The other day, I had a call from a Horizon House resident. She had an unusual fern that was not doing well at all. She wondered if I’d come and take a look at it and perhaps dispense some advice. That request still scares me with indoor plants, but lots of the outdoor knowledge spills into the realm of indoor plants. Also, it’s a good way for me to learn. So, down to her room I went.
The first thing I did was to request that she bring it down to (my) nose level, since it was ensconced on a high shelf. As she did that, it became obvious that the plant was drowning. The outer pot was filled with water, almost to the level of the ferns soil filled pot. So the first thing I suggested was that she pour out that water, which she did. Just as a note, in the half hour between the time we did that, and I left, another inch of water drained from the soil. This was surely a case of over-watering. Unfortunately, this plant was high up and difficult to water. Because of this, she just watered it every week (or whenever) not seeing what the water level was. This is a very normal thing to do, but a good example of why you should feel the surface of the soil before you water. IF IT IS WET, DO NOT WATER.
The next quick observation I made was that there were salts collected on top of the soil. That is when a white collection appears on the surface of the soil. There are two things to do to get rid of the salts. One is to soak the soil, which in this case would be counterproductive. Or else to scrape it off and re-pot the plant. This was what I suggested she do.
In re-potting, I told her to remove any rotted roots so the good ones weren’t hindered by the dead ones. I also said that I was not entirely hopeful that this plant would survive. At this point, it appeared that she had nothing to lose.
It was a fern I had never seen before. Mary Margaret said it was at least 40 years old, as she had gotten it from her mother. It was sure showing it’s age.
When I got back to my computer, I did a Google search to identify the fern and check out how to best care for it. It is pretty unusual and is a Cotton Candy Fern. I’ve given you a link here so you can look it up.
I also told Mary Margaret that I had a planned trip to a local plant nursery the next day, with another Potting Room Committee member and would inquire about it, which I did!
The gal I spoke with agreed it was an unusual fern. She could never remember having seen one. However, she agreed with everything I had suggested, which made me feel pretty good. But, she went on to say that given the extent of the over-watering, she would be very surprised if there was ANY sign of roots at all. Hmmm…
This morning, I got a note from Mary Margaret, who had gone to the Potting Room, and began the process of re-potting, only to find that there were NO ROOTS LEFT. They were all rotted. So, MM put what was left into the soil, and is hoping for the best. I have the feeling that this plant will need to be replaced, but it was certainly a good exercise for both of us. MM learned to check the soil, and I learned a ton about ferns!