It’s Getting Humid in Here: How I’m trying not to kill anymore ferns.

It’s Getting Humid in Here: How I’m trying not to kill anymore ferns.

I have a confession to make. I have killed every fern I ever owned. I put them on a tray full of water and pebbles as suggested but they just go crunchy and give up. I actually had a Hemionitis arifolia (heart-shaped fern) which was doing so well until one morning I saw all the leaves curled in! It clearly needed more water than I was giving and I probably should have paid more attention.

For those of you who have been fortunate enough to not see a wilted heart-shaped fern, there is a picture of how the leaves look like below. I cut off the leaves but left the rest of the plant intact in hopes that new leaves will grow. Will keep you posted.

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I am still determined to grow ferns. Since my home is on the dry side, I decided to up the humidity some more by housing my ferns in a terrarium-like environment. I found a mini indoor/outdoor greenhouse from Ikea and thought that would suit my purpose well.

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It is packaged as individual frames and very easy to assemble. I assembled mine in minutes. The roof opens up two ways and can be kept open if desired. I like that it is high and big enough to put a few plants in there. I even squeezed a Chamaedora elegans (aka Parlor palm or Neanthe bella Palm) in there.

mini greenhouse ferns

These plants can tolerate shade to bright indirect sunlight. Their soil should be kept moist but not soggy. Since these are high humidity-loving plants, placing them on a tray of pebbles and water will raise the humidity around the plants. As mentioned earlier, this did not seem to work for me so I’m hoping that putting them in this terrarium-like environment will do the trick. The Japanese fern and maidenhair in the decorative planters are also sitting on pebbles with a bit of water. The mini greenhouse is not air tight so while raising the humidity around the plants it will also hopefully keep mold growth at a minimum if not prevent it.

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I love the red-tinged leaves on this fern. I’m not sure if this is really a Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum) but that is the closest I came to identifying it. If you have the right ID on this fern please let me know in the comment section below.

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The maidenhair fern is my favourite, but a Diva of plants. It has such delicate fronds and I try to stay away from touching them too often as their pores can easily get clogged with oil from fingers. They crave attention and if you don’t give them the Diva treatment, they will make you regret it. Most of all, they do not like being moved. I’ve killed a few so I would know. Once they are situated, let them be. They do not forgive easily when you move them. So once you have just the right conditions, never, ever, ever, ever change anything. I hope this greenhouse will do the trick. The maidenhair fern tops as the most pickiest of my plants. I used to think my Maranta plant,  Princess was picky but she has nothing on this maidenhair. Princess is actually very happy in her new hanging pot and needs very little attention from me these days. As long as I water her weekly and leave her alone. Now onto the mini Parlor palms. They will tolerate even low light than ferns from my experience. They grow where most plants would not. As long as you can see enough to read a book comfortably in a room, the parlor palm will grow there. I’ve used it successfully in terrariums in the past so I know it will do well in here too.

sign off

10 Comments
  • Jeri says:

    I love your blog! I too am a houseplant addict and with an equal part obsession/ determined for success fern grower. I was curious how your Hemionitis Arifolia has faired since this post. I had a very similar spell with my own. While it seems to have stabilized I am only left with two healthy looking fronds and no signs of new growth. I would guess its been about a month and half to two months since I cut back the dried fronds. If you had any success recovering yours I would love to know.

    • Barbara says:

      Hi Jeri,
      I got really excited when I saw 2 small fronds emerging. Unfortunately they shrivelled not long after and died. :(. I hope you have better luck with yours.

  • Olena says:

    Hi Barbara,
    I’m thinking about purchasing one of these IKEA greenhouses for the same reason, but hesitated because of the awful Amazon reviews. What do you think, is it working for you?

    • Barbara says:

      Hi Olena, I haven’t seen the reviews on Amazon. However I can tell you this. The top and bottom are not fused together so seems flimsy and you always have to pick it from the bottom if moving it. It is not air tight so ofcourse will not raise humidity as a closed terrarium would. I think it helped me somehow. My maiden hair fern did wonderfully in there until it was too big to keep inside. once I took it out I suddenly had to water it more frequently and I couldn’t keep up with its watering demands and died. Same with the Japanese Fern. Until recently I was keeping the birds nest Fern in there but also has grown too large for it so I have taken it out. I now find I’m watering more frequently than when it was in the greenhouse and have had it wilted on me twice since I removed it. So yes I think it does help. And my plants also look nice in there. I currently have a blue Fern and an orchid in there. What plant (s) are you planning to keep in there ?

      • Olena says:

        Thanks for the info, Barbara! It’s too bad about the ferns that grew up. I have a maidenhair in my bathroom that was a little sparse to begin with, but was doing ok for a few weeks. Then I left for vacation and despite setting it up with some DIY self-watering stuff, it dried out. :/ There’s just a few stalks left. Anyway, I love ferns but also keep killing them so I was thinking of getting this or a large cloche for the maiden. But same problem, eventually any cover would get too small.

  • Have you tried growing the thicker, hardier ferns? There’s Kangaroo Paw, Bird’s Nest, Crocodile, and Blue Star – I think these would be fine in regular room humidity. My Kangaroo Paw fern actually sits in a south facing window with full sun – it’s been thriving for more than a year now!
    http://houseplantjournal.tumblr.com/post/110267589066/february-6-2015-im-happy-to-see-the-new-frond

    • Barbara says:

      I haven’t tried any of the ferns you mentioned houseplantjournal, except the Blue star. I am not sure if it because I buy them very small but it seems they need water 2-3x a week, which I don’t always remember. As we talk, the ferns are still fine except the Japanese painted fern which looks like its on its way out. I’m going to hold off by any more ferns for now, but I may get a bigger fern once I move to a bigger place in a couple of months.

  • Lisa says:

    I believe that is a Japanese painted fern, Athyrium niponicum var. pictum. I got one from home depot but was just labelled fern though.

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