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Past Articles Library | Plant Propagation | How to Start Ferns through Spore Propagation


Ferns are propagated through division and spores.  Division is a simply process which splits the plant into at least two parts.  These parts contain both fronds and roots.  Propagation by spores utilizes the asexual production cells on the fronds.  These appear as small dots on the underneath surface of mature fronds.

To harvest your own spores is easy and only requires a few tools.  The first step to this process is to look at the fronds of the fern you want to propagate.  If you are having a hard time seeing the spores, pick up a magnifying glass.  This will aid in the detection.

Once you begin to find the spores, examine them for their ripeness.  While the look of ripe spores differs from fern species to fern species, the general rule is to look for spores that are dark in color.  This color is an indication that the spore is mature.

After you have examined the fern fronds and have found mature spores, it is time to harvest them.  The easiest way to do this is to cut the fronds off even with the soil and place them is a bucket with a cap full of bleach and water.  Briefly swish them around in the solution, remove and rinse in running water.  This step will disinfect the spores and prevent cross contamination.

Once this step is done, simply place one layer of fronds on white paper and wait for the spores to be released.

Check often for signs that the spores have been released.  This will show up as dark dots on the white paper.  Once you see this sign, you can begin the planting process.

To begin this process, one must first get the container ready for planting.  A small, shallow container is all that is needed.  Make sure to wash and sterilize the container with a solution of bleach and water before moving on to the next step.

Once the container is dry, one can now place the planting medium inside the container.  This medium needs to be a light, sterile peat moss mix.  After the container has been filled, completely water the mixture with sterile water.  If you cannot get sterile water, simply use water that has set out for at least one day.  This will allow the chlorine to evaporate from the water.  Let the moistened soil set for at least four hours before moving on to the next step

Another choice to use for the container and planting medium is a petri dish with agar medium.  The agar plate is a solidified nutrient medium that is an excellent substitute for the planting medium described above.

After the container and medium has set, it is time to plant the mature spores.  This is done by removing the fern fronds from the paper and gently shaking the paper over the planting medium.  Once this is done, replace the fronds back on top of the paper to collect additional spores.

The next step requires you to simply cover the container with a piece of glass or place the container inside a plastic bag and tie off.  Locate the container in an area that does not receive direct sunlight.

Time of germination depends on the species of fern but the time period can range from one to four weeks all the way to 18 years for slow growers such as Equisetum varieties.

Once a green film begins to appear, it is time to start to look for small round or heart shaped prothallia.  Prothallia are the sex organs of ferns.

After you begin to see this, one must begin misting the soil with distilled water weekly.  This will aid in the fertilization of the egg cells.  Continue this process until true fronds appear.

Move the small fronds or sporelings when they are large enough to handle.  An easy way to transplant them is to scoop them and the soil up.  Once this is done, gently separate into clumps and plant into containers filled with a peat moss mix.

Place the new ferns in an area that does not receive direct sunlight and continue to water as you would any other fern.  A mature size fern will be produced in 8 to 12 months.

If you want to create a hybrid fern, simply sow two kinds of fern spores and repeat the process described above.


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