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How to Revive a Fern With a Self Watering Pot

Published on August 2nd 2020
A close up of a fern
Ferns are one of the oldest plants on Earth. Some say that, alongside mosses, ferns carpeted the earth long before the Dinosaurs strolled across it. These are hardy plants, capable of surviving, adapting, and flourishing. So why then, do they die the moment I bring them home?
I have lost count of how many ferns have perished in my home, but, my plant pals, I think I've found an easy hack that will get your ferns looking full and fabulous in no time. It has even helped me bring the notoriously tender Maidenhair fern back to life!
Why do Ferns Turn Brown?
A dying fern
Ferns are tricky indoor plants for a couple of reasons, primarily because of their humidity needs and watering requirements. Ferns, in their natural environment, typically grow in the dappled shade of the forest floor. The soil is moist, but not soggy or wet. They are also surrounded by other plants and trees, which keeps the air humid.
As with all plants, we can ensure success by emulating their natural growing habitats as we grow them in our homes. Unfortunately, most homes are not humid places, particularly in winter when forced heating dries out our digs. Plants naturally draw water from the soil to replenish the water they are losing through their leaves. In low humidity situations, plants are drawing water out of the soil at a very high rate. Ferns, being humidity lovers, need their soil to stay damp at all times, in order to keep them from drying out.
How do Self Watering Pots Work?
A close up of a water deprived fern
Self-watering pots use a water reservoir and a wicking system where the plant takes up as much water as it needs from the soil via capillary action (basically the way they get water up through their roots to their stems and leaves). The soil is then replenished, automatically, with the amount of water that the soil needs to remain moist.
This works really well for plants that like moist soil, aka most ferns because it eliminates the guesswork of how much water the fern has used or needs. Assuming you remember to fill the reservoir, your fern’s soil will always remain damp. This can drastically reduce the amount of time spent watering.
Other Fern Care Tips to Keep Your Fern Looking Lush
A hand holding the leaves of a fern
Light: Despite having a reputation for being low light plants, this does not mean ferns are going to love being in the darkest corner of your house. Ferns will truly thrive in medium to bright, indirect light indoors. A Northern or Eastern facing window should be just right! Watch that direct light, though! It can burn the leaves.
Soil: Again, ferns generally love moist, well-draining soil. Planting them up with rich, composted soil is going to keep your foliage looking green and lush.
Water: Your goal is to keep them moist, but not wet. This is the tricky balance that many people find frustrating. Self-watering pots can simplify this portion of fern care.
Fertilizer: Ferns can be sensitive to over-fertilization. Indoors, ferns prefer a light fertilization, monthly. A liquid fertilizer mixed to half strength is great.
Humidity: Ferns want humid air. If your space is heated by central heat or is otherwise dry, consider using a humidifier to boost the humidity in your air.

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