By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
Prized for their tolerance to shade and their vibrancy as a winter evergreen plant, ferns are a welcome addition to many home landscapes, as well as in native plantings. Among types, the size and color of fern plants can vary wildly. However, these adaptable plants are able to thrive within most any growing zone.
Climatic conditions will dictate which type of fern homeowners may incorporate into their landscape. One type of fern, called the deer fern, is especially adapted to growth in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.
Deer fern, or Blechnumspicant, is a type of evergreen fern native to hardwood forests. Commonlyfound growing in deeply shaded areas, these plants reach sizes of 2 feet (61 cm.)in both height and width.
Unique foliage, which displays upright and flat growthhabits, is surprisingly tolerant to cold winter temperatures (USDA zones 5-8).This, in tandem with the deer fern’s adaptability, make it an excellentaddition to winter landscapes and borders.
While these plants may be difficult to locate outside oftheir growing region, they may be available at native plant nurseries andonline. As a general guideline, plants growing in the wild should never betaken, disturbed, or removed.
When it comes to growing deer fern, information is the keyto success. Like many types of ferns, Blechnum deer fern plants will need veryspecific growing conditions in order to flourish. In their native habitats,these plants are found growing in moist regions that receive ample rainfall.Most commonly, the maritime climates of coastal Alaska, Canada, Washington, andOregon provide the moisture adequate to promote the growth of deer fern plants.
To plant deer ferns, growers will first need to locate them ina similar area of the landscape. For the best chance of success, deer plantsrequire a location in the ornamental border that contains acid soils which arerich with humus.
Dig a hole at least twice as deep and wide as the root ballof the plant. Gently fill the soil around the newly planted fern and water welluntil the plant is able to become established. When planted in a moist, shadylocation, homeowners will be able to enjoy this native addition to theirlandscape for many years to come.
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In the home, ferns are an excellent choice as houseplants—their lush greenery will complement your flowering plants, they can be grown in everything from clay pots to hanging baskets, and they don’t require full sun to thrive. Here are some popular fern varieties that grow indoors:
“Footed” ferns (Davallia) get their name from their fuzzy rhizomes that resemble the feet of animals. In their natural habitat, these specialized stems help the plants cling to trees. These houseplants have especially delicate, lacy foliage. Over time, the deer foot's rhizome will creep over and down the sides of the pot. A mature specimen can reach a height of 8 to 16 inches and a width of 1 to 3 feet. Deer foot fern is also sometimes called the hare’s foot fern, rabbit’s foot fern and squirrel’s foot fern. Named cultivars to look for include Major, with large 2- to 4-foot long fronds Ornata with wide ornate fronds Plumosa with slender, feathery fronds and Dwarf Ripple, a miniature variety with finely cut fronds.
Choose a pot just large enough to contain the plant’s root ball. If you are starting a new plant from a small amount of deer foot fern’s rhizome, a 6-inch pot is sufficient.
Fill the pot with potting medium meant for epiphytic plants: sphagnum moss, bark or peat moss, bark, or any combination of the three works well. Avoid using regular potting soil. There should be no more than 1 inch between the top of the planting medium and the lip of the pot.
Place the deer foot fern in the pot, gently pressing any roots into the planting medium. Allow the fuzzy rhizomes to lay on top of the soil where they will be able to lay down small roots. The rhizomes are modified stems and not roots, so they should never be placed them under the soil.
Place the fern in an area maintained at average to warm indoor temperatures.
Provide the fern with bright filtered or moderate indirect light. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight.
Water the deer foot fern lightly but often, allowing it to dry out a bit between waterings. Never over-water or keep it constantly moist, otherwise you risk causing mold or rot of the rhizomes.
Provide humidity to the fern by giving it an occasional misting with room temperature water.