Gardening has been traumatic this summer, especially in the south of England – I’ve become used to seeing the landscape turning a golden yellow and so many trees starting to show signs of drought. So my collection of indoor ferns, with their vibrant green foliage creating a lush juxtaposition to the burnt plants outside, have brought me lots of joy.
Ferns do not produce colourful flowers, but their enduring, textural foliage makes them a must for homes, particularly in darker rooms where other plants may struggle.
There are a few ways to achieve success with ferns indoors and one of the fundamentals is the right light levels. Ferns require a dappled light, avoiding intense sun. Morning light suits them, so position them in spaces which do not experience strong, midday and afternoon sunshine.
Temperature is key, too. Ferns generally enjoy a cool environment and a stable temperature of about 60F (15C), without much fluctuation, is ideal.
The third fundamental is watering evenly. Ferns require an moist compost without the extremes of very dry or sodden. Overwatering is one of the main reasons that people fail with ferns: remember that it is very easy to revive a dry fern than resuscitate an overwatered one.
Watering houseplants is a skill and I’ve been guilty of killing my ferns with water-based kindness. To overcome this, I have got into the habit of filling my sink with 5cm (2 ins) of water with a dash of seaweed feed and standing the plants in the sink for an hour or so. Take the pots out of the water and allow to drain before placing them back in position on a tray of gravel to increase humidity. This method avoids exposing the ferns to prolonged waterlogging, allowing excess water to drain away. The compost within the pot will only absorb a certain amount of water to the point of saturation when in the sink.
Ferns will also benefit from misting every couple of days to prevent the foliage drying out.
Repot your ferns each spring into a slightly larger pot. Or you can remove the top few centimetres of compost on the surface and use an old wood saw to chop off a few centimetres at the base, which should leave you with a root plate that resembles a coir placemat. This will encourage lots of new roots into the fresh compost above and below the root ball.
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