How to Care for Mother Fern Plants


Shady areas with moist soil are difficult to plant, but mother fern plants (Asplenium bulbiferum) thrive in just this type of environment, requiring little care to flourish. Mother fern plants reach 1 1/2 to 3 feet tall and wide. This evergreen perennial fern grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11.

Fertilizer and Water Needs

  • Fertilize mother fern plants with a balanced fertilizer -- like a 14-14-14 mix -- in the spring. The best time to fertilize is right when you see new fronds growing near the soil line. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of fertilizer on the soil around the base. Water to dampen the soil and help release the fertilizer into the ground. Use a soaker setting on a hose until the soil is damp about 4 inches deep.

    Keep the soil moist year-round, watering whenever the top 1 inch of the soil starts to dry out. Water slowly with a sprinkler or soaker setting on the hose, allowing the water to seep into and dampen the top 3 to 4 inches of the soil.

Trimming Dead Fronds

  • Trim out dead fronds throughout the year as they turn brown and die. Cut each frond at the soil line with a pair of hand-held pruning shears. Trim carefully so you don't accidentally cut or damage any new fronds emerging from the soil.

    Clean shears after pruning with bleach and water to disinfect the blades. Use 1 part bleach to 2 parts water to create a mild solution. Dip the blades in the solution and allow them to dry before storing.

Preventing Leaf Scorch

  • Grow mother ferns in a partly shaded area protected from hot midday and afternoon sun. Some dappled or morning and evening sun is fine. Full, direct sun can cause burn damage on the tender shade-loving fronds.

    Mother ferns are low-maintenance plants that rarely, if ever, suffer from pests and diseases.

Mulching with Organic Material

  • Mulch around the base out to the edge of the fronds. Leaf mold, shredded leaves and wood chips are all suitable mulch choices spread 2 to 3 inches deep.

    In addition to keeping weeds down and slowing evaporation, organic mulches break down over time adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil, two things mother ferns love. As it does break down, you will need to top it up once a year --generally in spring or fall -- to maintain the 2- to 3-inch-deep layer.

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