November 15, 2010

Selaginella Ferns- Easy to Grow, Hard to Find

Here in the humid subtropics in Miami, we can grow a lot of plants as landscape plants that people in many other areas of the country grow as houseplants or landscape plants. One of the most attractive but little known plants is the Selaginella Fern group. The plants often crop up in plant collections and conservatories, but only in this part of the country are they seen in retail garden stores. Botanic gardens often have them at their sales, but not very much has been written about growing them in the home garden. Most of the species are easy enough to grow, and there are several native US species, most of which are temperate. The really flashy ones are Asian, and one in particular, S. uncinata , is the gorgeous Rainbow Fern often seen in terraria. As a landscape plant here, it is fairly easy to grow provided you give it continuous moisture, preferably allowing it to climb all over the ground. When the sun shines on the plant, the fronds light up in brilliant metallic blue-green-aqua.

There are varieties which grow closely along the bark on tree trunks, other varieties that resemble little lace parasols strung out along lines on the ground. Most of the tropical species make groundcovers easily enough. Some of the temperate species look like miniature Spruce or Fir trees a few inches tall.

In almost all species the culture requirements are the same: provide plenty of moisture and "freckled" light meaning that you should not have direct sunlight at any time, just the shifting patterns you'd see under an oak tree. Most of the Rainbow Ferns grow well on acid, organic soil, although many grow on limestone rocks to a brilliant effect. If you take the time to track down some of these ferns, and provide them with the conditions they need, you'll find them easy and rewarding to grow.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens


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