Woodwardia - Polypodiaceae - How to care for and grow Woodwardia plants



The genre Woodwardia belongs to that group of plants which are commonly calledFERN and includes species that are widespread in our apartments.






: Ferns and related groups











: see the paragraph on "Main species"


The genre Woodwardia belongs to the group of plants that are commonly calledFERNS.

They belong to the family of Polypodiaceae where we find about 200 genera and more than 7500 species. They are mostly perennial ferns that live in humid and protected from direct sunlight in the temperate regions of Eurasia and North America. Mostly they are large plants with downward curved fronds, generally pinnate. As ferns they do not produce flowers and therefore fruits but reproduce by means of spores, which are formed on the underside of the leaves.

The particularity of the Woodwardia compared to other ferns it is that they form new seedlings on the fronds.


There are about ten species in this genus but only a few lend themselves to being raised in the apartment and precisely:


There Woodwardia fimbriata or Woodwardia chamissoi is a magnificent specimen of rhizomatous terrestrial felcedecidua, native to North America. It is one of the largest species in fact its fronds reach even 4 m in length and 45 cm in width ... a giant.

The fronds, of a beautiful bright green, remain arched and deeply divided.


There Woodwardia radicans it has fronds of a beautiful intense green, deeply engraved up to 2 m long and 45 cm wide.

At the extreme part of the fronds small bulbous shoots form from which new seedlings are formed. They are evergreen plants native to the Canary Islands and south-western Europe.


There Woodwardia virginica is a plant native to the United States which, with its graceful appearance and its leaves of a beautiful deep green and deeply engraved, make this plant particularly suitable for growing in hanging baskets.


Ferns are recognizable from higher plants (Phanerogams) as they do not have classical visible reproduction organs such as flowers and from lower plants (mosses, lichens, fungi etc.) as the plant is a horn that is to say a well structured plant in all its parts therefore provided with root, stem, leaves, pots, pith etc. except for the organs of reproduction, that is, the flowers.

Leaves with sporangia of Woodwardia radicans
on the bottom page

Leaves with sporangia of Woodwardia orientalis
on the bottom page

The FERNS to multiply they produce spores (hence the name of SPOROPHITE) very evident on the underside of the leaves. The spores are found within SPORANGIUM which are none other than the capsules in which the SPORES. In turn, the sporangia are grouped in so-called formations SORI.

The spore is carried by the wind and falls into the ground and germinates. From its germination an independent plant is born that produces GAMETI said PROTALLO or GAMETOFITO. On this prothalus the sexual organs are formed, ANTERIDS(male) e ARCHEGONI (female) where the ANTEROZOI and the OOSPHERE mature respectively. The male anterozoan moves in the plant thanks to the water (rain, dew, etc.) and goes to fertilize the newly fertilized oospherache (FERTILIZED EMBRYO) germinates immediately remaining in the Archegonium (in this phase the embryo produces a sort of root called austorium which sinks into the tissues of the gametophyte to nourish it). From this embryo the fern plant we know will be born.


Plants of the genus Woodwardia, as ferns, they do not require particular care and once you understand their needs, they will thrive in your home.

First of all, keep in mind that they should be placed in an area of ​​the house where there is not much light. They should never be placed in the sun, not even in winter.The dark green color of the leaves helps them to get the most out of any type of light and because they do not bloom, they do not need as much light as flowering plants require. Furthermore, in their natural environments they live in the undergrowth for which the shade is their ideal environment.

The optimum average temperatures are around 20 ° C and away from drafts. If you see that the fern grows well in the place where you have placed it, do not move it. It means that in that place he has found an ideal microclimate.

A recommendation that applies to ferns but which I recommend for all plants: NEVER use polishes for the leaves. These products in fact block the plant's stomas, preventing it from carrying out its normal physiological functions.To clean the leaves, simply use a damp cloth or take a nice shower in the bathtub if you don't have a garden.


The watering and therefore the humidity for the Woodwardia, but more generally for all ferns it is the most difficult cultivation practice. In fact, an environment that is too dry or too hot or too humid causes serious damage.

In general, despite being robust plants, they are very sensitive to dehydration, when they remain for too long in a dry environment. To overcome this it is essential to keep the environment around the fern humid with constant nebulizations, at least twice a day during the hot season. This slows down the loss of water from the fronds.

Another way is to place the pot on a saucer full of pebbles or gravel and then fill it with water, making sure that the bottom of the pot does not remain immersed in water (as in this way the soil of the pot would become saturated with water. rot roots). This arrangement allows the fern, when it is hot, to evaporate the water from the saucer and consequently to create a particularly humid microclimate.

The soil must always remain moist, not soaked.


They are plants that grow quite quickly so they must be repotted practically every year, in spring using a mixture consisting of three parts of peat, 2 parts of coarse sand and a good dose of basic fertilizer.

Arrange a thick layer of gravel or small stones on the bottom of the pot in order to favor the rapid draining of irrigation water as it does not like water stagnation.

At the time of repotting, also remove the lower leaves that normally dry out and place the plant in a slightly larger pot up to a diameter of 25 cm. After that, every year, remove the first 2-5 cm of earth and replace them with fresh soil.


The fertilizations are to be done throughout the spring-summer season, every three weeks, with liquid fertilizers to be diluted in irrigation water. In other periods they must be suspended.

Use a fertilizer that in addition to having the so-called macroelements such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) also has microelements such as magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo), all important for a correct and balanced growth of the plant.

Slightly reduce the doses of fertilizer compared to what is indicated in the package.


There Woodwardia, as a fern, it does not bloom.


For these plants we cannot speak of real pruning. The leaves that gradually dry up are simply eliminated to prevent them from becoming a vehicle for parasitic diseases.

Make sure that the tool you use for cutting is clean and disinfected (preferably with a flame) to avoid infecting the tissues.


The multiplication of Woodwardia it can happen in two ways: detaching the seedlings that form on the fronds, by division of the plant or by spores, the latter not easy to make at home.


The seedlings are taken from the foliage and planted in a compost made up of sand peat. Place the pot in the shade and in a humid environment at a temperature of around 20 ° C and cover it with a transparent plastic sheet, making sure that the leaves are not in contact with the plastic.

Every day the plastic is removed to control the humidity of the soil and eliminate condensation.Once the first shoots start to appear, it means that the new plant has rooted.At that point the plastic is removed and the pot is placed in a area a little brighter and expect the seedling to become more robust.Once it has grown sufficiently large and has produced new shoots, it transplants into the final pot and soil and is treated as an adult plant.


The division can be performed at any time between November and March. The plant is gently removed from its pot and the rhizome is divided into two or more parts, each with roots and fronds. Each portion thus obtained is planted in a small pot. with a mixture of peat and sand and it treats like adult plants.


Spore multiplication is a very difficult technique to implement at home. In any case, if you want to try, below is explained how to do it.

In spring a leaf is cut with the spores that are scraped and dropped into a sheet, then prepare a box containing moorland and peat in equal parts and arrange the spores. Water evenly so as not to create holes in the ground and rests on a sheet of glass or a sheet of clear plastic.

At this point, place the box in the dark and at a temperature of about 20-23 ° C, taking care to keep the soil always moist. The glass plate or the plastic sheet must be opened every day in order to eliminate the condensation that forms.After about 2-3 months, if everything is successful, the first plants will begin to be born and at that point moved the box in a brighter position (but not too much) and remove the glass plate.Once the seedlings have grown and developed, transplant them in groups of 2-3 in a small pot, no more than 6-7 cm diameter and treat them like adult plants.

If you try, do me a favor, photograph the various sequences and send me the photos, I will publish them.


The leaves dry out and fall off

This is an obvious symptom of water imbalance, which means that irrigations are too scarce.
Remedies: as a first step it is advisable to immerse the vase in a bucket of water and wait until the earth is saturated with water. Then the excess water is drained well and then put back in its place. For the future, better regulate both watering and humidity.

The leaves turn light and appear discolored

If this symptom is highlighted, it means that there is too much light.
Remedies: move it to a less lit place.

The leaves curl

This pathology is a symptom of too low a temperature.
Remedies: move the plant to a more heated place.

The leaves have dark margins which wither quite quickly

This symptom occurs when the environment where the fern is located is too hot.
Remedies: move the plant to a less hot place.

The leaves have dark spots

If this symptom occurs it is possible that your fern is undergoing a fungal attack, most of the time due to water imbalances, that is to say to excessive stagnation of water in the saucer.
Remedies: eliminate the damaged parts and use specific fungicides products. For the future, better regulate your cultivation technique.

Brown spots on the underside of the leaves

Brown spots on the underside of the leaves could mean that you are in the presence of mealybug, brown mealybug or cottony mealybug. It is advisable to use a magnifying glass and observe them: compare them with the photo below, they are characteristics, you can't go wrong. Also if you try to remove them with a fingernail, they come off easily.

Remedies: remove them with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol or if the plant is large and potted, you can wash it with water and neutral soap by gently rubbing with a soft sponge to remove the parasites. Then rinse the fronds very well to remove all the soap. For larger plants, you can use specific pesticides available from a good nurseryman.


There Woodwardia it is a very ancient fern, in fact its appearance on earth dates back to the Tertiary era (Cenozoic, it began 65.5 ± 0.3 million years ago, the end of the Mesozoic, and is still ongoing).

There Woodwardia radicans is one of the 42 species of Italian flora that is considered at risk of extinction (it is included in Annex II to the EEC 43/92 directive) so if you happen to find it in the woods, take great care not to touch it, not to disturb it, and least of all never pick it up.

The ferns for many years remained shrouded in mystery because it was not possible to understand how they multiplied. Only in 1850 was the mystery revealed thanks to a German bookseller who had noticed the spores on the underside of the leaves, through which the plant reproduced.

Video: 7 EASY FERNS to Grow Indoors  Ep. 190

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