We all go through phases in our life, whether major ones like childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, or minor ones such as not eating vegetables, music preferences, and wearing hot pink nylon shorts (I was a kid, don’t judge me). As a gardener, I also find that I go through phases. For example, I have transitioned from a black thumb beginner to a moderately successful intermediate light green thumb over the years. I have also gone through times where my greatest flora infatuations fluctuated between begonias, peonies, zinnias, or tomatoes. Currently, I’m going through a fern phase.
I’m not sure what first attracted me to ferns. I do love their foliage, able to stand out beautifully on its own without the need for showy blooms. But, on a more practical level, I think what ultimately led me to start collecting them was successfully growing one for the first time. After a string of failures, I had all but given up on having ferns in my life. I would talk myself out of trying again whenever I spotted one at a nursery. That is until I set my eyes on a Bird’s Nest Fern last summer. The curled, ruffled leaves caught my attention, and before I knew it, there was a new houseplant in my car. “Why not try one more time?” replayed in my head on the ride home.
I was determined to give my new plant the best chance at survival, so I researched and learned a couple of interesting facts. For example, ferns have neither seeds nor flowers but reproduce via spores. I was shocked to discover that there are well over 10,000 known ferns and that they have been on the planet for over 360 million years! Besides being beautiful houseplants, I learned that some species are used for food, fertilizer, and medicine. There is also evidence that suggests ferns remove some chemical pollutants from the air and soil. How exciting, I was bringing a pollutant absorbing living fossil into my home!
Picking an ideal spot for my new houseplant would be tricky. I knew that ferns in the wild typically grow in moist conditions with dappled light and that it would be necessary to replicate that environment indoors. I would have to mist the plant regularly or place the pot on a damp pebble tray for the humidity. I would also need to keep my new fern out of strong, direct sunlight. Once I found what I hoped was a suitable spot, I spent the next few weeks trying my best to take care of my new plant properly. To my astonishment, it not only survived but thrived! Now, over a year later, my Bird’s Nest Fern is still sending out new leaves and continues to grow.
All it took was one success to bolster my confidence. Soon, I started bringing a few more ferns home, and before I knew it, I was entering a full-blown fern phase. Several species now reside in our home, and so far, they seem to be doing well. Unfortunately, I did have one fatality due to an unexpected heatwave while we were away on vacation. That species didn’t appreciate being in a room without air conditioning when it was 100 degrees outside. The poor thing was crispier than a bag of potato chips when we got home. RIP, little fern.
Well, on the bright side, it meant that I was off to the nursery to get a replacement, and I certainly didn’t have a problem finding one. Unfortunately, it seems that for every plant I lose, two more come home from the nursery. But plants make me happy, so I don’t stress too much about the fact that my room is starting to take on a jungle-esque quality. Besides, many ferns live in the jungle, so maybe they’ll be happy here.
In conclusion, life is about change, as is gardening. Every phase that we go through helps us grow into the people that we are. So, go ahead and embrace all of your stages. I’m certainly embracing all of my potted ferns, although I think I may need longer arms to hug them all.