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Ferns are one of the most popular decorative plants today. Their wide leaves and unique spiky patterns are a unique addition to any plant corner in an apartment, house balcony, or garden. They are also easy to care for and versatile, with some varieties thriving outdoors while others make excellent houseplants.
You may be wondering if you can use the ever-popular ericaceous compost with ferns, and the answer depends on the type of fern you have.
Some ferns prefer acidic soil, so ericaceous compost is a great choice for them. Other ferns grow best in neutral or slightly alkaline soil, and the pH of ericaceous compost would be too low for them.
Here is your guide to picking out the right compost for your ferns.
What Makes Ericaceous Compost Special?
Ericaceous compost is different from regular compost in a few ways. It contains high contents of organic matter such as leaves and pine needles in addition to a loam-based or peat-based soil (although peat is less common now due to regulations around peat harvesting).
The high organic matter content makes ericaceous compost unique in a few ways. First, it is rich in organic nutrients, which help sustain plants as they grow. It also drains well, helping plants retain water without waterlogging their roots.
Finally, the most distinctive feature of ericaceous compost is its low pH levels. This compost is acidic, making it the ideal material for plants that love acidic soil.
What Are Ferns?
Ferns are some of the most ancient beings still living in the world today. These plants date back to prehistoric times.
Ferns don’t have flowers or buds but have fronds that come in all shapes and sizes. These fronds are highly decorative, and their unique patterns are why ferns are so prized as houseplants today.
There are thousands of fern varieties out there, all differing in terms of living conditions, size, shape, and many other factors. While ferns are hardy, the exact conditions under which they thrive differ from variety to variety.
Look up gardening instructions for your specific fern type before you plant it to get an idea of what type of compost and care your fern will need.
Can You Use Ericaceous Compost with Ferns?
In some ways, ericaceous compost is ideal for many fern varieties. Ferns thrive in soil with plenty of organic matter because they need plenty of nutrients to grow. Because ericaceous compost is rich in nutrients and organic matter, it seems like a great compost choice for ferns.
However, this compost is not the best choice for all fern varieties due to its low pH levels. Many fern varieties prefer to grow in neutral or even slightly alkaline soils, and ericaceous compost would be too acidic for them.
On the other hand, there are plenty of fern varieties that prefer acidic soil (which makes sense since there are thousands of species of ferns out there).
Which Ferns Do Best in Ericaceous Compost?
Here is a list of some fern species that will thrive in ericaceous compost because they grow well in acidic soil. This is by no means a comprehensive list because there are thousands of fern varieties, but it covers some of the most popular ferns that are sold as houseplants or garden plants.
- Tree ferns. Tree ferns are ferns that have a thick core that resembles a tree trunk from which fronds sprout like tree branches. One of the most common varieties is the Australian tree fern, a species that develops a brown trunk-like stem when mature and resembles a palm tree. Tree ferns can grow in containers when young and directly in the ground as they mature, and they prefer acidic soil, making them ideal ericaceous compost candidates.
- Boston ferns. The Boston fern is another popular fern variety among houseplant lovers. Boston ferns are plants with feather-like fronds that can be several feet large and look great in hanging planters. They grow best in slightly acidic, nutrient-rich, and well-moistened soil, which you can get by adding ericaceous compost.
- Flowering ferns. Although almost all fern species don’t have flowers or proper leaves, the flowering fern is an exception. Planting this fern in ericaceous compost will satisfy its need for acidic soil and give the plant enough nutrients for the flowers to thrive.
What Are Other Tips for Taking Care of Ferns?
Once you know which soil type your fern will thrive in, it is time to get ready for planting. Prepare your garden bed or pot with ericaceous compost (or organic compost if you are planting an alkaline-loving variety) since ferns need plenty of nutrients to grow.
Be sure to pick a spot that is sheltered from the wind and gets at least some sunlight.
After planting your fern, these plants need regular watering. Water from the roots because getting water on the fronds or crown can cause rot.
Most mature ferns don’t need watering when outside but monitor your ferns during dry spells and water them when you notice the soil drying out too much. Ferns do best in wet conditions and might not survive if they dry out completely.
Ferns are perennial plants, which means that they come back year after year. Some are evergreen varieties, meaning that they look similar all year round. Others are deciduous.
Don’t panic if you notice your deciduous fern looking as if it’s dying in the winter; it’s normal for deciduous plants to turn brown or lose their leaves and fronds when the cold weather hits and they go dormant.
It is hard to give definitive advice about caring for ferns because there is so much variety between the different species. Some ferns thrive in acidic soil, while others prefer neutral or alkaline conditions.
For ferns that prefer acidic soil, such as tree ferns and Boston ferns, ericaceous compost is a great planting idea. The compost has enough organic nutrients for ferns to thrive and retains moisture, making it perfect for water-loving ferns.