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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - April 10, 2013

From: Lancaster, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Container Gardens, Ferns
Title: Yellowing fern houseplants from Lancaster PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have fern houseplants about 9 to 12 months old and they are turning yellow. I don't overwater and they get good light. They are growing well but I don't understand the yellowing and falling off! Hmmmm??? Do you have any answers?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is not too smart about house plants, because they tend to be non-natives that can withstand the stresses of living indoors. There are some ferns native to North America, which is where our interests lie, but not many. First, we suggest you read our How-to Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants. Even these are generally meant to be grown outside in the climate, soils and rainfall usual to which the plants are native. So, let us point you at some websites that can better address your situation:

University of Vermont Extension: Growing Ferns Successfully Indoors

Guide to Houseplants: Types of Ferns to Grow Indoors

University of Rhode Island Indoor Ferns

Turns out there are actually 66 ferns native to Pennsylvania, so we chose some for you to look at, in the interest of preserving our advocacy for native plants. You will note from the pictures that they are all shown growing in their natural state outside, so we don't know how any of them would do as indoor plants.

Asplenium resiliens (Blackstem spleenwort)

Athyrium filix-femina (Common ladyfern)

Chaptalia tomentosa (Woolly sunbonnets)

Diplazium pycnocarpon (Glade fern)

Dryopteris cristata (Crested woodfern)

Dryopteris marginalis (Marginal woodfern)

Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern)

Pellaea atropurpurea (Purple cliffbrake)

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern)

Pteridium aquilinum (Western bracken fern)

Pteridium aquilinum var. pseudocaudatum (Bracken fern)

Woodwardia areolata (Netted chainfern)

 

From the Image Gallery


Cinnamon fern
Osmunda cinnamomea

Common lady fern
Athyrium filix-femina

Woolly lipfern
Cheilanthes tomentosa

Glade fern
Diplazium pycnocarpon

Crested woodfern
Dryopteris cristata

Marginal woodfern
Dryopteris marginalis

Cinnamon fern
Osmunda cinnamomea

Purple cliffbrake
Pellaea atropurpurea

Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides

Western bracken fern
Pteridium aquilinum

Bracken fern
Pteridium aquilinum var. pseudocaudatum

Netted chainfern
Woodwardia areolata

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