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How to Care for a New Holiday Favorite-The Frosted Fern

Written by Brad on December 24th, 2013

You may have noticed that a unique fern has been popping up around poinsettia and amaryllis displays.  This simple fern with frosted tips is commonly known as the frosted fern or Selaginella krausiana variegates. While this fern is not uncommon in the outdoor environment, it is new to the indoor, holiday market.  But how do you take care of this new holiday favorite inside and out?

The frosted fern has the same issues that any other fern that is brought indoors has and this includes not enough humidity and proper light.  To address this issue, one must first place their frosted fern in a shady location.  Direct sunlight, even reduced due to the winter months, can burn the fern.  To combat the dry, winter air, one must place their fern on top of a tray that has been filled with pebbles.  To this tray, add water and monitor the level daily.  This simple step will meet the humidity requirement of this plant.

To keep your fern looking its best, water the plant twice a week.  Remember to either remove it from its decorative sleeve or poke holes in the bottom so that water can freely run out of the pot.


During the growing season, feed your fern a diluted version of a high nitrogen fertilizer once a week.

After the holiday season has passed and the weather warms, you can plant your frosted fern in your garden.  Prior to digging the hole, check to make sure the soil is well draining.  This can be done through observation or by pouring water into the hole and timing how long it takes to percolate down.  If the water drains quickly, this is a good location for the fern.

Another factor one will need to look at is the amount of sun the area receives.  The frosted fern loves shady areas so keep this in mind when choosing the location.

Once the location has been selected, dig the hole twice as wide as the container and slightly deeper.  This will make room for the fill, which is well-seasoned compost and sand.  Both of these substances will aid the percolation rate of water.

To plant your frosted fern, first check the depth and width of the hole prior to planting.  If the hole’s size is correct, place a layer of compost and sand in the bottom of the hole.  Gently squeeze on the container, turn upside down and tap on the bottom of the pot to loosen the plant.  At this point the fern should just fall into your hand.   Tease the roots by running ones finger along the root ball making sure to loosen the roots.  Then, place plant in its hole, fill in and water.  Add additional soil as needed.

Water the fern once a week or when the soil is dry during the growing season.  As far as fertilizing goes, the frosted fern requires a feeding of a high nitrogen fertilizer once a month.

While the frosted fern is beautiful inside and out, it can pose a problem in the garden due to its growth habit.  The fern itself can grow to a foot in height while its roots can spread up to a foot.  This later fact can cause the fern to pop up in unexpected places so plan for some volunteer frosted ferns.


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