If you find yourself the proud owner of a Frosty Fern during the holiday season, you’re far from alone! In fact, this white-tipped plant goes by a few different aliases like the Holiday Fern and Christmas Fern. You might be wondering, though: What are some tips to help you take care of your Frosty Fern for the long term?
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Understanding the Frosty Fern
What’s not to get… it’s a fern, right? Well, wrong. The Frosty Fern is a fern in name only. Scientifically, this plant is dubbed Selaginella kraussiana and is a type of “clubmoss,” which (confusingly) isn’t real moss either.
What’s the takeaway? Your Frosty un-Fern is a plant breed of its own; it’s probably unlike any other houseplant you’ve dealt with, so you need to give it the proper TLC.
The best care tips for the Frosty Fern take into account its origins. This plant naturally hails from various rainforests on the African continent, which explains why it loves warm temperatures and humidity.
So, how did this rainforest dweller become a wintertime staple? When exposed to chillier temperatures (around 65 degrees), this naturally green plant produces white tips, resembling the snowy frost holiday-goers crave on Christmas morning. It didn’t take long for the fad to take hold! And, really, who doesn’t love the looks of this plush little plant?
Frosty Fern Care Tips
If you’ve googled the Frosty Fern already, you’ve probably discovered conflicting advice on what type of lighting your plant requires. Why the difference?
The Frosty Fern is an under-canopy plant, which is shaded by larger trees in its natural environment. If you’re keeping your plant outdoors, mimic these conditions by placing your plant in the full shade. Chances are (if you’re reading this during the holidays), it’s much too cold for that! What are some tips that can help you care for your Frosty Fern inside?
Indoors, you should place your Frosty fern in medium, indirect light. Why? Here’s a plant owner’s sad fact of life: The brightest spot indoors provides your plant with less usable light (lumens) than the dimmest location outdoors. Seriously. If you don’t believe us, test it out with a light meter!
Plants that are unhappy with their lighting conditions will wilt within the first 2-3 hours of being in their new spot. Monitor your Frosty Fern closely immediately after relocating it.
Soil & Potting
Frosty Ferns prefer well-draining soil and have shallow roots. To improve drainage, add an extra handful of perlite to your prepackaged soil mix.
And as far as containers go, don’t select an overly deep pot. These plants are perfect candidates for “Azalea” sized pots, which are broader and shorter than traditional containers. Why does it matter? Using a pot that’s too deep will encourage smelly mildew, mold and can contribute to root rot.
During the growing season (Spring-Summer), you should re-water your plant when the topsoil is barely dry, and it should be just a little bit crumbly. If you’re reading this in the Fall-Winter, you should allow the first inch of soil to dry out before rewatering.
What’s the best Frosty Fern tip to care for your plant’s watering needs? Frosty Ferns prefer bottom watering, which makes them perfect candidates for a self-watering pot.
Let’s get one thing straight: Frosty Ferns require 70% humidity or higher. If you don’t give them enough, they will die… it doesn’t matter how many other things you get right!
Is misting enough? Clustering? A pebble tray? We wish we could say yes, but honestly… No. With the average American household hovering around 10% humidity, your best bet is to purchase a filterless humidifier and have it nearby.
In fact, routinely misting your Frosty Fern can interfere with its transpiration process (aka plant sweat), causing damage to its foliage and overall well-being. Your little plantie friend demands ambient, airborne humidity to stay healthy.
Contrary to their name, the Frosty Fern doesn’t like frosty conditions at all! These plants need temperatures ranging from 68-80 degrees. Keep your Frosty Fern away from chilly windowsills and drafty air vents. If conditions are too cold, your plant’s foliage will darken and droop.
What is a tip that can help you tell that you’re successfully caring for your Frosty Fern’s temperature needs? A healthy Frosty Fern is actually all green, with new lime-colored foliage emerging from the tips.
Frosty Ferns aren’t huge fertilizer fans. And, if you are holding a newly purchased plant, throw all of your fertilizing plans out the window! Freshly potted or newly purchased plants have enough nutrients in their soil to sustain your Frosty Fern’s little life for at least 6 months.
When should you fertilize? Only fertilize mature plants (that have been in their container for quite a while) during the Spring-Summer growing season. Use either a kelp-based fertilizer or an Orchid mix diluted to ¼ monthly.
Tips to Answer FAQ About Frosty Fern Care
Why is my Frosty Fern dark green and wilty?
So, your plant looks dark-dark green, its foliage is wilting, and it just looks, well… heavy. What’s the problem? Too much moisture. The culprit? Overwatering, misting, or cool temperatures. How can you fix it?
Double-check the temperature. Ensure your plant is staying in a 68-80 degree environment, away from any cold windows.
If you’re misting, stop.
Allow the soil to dry out further than usual.
Why are my leaves dying?
Is your Frosty Fern perky-green, but a shriveling mess? What’s the problem? Root burn. The culprit? Too much fertilizer. How can you fix it?
Stop your fertilizing routine.
Thoroughly top-water your plant. Allow the water to pour out of the drainage holes for several minutes to thoroughly flush the soil.
If you’ve used a slow-release fertilizer, repot. Did you put slow-release pellets on your plant? It’s time to give it some new soil.
Reevaluate the type of fertilizer you use. Okay, let’s just say: Don’t fertilize this plant for quite a while. But, if you do ever fertilize a Frosty Fern again, make sure you’re using the right product. Like what? Something low in nitrogen (preferably a fertilizer designed for Orchids or one that’s Kelp-based).
Why are some branches brown and crusty?
Do you have lower branches crisping up? What’s the problem? Too much light and too little water. How can you fix it?
Back your plant away from the window. Find a dimmer location.
Monitor your Frosty Fern’s moisture levels more closely. Remember to water when the topsoil is barely dry.
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