Growing & Showing Ferns

Ferns are plants that do not produce seeds. They reproduce by spores. They are made of fronds (leaves), which unfurl from fiddleheads. The dominant use of ferns is for interesting foliage in the garden and in the house. Some of the more common indoor ferns are: Mother, Maidenhair, Bird’s Nest, Boston, and Staghorn. While the more common outdoor ferns are: Sword, Painted Lady, Ostrich, Rabbit’s Foot and Tree Fern. The Boston fern is actually an outside fern and suffers from insufficient light when brought inside for the winter. There are also seed plants that are called ferns like, asparagus fern, sweet fern, and air fern.

Optimum temperature is 65-75F.
Plants will tolerate cooler temps, but most are frost sensitive.
Provide several hours of strong filtered light, by not direct sunlight; it will burn the foliage.
To get even growth rotate plants a ¼ turn every few weeks.
Most ferns like an acidic soil high in organic matter, but Maidenhair ferns prefer an alkaline soil.
Good drainage is imperative. A non-porous pot is preferable to a clay pot. Wire baskets lined with coir are also common. Most ferns are shallow rooted and do not need a deep pot. Ferns flourish in a humid environment, so it is important to increase the humidity around the plant by misting, or sitting the pot on pebbles in a saucer which holds water. Water the soil so that is stays moist, but not dripping wet. Frond yellowing is caused by too much water, and wilting is from lack of water.

Since lush foliage is the goal, use a fertilizer high in nitrogen, but feed at half strength, as too much nitrogen causes root burn in many ferns. Feed once a month.
Ferns never stop growing, but they need a rest period. In the winter when the light is minimal, slowly decrease watering, and feeding schedule, let the fern dry somewhat between watering and stop fertilizing.

To Divide a Fern: Remove from the pot, shake potting soil from roots, and cut the root-ball or rhizome into pieces, each having a frond or two, then plant in small pots. Place pot in a plastic bag, keep the soil moist and keep in a warm shady location. After a month or so, uncover young fern gradually and water very sparingly over the next 3 or four weeks. This gives it time to become accustomed to a less humid atmosphere, or an open room.

Ferns are susceptible to the common indoor insect pests . Using pesticides is generally not advised for most ferns. The best solution is prevention. Use a sterile potting soil.

There are evergreen ferns like the sword fern, and deciduous ferns. Do not cut back dead foliage until after the new growth has emerged. The dead foliage protects the new shoots.

Show as cut or container grown foliage plants.
Remove dead leaves and exposed roots, Rhizomes should be unbroken. Cut fronds can be placed in a plastic bag to maintain a humid environment. It is best to experiment with conditioning beforehand.
Fronds should be bilaterally symmetrical down the rachis and the pinnae (leaflets) should be filled in uniformly, with no gaps.

Container grown plants (Boston fern, Bird’s nest) should have radial symmetry. New growth is beneficial. The plant should be centered in the pot and and should evenly fill the pot without being over crowded.
Spores indicate full maturity but need not be present to have a frond to be at the peak of perfection. Spores should not be dried or shedding.

Gena Goddard
Oregon State Flower Judge
Ashland Garden Club Member


Pumpkin Centerpieces

Lovely pumpkin centerpieces were on display pumpkin-centerpieceat AGC’s general meeting today. Gena Goddard, who made the centerpieces, is offering a member’s only workshop November 14th for Club member’s to make one of their own. See Gena for details.

2014- Siskiyou District Spring Meeting

Ashland Garden Club hosted the Siskiyou District spring meeting yesterday and it was a success!

Kudos to Jeanne Aargo, Viki Ashford, Carlotta Lucas, Gena Goddard, Joanie Kitchener, Melody Jones, Darlene, Fenwick, Marilyn love and Susan Zane for all their hard work towards making this event a wonderful gathering for the six garden clubs in the district.

AGC President Susan Zane

AGC President Susan Zane

Before the Crowd Arrives

Before the Crowd Arrives

Floor Arrangement

Floor Arrangement


Photo Contest

Photo Contest


Country Store

Country Store

Horticulture Report: May 2013

Rhododendrons & Azaleas
What’s the difference between Rhododendrons and azaleas?

Azaleas are Rhododendrons. They belong to the subgenus pentanthera (deciduous) and the subgenus Tsustusti (mostly evergreen).
Azaleas are elepidotes, they never have scales.
Azaleas have five lobes to the flower.
Most azaleas have only one stamen for each lobe of the flower, while most other rhododendrons have two stamens for each lobe.
Azaleas tend to have appressed hairs (hairs that grow parallel to the surface of the leaf). This is particularly true along the midrib of the under-surface of the leaf and is easily seen in the so called “evergreen” azaleas.
Azaleas have tubular funnel or funnel shaped flowers. You need a microscope to see this, but the hair on a “standard” rhododendron will often branch, while the hair on azaleas never does.

Basic Needs:
Rhododendrons must have a constant supply of moisture.
They are sensitive to poorly drained conditions.
Hot wet conditions are more dangerous than cool, wet conditions.
They need an acid soil of pH 5-6.
Fertilizer: A 10-6-4 formula is optimal. For the best growth and flowers apply fertilizer after the plant goes dormant between late Nov and Jan, a second application in Feb or March, a third time in April or May, and a final time in June or July.

Always prune right after flowering. Even large plants can be cut back. Rhododendrons & azaleas flower on the prior year’s wood, therefore the buds for next spring’s flowers form during the previous summer or fall. If you prune them later in the summer, fall or winter you will be trimming off your flowers for the spring.
Prune larger leaved rhododendrons just above the growth joints.
Prune azaleas and small leafed rhododendrons anywhere along the stem. These plants have dormant growth buds nearly everywhere, though you may not be able to see them.

Deadheading and Pinching:
Light pruning and shaping should be done yearly when you deadhead. Snap off the old flower trusses. You may pinch out the single terminal growth buds just as they start to grow. It will make a shorter and bushier plant.

For more information:
American Rhododendron Society

American Azalea Society

Elepidotes are large leaved rhododendrons. They are the type of shrub that most individuals would associate as being a rhododendron. They do not have scales located on the underside of the leaves. Plants tend to be very large in their maturity.

Lepidote rhododendron have smaller leaves and are usually low growing or dwarfs. They usually bloom earlier in the spring than the larger leaved elepidotes. Tiny scales cover the undersides of the leaves of some rhododendron species.

Horticulture Report: January 2013

Indoor Palms

By Gena Goddard

Of the 200 or so palm species only a few are able to be grown indoors where the climate is so challenging for any plant.  The palm has to adapt to low light, extra dry air, drafts, and being in a confined space. It also should be a slow grower so it stays house size.  The following 3 palms have been selected because they are suited for indoor growing and they are commonly sold.

Rhapis excelsa "Lady Palm"

Rhapis excelsa “Lady Palm”

The first is “Lady Palm”, Rhapis excelsa. It grows 6-8ft tall and makes a clump of brown hairy stems with dark green glossy leaves.  It grows slowly from underground rhizomes.  The leaflets are palmate like “a lady’s hand” and the leaf ends are saw-toothed unlike most palms.

Chamaedorea elegans "Parlor Palm"

Chamaedorea elegans “Parlor Palm”

The second is the “Parlor Palm” Chamaedorea elegans. It is the palm seen in Victorian homes in the movies. It is a slow grower, growing to 6-7’. It tolerates low levels of humidity and light, though it prefers medium to high humidity and brightindirect light.

Howeia forsteriana "Kentia Palm"

Howeia forsteriana “Kentia Palm”

The third is the Kentia, sentry or thatch palm Howea forsteriana. It is a slow grower eventually growing to about 10’ tall. Like the others it tolerates indirect light but needs good drainage.


I have three Lady Palms which I take outside in a shady place on my deck when the last frost is past, white in our USDA Zone 7B is sometime in late May. Palms can stay outdoors until threatened by  frost in Oct/Nov.  Before bringing them indoors, prepare them for their winter home by clipping off dead leaves and spraying them off a few times with a strong blast from a hose and inspecting leaves for insects.  Inspect all leaves very carefully for any bugs and if you see any spray plant with Safer pest control before bring plants indoors.  Place our palms indoors next to the big south facing sunny window and cover any furnace vent openings located close to them with a piece of carpet. They may suffer some indoors during the winter, but they survive so they can thrive and grow next year on my deck.

There are two things I have learned about palms:

1) They do not like to get too dry, so when the soil is dry down to about an inch I water them thoroughly.

2) You can’t prune palms to make them shorter. They only grow from the ends and once that is damaged the whole stem dies. This also means if they get too tall for their space you must give them away, or find a place indoors with more height.