Botanicals with Libby

All the Ferns

Written by Libby Hockenberry

Ferns are truly a funny thing. Definitely my plant obsession for the moment (also begonias of all types - more on those in my next post). But ferns hold a special place in my heart and I think they always will. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with them though...I'm sure all of you have experienced this from time to time if you've tried to keep one alive. They're really beautiful but also extremely fickle and need so much attention. I swear if you look at a maidenhair wrong it'll shrivel up and die. I'll admit I've killed a few in my day so don't feel bad if you've done the same. I'm still learning tips on those puppies. 

Wedding Florist

I know a lot of people probably immediately think of those Boston ferns you can pick up at the grocery store every summer, (probably the only fern I'm not a huge fan of), but I'm more so talking about all the crazy varieties of ferns that offer unique and delicate frond shapes and interesting colors. Some of my favorites are staghorns, bearclaw fern, silver lace fern, ming fern, forest ferns, and maidenhair fern. I feel like every time I go to a nursery I find a new variety I've never seen before. So hard not to buy them all!!  Cary and I have created a new rule for our house since our plants are starting to take over our space - for every new plant we buy we have to get rid of one. Although, since we are moving next week to a bigger loft I'm not too certain we'll stay true to our own rule. Hah I'll let you know how that goes. 

Speaking of new varieties of plants, I recently learned about a type of fern that I've never seen before called cotton candy fern. What a great name, right? I just recently did a wedding for a client who totally shared my same obsession with ferns which turned out to be a little dangerous when we would get together haha. She took me to this amazing nursery where the owner actually propagates new plant varieties - really freaking cool. He told us that he had recently found an old school fern variety that was super popular in the 60's called Cotton Candy Fern and that he was trying to bring it back. He said that for some reason it became really hard to find in nurseries and plant stores, but hopefully in the near future he'll have enough to sell so I can add one to my collection. It literally looks like lime green cotton candy - almost like a miniature maidenhair fern but much fluffier. 

cotton candy fern

Cotton Candy Fern

Can't wait to get my hands on one of these!

I'll leave you with a few care tips as always: 

  • Ferns love humidity so if you think the air is dry in your house you can do several things to make sure your fern is happy. Either put your fern among other potted plants - this helps with overall humidity because plants give off moisture, mist it occasionally with water, or you can set their pots on damp trays of pebbles to add moisture to the air around them. You could also plug in a humidifier but that's only in extreme cases.
  • Ferns don't like to ever dry out which is why I mentioned above that they are super needy. They like for their soil to be damp at all times but not water logged - give your fern a little bit of water everyday if you need to depending on the size of the pot. 
  • Most ferns don't enjoy the cold, they come from tropical regions, so be sure to bring them inside for winter if you have them on a porch and don't place them in a drafty spot. 
  • Typically ferns don't love to be repotted. I've killed back a few maidenhairs this way. They really only need to be repotted if their roots have outgrown the pot which takes a while. If this hasn't happened yet, just simply scrape off the top layer of soil and add a fresh layer. And be sure to fertilize every two to four weeks during the spring and summer growing season. 
  • And most importantly, ferns don't like direct sunlight. They grow naturally on the shaded forest floor away from the sun so if you can re create that type of filtered light in your home your fern will stay super happy!

If you guys have any interesting ferns in your plant collection I would love to see them! Use the hashtag #botanicalswithlibby and share them on Instagram