronds vary in length looking like a head of swinging snakes. It tends to get wild and woolly when taken home (and away from growth retardants) Mine looked so gorgeous in the store I nearly died when I saw it- it still looks great but it has grown like mad.The tag "Medusa" fits it to a T. I only water it every week or so- no problems yet. I'm sure once the central heat is on I will have to water more frequently to counter the dry hot air.
2. Button fern- this plant from Australia likes direct indoor sun (forget what the books say- it loves it and grows like mad when it gets it) it's leathery round leaves stand low humidity well and it doesn't need as much water as other ferns but be careful not to let it go thirsty for too long- it will drop or brown it's leaves and start all over again- you will have a sorry looking plant till it comes back.
3. Mother fern- this plant likes cool rooms and can easily stand the low humidity and irregular watering most busy indoor garderners put it through. As a reward it will bud tiny versions of it's self on all it's leaves and give you plenty of plant babies to raise and give to your friends.
4. Cobra fern- this plant is tropical so it likes high temps just fine. It is one tough mother! I had to wrench one from a pot it had over grown and it lost ALL of it's new root stock- no problem it just grew some more. This plant can get really huge so get a nice pot and watch it- when you find it reaching unmanageable height chop the longer fronds off. I have one called "serrated" which has one frond is 2.5 feet long! I put it in a low shelf and cheer it's exuberance.
5. Asparagus fern- there are 5 or 6 mainstream varieties- they all do well in low humidity with plenty of sun. I watch the watering and only water when the soil feels on the dry side. These are very fast growers- one plant I bought changed pots twice this summer and grew 3 pot sizes. Another variety which was half dead when I spent 2 bucks out of pity for it changed pots once which is amazing since I ain't E.T.
Anyway I encourage everyone I know to buy ferns- I want to start a new Victorian fern craze! Help me in this romantic endavor- you will have my eternal gratitude.


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RE: Ferns question

Bronx Fernie, thank you for your houseplant ferns suggestions. Also Jkom51 for the lace fern suggestion. I've made note of the names and I'll keep an eye out for them. Bronx Fernie, I admit I do have an asparagus fern that is doing great. However, it's not one of the real lacy aspargus ferns like they use in with cut flowers. It's the other kind of asparagus fern. I don't really consider it a fern because it doesn't really have what I would think of as fronds, if you know what I mean? I've been able to grow that plant well and have had it a few years. I actually put it out in the sun in the summer and it usually triples in size. It sort of limps through the winter for me inside, various parts of it turning yellow from the dry heat and less sunlight. I do love that plant but in my heart it's not quite a fern. I love those fronds on ferns!!! I did sneak out and buy another outside fern, a Cinnamon fern. So far the outside ferns have been doing great. I just hope they make it through the winter okay.

I would love to have inside ferns though so I'll be out scouting with the list of fern names you've given me. My fingers are crossed that I don't kill any when I get them!

Peggy


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RE: Ferns question

Peggy I don't know if you are still watching this thread but be carefull how much cedar chips you use for mulch. Loose leaves or straw ect would be better for a thick mulch as ferns don't like to have there crowns burried. I live in the Pacific North West where many of my nieghbors consider ferns to be weeds!! "gasp" I love them all even the Native "weeds". I thought the "weed" fern was a lady fern but now think it's some type of "wood" fern maybe. They look like a lady fern... anyway they don't seem to mind at all growing with other ferns. Some even grow up threw my Western Sword ferns (also considered a weed by many here...) I also have problems trying to grow ferns inside. But this year we are already having freezing weather so I have moved all my less hardy ferns inside. My plan (wich I better get started on soon) is to repot them all and use the "wick" method of watering. You make kind of an S shape in the pot about 1/4 of the way from the soil in the bottom of your pot with any cotten cording. (smaller diamiter for smaller pots ect) this is then allowed to trail a few inches out the bottom hole of the pot (probably use more then one "wick" for large pots) you then fill a shallow contaner with pebbbles or marbles ect a couple of inches deap and burry the wick(s) in it you keep water in the tray up to the top of the pebbles. The wick draws water up into the soil without waterlogging the plant (or so I've heard) also the water evaporating from the tray adds moisture to the air around the plant. I think my indore ferns die from lack of humidity as often as over watering or underwatering. This is also supposed to be a great method of watering any house plant especialy if you are going to be gone for a while. For a long vacation you are supposed to use a deaper tray or I've even heard of people who use margarine or whip cream tubs one for each pot with a hole cut in the lid for a resevour when they are going on vacation. The wick goes into the hole and can draw water up into the soil in the pot.

This winter I plan to try growing ferns from spore I've been collecting this fall. I guess it's a slow processes but will be cool if it works. :-)

Take care, Penny (a fellow fern lover)


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RE: Ferns question

*Stands up*
My name is Anna and I am fern killer.
Peggy,
I really relate to how you feel. I think that I have killed at least ten ferns. I only killed that many because I began with too many. It seems that I have committed every fern sin (overwatering, underwatering, etc). But, I have also taken measures to ensure they don't die (gravel, misting, etc) but alas, they always do. I just killed my last fern, a maidenhair (my favorite & the third in a short line of maidenhairs). I have decided to swear off indoor ferns (for awhile). This spring, I am going to try my hand at some outdoor ferns. Like you, if I am successful, maybe I will try indoor ones again.
I don't kill all plants. In fact, my other houseplants seem to be flourishing - some have been with me for years. It is my first year with outdoor gardening but I think that it went well. I only lost one artemesia & they are treated as annuals here anyway.
I definitely appreciate the suggestions for these "hardier" ferns. Perhaps I will have better luck with one of those.


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RE: Ferns question

Double pot.-Sandy


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RE: Ferns question

I have a question regarding cinnamon stick ferns..I have ferns that I have had planted for about 7 years......I was inspecting today and out of about 8 ferns only about 4 are making an appearance....I have had trouble with voles and moles, but I don't know if they could have eaten them? They were all there when we had our first frost, I am not sure what to do , this has never been a problem, any suggestions from anyone would be appreciated


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