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When ferns get in trouble.

When ferns get in trouble

Have frizzled fronds replaced gloriousgreen growth on your ferns? Does the plant you brought into the living room for a tropical touch now seem more suggestive of suggestive of Decision making adjective Referring to a pattern by LM or imaging, that the interpreter associates with a particular–usually malignant lesion. See Aunt Millie approach, Defensive medicine.  a lifeless desert? Take heart: you can benefit from your experience by pinpointing --and avoiding--the pitfalls that beset your plant.

The lineup on the opposite page shows themost widely available ferns; their indoor survival skills are summarized in the descriptions that follow. If you've been discouraged by fern failure, try a kind that's fairly easy to grow, such as mother fern, squirrel's foot, hare's foot, or asparagus fern (a fern by name and behavior, but in truth a member of the lily family). All of these are less sensitive to the low humidity typical of most homes.

To increase humidity for a fussy fern, setit on a wide tray of pebbles that's half-filled with water; don't let the pot touch the water. Or put your fern in a bright spot near the kitchen sink or in the bathroom, where air is moister.

Some can get by with less frequent wateringthan others. However, none will reach peak condition unless soil is evenly moist.

Potting mix should be light, with plenty oforganic matter. During the growing season, apply half-strength nitrogen fertilizer, or use timed-release fertilizer.

Signs of trouble

Most ferns need bright indirect light. Hotmidday sun can burn leaves; scorched scorch  
v. scorched, scorch·ing, scorch·es
1. To burn superficially so as to discolor or damage the texture of. See Synonyms at burn1.

 foliage on one side is indicative of sunburn sunburn, inflammation of the skin caused by actinic rays from the sun or artificial sources. Moderate exposure to ultraviolet radiation is followed by a red blush, but severe exposure may result in blisters, pain, and constitutional symptoms. .

If leaves on different sides develop crispbrown edges or dry tips, the problem could be constantly soggy or bone-dry soil, or too much fertilizer.

Brown or black spore clusters on thepacks of leaves can make some plants look sick. On button ferns, leaf edges curl up after spores mature. On bird's nest fern, the rows of spores can show through as brown lines on the leaf tops. Since fronds decline after spore production, snip them off once they look unsightly.

Insects such as mealybugs (white cottonymasses), scale (tiny brown or black lumps), and aphids can wreak havoc on ferns since they have so many places to hide. Prevent invasions by washing off plants regularly with plain water to remove dust and insects. If you must use an insecticide, read the label carefully, since many chemicals damage ferns. To test, spray one frond with a weak solution; wait a week to check for any adverse reaction.

Don't be alarmed by a few yellowingfronds; as all ferns age, their oldest fronds turn brown. For example, maidenhair fronds live about six to nine months and are constantly replaced by new growth. Squirrel's foot fern is deciduous deciduous /de·cid·u·ous/ (de-sid´u-us) falling off or shed at maturity, as the teeth of the first dentition.

 in the wild (leaves usually drop in the fall), so a period of increased leaf loss is natural.

Trim off old, discolored fronds at thebase. You may also want to trim off Boston ferns' leafless, stringy string·y  
adj. string·i·er, string·i·est
1. Consisting of, resembling, or containing strings or a string.

2. Slender and sinewy; wiry.

3. Forming strings, as a viscous liquid; ropy.

Even if your fern doesn't respond to yourtender care indoors, it may bounce back after a summer vacation in a sheltered, shady spot on your patio.

Nine choices: tolerant and less so

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum species). Ifsoil dries out severely, these beauties shrivel. Remove brown fronds and new ones will grow . . . until the next drought.

Sprenger asparagus (Asparagus densiflorus"Sprengeri'). Survives even when food, water, light are inadequate, but complains with a blizzard of yellow needles. Tolerates low humidity.

Mother fern (Asplenium bulbiferum).Wilts dramatically when too dry but bounces back with only a few singed leaves. Fairly easy to grow.

Bird's nest fern (A. nidus nidus /ni·dus/ (ni´dus) pl. ni´di   [L.]
1. the point of origin or focus of a morbid process.

2. nucleus (2).
). Don't getwater into "bird's nest' at plant center-- it may cause rotting. Leaves get brown spots if conditions are too cold or soggy.

Squirrel's foot fern (Davallia trichomanoides).Don't overwater Since being founded in 1979, Chris May and his staff at Overwater guitars (now based in Carlisle, England) have produced bass guitars regarded by many to be among the finest available. , or you'll rot this fern. Hot sun may scorch foliage, but new growth sprouts quickly. Easier than most.

Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata "Bostoniensis').Hanging plant loses fluffy ball shape when center isn't getting enough light. In a bright, cool spot, with evenly moist soil, it's a winner.

Button (roundleaf) fern (Pellaea rotundifolia).Appears tough but is a sissy sis·sy  
n. pl. sis·sies
1. A boy or man regarded as effeminate.

2. A person regarded as timid or cowardly.

3. Informal Sister.
. Keep water droplets off leaves. Sensitive to erratic watering: soggy, then bone-dry soil spells disaster.

Hare's foot fern (Polypodium aureum).Tolerates lower humidity than most other ferns. Likes bright light but not a hot spot. Water when soil is nearly dry.

Variegated Cretan brake (Pteris cretica"Albo-lineata'). Holds a grudge when allowed to get too dry; wilts, then leaf tips brown dramatically. Needs bright light to maintain variegated color.

Photo: Sprengerasparagus

Photo: Bostonfern

Photo: Hare's footfern

Photo: Bird's nestfern

Photo: Squirrel's footfern

Photo: Maidenhairfern

Photo: Mother fern

Photo: Button(roundleaf) fern

Photo: Variegated cretanbrake

Photo: "Ferns aren't my forte,' lamented this gardener when comparing his scraggly scrag·gly  
adj. scrag·gli·er, scrag·gli·est
Ragged; unkempt.

Adj. 1. scraggly - lacking neatness or order; "the old man's scraggly beard"; "a scraggly little path to the door"
 Boston fern to the healthy nursery specimen at left. Life on a bookshelf in weak light caused the sparse one-sided growth. With fertilizer and brighter light, plant will improve

Photo: Thick tangle of white roots and almostno soil indicate this Sprenger asparagus is overdue for a roomier pot

Photo: Scorched leaf tips are common distresssigns of ferns. Cretan brake developed brown ends after drying out severely
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Feb 1, 1987
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