4. Crocodile Fern (Microsorium musifolium 'Crocodyllus')
If your tastes run exotic, you'll love the leaves of this South African native, which mimic the skin of a crocodile. Group several together in a large container in the family room, or use a single plant in the bath, where it will love the extra humidity.
Keys to success: Bright, indirect light and regular water are best, but this fern will tolerate short periods of drought, especially during winter.
5. White Rabbit's Foot Fern (Humata tyermannii)
Often sold in hanging baskets, this fern can be repotted into any container that shows off its fur-covered feet, which are really rhizomes. This plant does not mind being pot-bound, as long as you water more frequently.
Keys to success: Do not let this fern sit in water, or it will rot. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. Fertilize only when new growth is present with a 20-10-20 formulation at one-quarter the rate recommended on the package.
Help! Why do ferns look great in the store but then wilt and drop leaves when I bring them home? Maidenhair seems to be the worst.
Sounds like root burn is the cause. If a fern dries out in shipment to the retailer or in the home, the drop in moisture concentrates the fertilizer, burning tender roots. To avoid this common problem, Dallas-based Casa Flora, the nation's leading producer of fern liners, offers this advice.
Turn your new fern upside down, and gently shake it to remove the timed-release fertilizer pellets. Next, hold the plant under tepid running water to flush additional nutrients from the soil. Resume a normal feeding schedule with a 20-10-20 water-soluble fertilizer at half the rate recommended on the package. "Once a month is fine for most," says company representative Emily Mason. Water regularly, and place it in bright, filtered light.
Maidenhair fern (Adiantum sp.) requires high humidity, no heat, no drafts, and bright light. Never let it dry out, but don't keep it wet either. Place the plant atop a pebble-filled saucer, water from the top, and empty the saucer once the plant has drained.
"Five Great Indoor Ferns" is from the January 2008 issue of Southern Living.