The curling & draping tendrils of vines & ferns can help create beautiful, tropical landscapes when used properly. Care must be taken when making selections, as some can be more aggressive than others.
The Wart fern is a creeping epiphyte, which grows on other plants but does not derive nourishment from the host plant. It grows from thick, green rhizomes that are sparsely covered with dark, hairlike scales; some say they resemble serpents. The thick, leathery leaves are spaced out along the rhizome sometimes on a petiole, sometimes not. The leaf usually is bright green. The reproductive spores are produced in large clusters on the back of leaves. They often cause large bumps on the upper surface of the leaves, giving the plant the common name wart fern.
They will grow to 3 to 4 feet tall and often creep and crawl across the ground, on rocks, and up the sides of palms and walls. Patches of wart fern can become very large.
The Wart fern prefers part sun to full shade in warm, moist locations. It often uses other plants such as oak, magnolia, elm and inanimate objects such as rocks, fence posts and buildings as support. Though wart fern will tolerate short periods of drought, its best growth is achieved with evenly moist conditions.
Wart ferns are beautiful specimens for containers and hanging baskets, where their interesting rhizomes wrap around the pots. Recently, there has been a widespread use of this species as landscape groundcovers. In shady, moist conditions they are lovely. They tend to grow taller than most people plan on when they are planted young at 6 inches tall. Install them where there is enough space to accommodate lateral and vertical growth. This fern prefers shade under living plant material as nourishment comes from decayed fallen leaves and other organic material.
It can be propagated by division and it is a good practice to thin and divide it regularly. No pests are known to infest wart fern. The wart ferns have long been used in medicinal gardens. It also has a different name in Hawaii, maile-scented fern. Though the fronds have no scent on the living plant or when freshly picked, as they age they exude a slight sweet, vanilla-like aroma. Some people have tucked fern leaves in fresh laundry to keep it smelling sweet.
The Macho fern, if grown in a rich soil and watered and fertilized regularly, can have fronds of almost six feet, which makes it a spectacular hanging plant. Plant it in the largest hanging basket you can find, and you will be very pleased with its display. The plant is easily divided and repotted. If allowed to get too dry, will go off color and even lose leaves, but responds well once care is given.
Grows without much care except for occasional fertilizer and watering in dry seasons. It can be invasive, but that is one of its charms if you have the space in your garden. Full sun to full shade and everything in between.
This plant prefers filtered sun to some full sun. It will begin to burn if the leaves get too hot. Inside the home it is usually too dark. It is not cold tolerant. Water well, but allow to dry and drain prior to its next watering.
Wild Boston fern has erect fronds up to 3 foot long and inches wide in tufted clusters arising from underground stems called rhizomes. The individual pinnae (leaflets) are as much as 3 inches long and shallowly toothed, but not further divided. The round sori (clusters of spore-bearing organs) are in two rows near the margins on the underside of the pinnae.
Boston fern is a common native fern in humid forests and swamps in Florida, and occurs also as a native in South America, Mexico and Central America, the West Indies, Polynesia and Africa - a testament to the ability of wind to disperse tiny spores! Boston fern often grows on the trunks of cabbage palms (sabal palms).
Prefers the shady outdoors or bright, filtered light indoors. Boston fern likes a moist but not soggy, soil, rich in organic matter. This is the most drought tolerant of the commonly cultivated ferns, but it thrives only under conditions of high humidity. Mist Boston fern every day or so if the relative humidity is below about 80%.
Outdoors, Boston fern is usually grown in moist, shady sites beneath ornamental trees or shrubs, or as a ground cover. It makes a good ground cover for the north side of the house or under shade trees where little else will grow. Under favorable conditions, Boston fern will spread by underground runners. Indoors, the species and its many cultivars are often grown in hanging baskets or on pedestals. They are especially suitable for the bathroom or kitchen where they will appreciate the high humidity.
Boston fern and its cultivars are the toughest and most widely used of all ferns. They were the typical parlor ferns before the advent of central heat and air. Even today they can survive for a year or two in centrally heated homes, and still look pretty good.