African Violets

Ferns FAQ

FLUFFY RUFFLES FERN - Nephrolephis exaltata 'whitmanni' or florida ruffles, several varieties or cultivars. (whit-MAN-eye)

Has dense, ruffled dark green fronds that are divided many times and have a very fine texture, resembling frilly lace. This is a sport (mutation) of the Boston sword fern.
When dividing plant, each plant should have at least 6 fronds for best results. Should be repotted every two years.
It likes the same treatment as Boston fern but will not tolerate a temperature lower than 40 degrees.

RABBIT'S FOOT FERN - Davallia fejeensis (dah-VAL-lee-uh free-jee-EN-sis)

Has delicate, fronds growing from the creeping wooly-textured rhizomes, thus the name 'rabbit's foot'. There are also other similar ferns such as the HARE'S FOOT- Polypodium aureum (pol-in-POH-dee-um AW-ree-um); SQUIRREL FOOT FERN - Davallia bullata (bul-LAY-tah); BARE'S FOOT - Humata tyermannii (hue-MAY-ta)

All grow well from Florida to S.A. Adapt to hanging baskets, all have rhizomes, covered with either white or orange-brown scales or hares. The fronds differ in these ferns, the Bear's foot being wavy and serrated.

Light: Medium to high light - near a bright window, Temperature 40-50 degrees

In nature these ferns are also epiphytic so they can be mounted on a cork bark plaque.

MAIDENHAIR FERN - Adiantum macrophyllum (ad-ee-AN-tum mak-rok-fil-lum)

Native to the American tropics and one of the most elegant and distinctive ferns in cultivation. Has triangle-shaped leaflets with shiny black stems. Often found growing in areas near waterfalls or where springs arise. They can be found in the limestone hills around Austin. In humid areas in east Texas they are used as goundcovers. The fronds dry beautifully and are lovely in dried arrangements. Soft textured leaflets.

They need constant moisture or mist, and never allowed to dry out. They can't stand over-watering however nor poorly-drained soil.

There are several varieties or cultivars such as: FAN MAIDENHAIR FERN - Adiantum tenerum (TEN-ehr-um); COLOMBIAN MAIDENHAIR FERN - Adiantum raddianum 'Weigandii' (rad-dee-AN-um wee-GAN-dee-eye; PINK MAIDENHAIR FERN - Adiantum hispidulum 'Pink Lady' (his-PID-yew-lum) Delicate rose and green sprays of foliage from New Zealand and Australia. More than 200 species of this fern growing throughout the world.

'Adiantum' means "unwetted", and refers to the unusual way water will bead on the fronds of the fern. All demand high humidity of 40% or more. If edges or fronds turn brown or the plant wilts and leaflets curl, raise the humidity. Leaves have reflexed edges naturally.

Light: Low to medium light, Temperature: 45 - 80 degrees.

MOTHER FERN - Asplenium daucifolium (ass-PLEEN-ee-um daw-shi-FOL-lee-um) - there are several varieties and cultivars.

The common name refers to the unique way the mother plant reproduces young plants from small bulbets that form on the fronds. These bublets grow out of the centers of the delicately fine feathery foliage and can be rooted to start new plants. Native of the Mauritius and the Reunion Islands.

Light: Medium, Temperature: 50 - 78 degrees Humidity: High 40% or more

SILVER-KING TREE FERN - Alsophila tricolor (al-SOFF-il-uh TRYE-kol-or)

It is easy to imagine ferns growing like trees during the pre-dinosaur times when growing this fern. It is native of New Zealand and grows to 30 feet. Indoors it will grow 6 feet with 3 foot long fronds. Its name derives from the shimmering, silvery appearance created by the foliage. The fronds are green with white underneath. It is supported by a thick trunk covered with brown hairs.

There are many species and varieties of tree ferns.

Light: medium to high light - near a bright window, Temperature 40 - 78 degrees

CLIFF BRAKE FERN - Pellaea viridis (pel-LEE-uh VEER-ih-dis)

A native of Africa and is a rarity among ferns because it can live successfully in homes where light is limited and humidity is low. The foliage is dark green and leathery. The leaflets are borne on wiry black stems. It will grow 2 feet high. Does beautifully in a hanging basket and has a lovely silhouette.

Light: Medium, Temperature: 40 - 75 degrees

Plant should be misted monthly to remove dust from the fronds.

TABLE FERN - Pteris cretica (TARE-iss kreh-TIK-uh)
Member of the upright brake family which is found in the tropical and sub-tropics the world over. Ferns in the brake family are sometimes referred to as 'stove ferns', from the Old English meaning to heated rooms where these ferns were grown years age. The fronds are spear-shaped, with dark green leaflets on light brown stems. The leaflets are spaced far apart on the stem.

There are other Table Ferns such as : STRIPED TABLE FERN - Pteris cretical 'Albo-lineata' (Al-boh-lin-ee-AY-tuh) - has wide creamy white center on each leaflet. A small fern that only grows from 6 to 12 inches and has a delicate wispy texture. It is hardy however and can withstand a cool windowsill, which is fatal to some plants. makes an excellent contrasting foliage among plants. VICTORIA TABLE FERN - Pteris ensiformis 'Victoriae' (en-sih-FOR-miss vik-TOR-ee-ay) Also a small fern with silvery white band edged in deep green down the center of the narrow leaflets. Differs from the other Pteris in that the fronds are somewhat spear-shape.

Light: Medium, Temperature: 40 - 78 degrees

HAND FERN - Doryopteris pedata (dor-ee-OP-ter-iss peh-DAY-tuh) Also called Leatherwood.

From South America can be as small as a celery stalk. The foliage is light green, with darker veins. It has two types of fronds - one that is sterile and one that bears spores. The fertile frond is rounded and resembles a hand. The sterile frond looks more like a maple leaf. Does not require much light.

Light: Low to medium Temperature: 45 - 78 degrees Old fronds should be pruned back to the soil to encourage new growth.

WART FERN - Polypodium scolopendria (pol-ih-POH-dee-um skoh-loh-PEN-dree-uh)

Another fern that grows from a creeping sea-green rhizome much like the "foot" types. The foliage is bright green and the leaflets are large with small spaces between them. This is native to the tropics and is also epiphytic and is found growing on tree stumps, rocks, and other places on the forest floor.

Light: Low to medium, temperature: 40 - 75 degrees Humidity: as low as 25%

Division should have at least 4 fronds for best results. If edges of leaflets turn brown, leach to remove excess soluble salts.

LEATHERRLEAF FERN - Rumohra adiantiformis (roo-MOH-ruh ad-ee-an-tih-FOR-mis)

So named because of the thick substance in the foliage. It is well suited to the dryness of the home because it will tolerate humidity as little as 25%, but should have more. It is not a finicky fern and works well in both warm and cold locations, although it grows faster in a warm spot. The upright growth can be 2 feet. It is used in floral arrangement s because of its lasting quality.

Light: Medium to high light - near a bright east or south window, Temperature: 35-85 degrees

ROCK FERN or BUTTON FERN - Pellaea rotundifolia (pel-Lee-uh roh-tun-dih-FOh-lee-uh)

It doesn't grow or look like a member of the fern family, but it is. It has drk green waxy, button-shapped leaflets that will elongate to egg shapes as the plant matures. Thus the common name and species name indicates the shape of the leaflet. This is really a rock fern because it prefers the faces of rock cliffs. Leaves grow from a tufted rootstock and it tends to grow horizontally, making it a good plant for pot or basket. At its smallest stage it is suited for terrariums or dish gardens.

Light: Medium light, Temperature: 35- 75 degrees Division should have 4 fronds and the surface of the potting mixture should dry out between watering. Humidity: 25% and up. If edges of leaflets begin to turn brown, leach to remove excess soluble salts.

FISHTAIL SWORD FERN - nephrolephi biserrata 'Furcans' (neh-FROH-keo-iss bye-ser-RAY-tuh-KER-kans)

A close cousin to the Boston fern, it is a majestic plant and differs from the Boston fern by haveing forked leaflets on its fronds which give the appearance of fishtails. It is bright green and the fronds are dense and coarser in texture that the Boston fern.

Light: Medium, Temperature: 40 - 75 degrees - Plant can tolerate some surface drying without damage but likes high Humidity 40% or more.

Most ferns have small and narrow leaflets but the following are the exceptions.

BIRD'S NEST FERN - Asplenium nidus (Ass-Pleen-ee-um NYE-dus)

'Nidus' means nest, so this fern is imaginatively named. Before opening the croziers or fronds are coiled deep in the center of the plant and bear a strong resemblance to a bird's nest. This fern has strap-like leaves of bright waxy-green with black midribs and wavy margins that are tough and flexible. It is a native of southeastern Asia and is commonly found growing in trees. Because of this, it has a higher tolerance of low humidity than most ferns and is suited to indoor living.

Light: Medium to high light, Temperature: 45 - 80 degrees, Humidity: 25% and up. Scale and mealy bugs find this fern a delicacy. If the plant becomes too large, it should be fertilized less often. If leaves turn brown it could be too much water. Needs to be fed every six weeks with an acid fertilizer (fish emulsion or Sequestrian)

HOLLY FERN - Cyrtomium falcatum (ser-TOH-nee-um fal-Kay-tum)

A native of Japan, China and Hawaii as well as India. This fern gives the appearance of a large sprig of Oregon holly. Because of the harshness of the leaf tissue this fern can tolerate drier room conditions. The reason for this is that there are dry areas and distinct dry seasons i the places where it is a native. The leaflets are shiny, and spiked. It will grow about 18 to 24 inches in a pot but much larger out side. This is a good outside plant but does not like the cold winters. Because of the type of foliage it should be misted monthly to remove dust from the leaflets.

Light: Low to medium, Temperature: 40 - 85 degrees (Has been known to survive from the roots, in weather as low as -19)

STAGHORN FERN - Platycerium bifurcatum (plat-ih-seer-ee-um bye-fer-Kay-tum)

The most unfern-like of all ferns. Many of their leaves resemble the antlers of an Alaskan moose. There are about 18 species that grow in tropical Africa, Australia and South America. It has two distinct types of fronds. The barren fronds appear as round discs that fasten closely to the tree trunk or support on which the fern is growing. The fertile, or spore-bearing, fronds hang down and look like antlers. The sterile or barren fronds are brown and they serve to fasten the plant to the bark of trees or to horticultural cork or boards and moss. These fronds collect organic matter and water for growth and the antler-type fronds bear spores.

There must be perfect drainage at all times, making it best to grow vertically mounted on a board and the fronds hang down. The plant rest in the winter, and needs less humidity and fertilizer.

The surface of the sphagnum moss can be allowed to dry out between watering. If planted on a slab, it can be saturated in a sink and allowed to drain fro several hours or overnight.

Light: Medium to high, Temperature: 35 80 degrees

STRAP FERN - Pyrrosia macrocarpa (pye-ROH-see-uh mak-roh-Kar-puh)

The fronds are long, narrow and dark green. The texture is thick and leathery and resembles straps. It too likes to grow much like the stagrorn fern, but fan be grown in a basket filled with moss. Divisions should be 4 fronds at least for best results.

Light: Medium to high, Temperature: 35 80 degrees

ELKHORN FERN - Polypodium puncatum 'Grandiceps' (pol-ih-POH-dee-um punk-TAY-tum GRAN-dih-seos)

here is another fern that calls to mind an animal. The flared ends of the fronds look much like an elk's horn. It differs from the Staghorn in that it grows upright rather than vertical. The thick, leathery, light green foliage has a growth pattern much like the Bird's Nest fern. It is epijphytic in its natural surroundings, growing on tree stumps or logs near the forest floor.

Light: Medium to high light, Temperature: 45 - 75 degrees, Humidity: 25% or more

Divisions should have at least 3 fronds for best results. The foliage should be cleaned monthly.


Osmundas - O cinnamonea (Cinnamon fern), O. regalis (Royal fern), O. claytonian (Interrupted fern), Maidenhair, Boston Fern, Leatherleaf, Holly, Brake Ferns

The address of the Los Angeles International Fern Society is:
2423 Buritt Avenue
Redondo Beach Ca. 90278

This list was compiled from my Flower Show Judging School notes.