Caring for Frozen Ferns and Other Selaginellas

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Is your Frosty fern looking a little pale around the gills after the holidays? Here are some tips on how to keep it healthy.

The frozen fern that is often marketed as a Christmas plant today is not actually a fern. Although it is called club moss or spike moss, it is not a moss. So, if you received or purchased one during the holiday season, you should make a note of its true identity: Selaginella crassiana Varigata.

The “rim” at the tips of its feathery foliage comes from the variety, so this selaginella is naturally slightly pale around the “gills”. But if it looks really sick, remember that it prefers moderate light, high humidity, and cool night temperatures.

Fern root

In accordance with plant book Selaginellas are “evergreen rhizomatous perennials found mainly in tropical and warm temperate regions.” So, despite its wintry name, your frost fern probably won’t survive the coldest of outdoor climates. Selaginella crassiana It is hardy, with that plant book specifying USDA zones 9 through 11, while PlantFiles goes up to zone 6. A native of African rainforests, it grows along rivers there or under trees at forest edges and rarely grows taller than 4. Inch selaginellas tend to have more leathery foliage than ferns, but have similar care needs.

Selaginella kraussiana under boxwood

So, you’ll want to provide them with humus-rich soil and plenty of moisture, in a position where the midday sun won’t burn them. that in An unexpected houseplantTuva Martin suggests using them as a cover for looser houseplants, just like the outdoor selaginellas carpeting the ground under the boxwood pictured above.

If Frosty Fern reminds you too much of real frost, you might want to try ‘Aurea’, which has gold tips instead of silver tips. For even more color, choose Peacock Moss (Selaginella uncinata) is shown below with its iridescent blue-green foliage.

A cool mist humidifier will do wonders for you houseplants and benefit your family too.

Selaginella uncinata

Raising the frosty fern

As I learned the hard way, you don’t want to expose gym moss to the summer sun. I bought Selaginella braunii, a lime green variety, from a nursery last spring along with some flowering plants. Then I casually dropped them all on a table in the open until I ran into them. Since I intended the selaginella to be a houseplant, even though it is hardy to zone 6, I left it on that table until fall. At that time the foliage color seemed more suitable for another Selaginella – ‘Brownii’.

Fortunately, when I moved it to a north-facing ledge in my bathroom next to a maidenhair fern, it started to green up again, although the fronds are now somewhat sparse. (That window looks out on a white roof, so it gets more reflected light than most north-facing windows.) An east-facing window in a similarly humid location, such as over a kitchen sink, should also work. slow And even the smallest selaginellas can do a good job of creating a mossy “lawn” inside your terrarium, too.

You should keep the soil of the plant slightly moist and occasionally mist the foliage. Selaginella reportedly doesn’t like temperatures at either end of the scale, but temperatures between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit should be fine, especially if it drops to 55 to 65 degrees at night.

Selaginella lepidophila

Grow your resurrection ferns with these dried plant pellets. A fun experiment for kids

Fern’s frost-resistant relative

Speaking of extremes, one of the most well-known selaginellas is the resurrection fern.Selaginella lepidophila) the image above. similar to the rose of Jerusalem or Jericho (Anastatica hierochuntica) is a desert species that can be revived after months of ringing and Not dying. However, the selajinellas of the rainforest are not familiar with this parlor trick. If you let them dry that far, they will probably fall off pretty decisively.

Something like the little European cypress trees sprinkled with fake snow, half-hidden on the bottom shelf of a local convenience store in early January, looking like they haven’t been watered since Thanksgiving. A little sneaky pinching convinced me that most of them were dead, but I guilted the poor clerk into giving me a discount for the least fragile one.

I’m still waiting to see if it revives so please don’t treat your frosty fern like a passing holiday, because with a little care it should be able to decorate next year’s celebration as well.


Photos: Selaginella kraussiana photo by Toxicodendron, Peacock Moss photo by DaylilySLP, and Resurrection Fern photo by Arsenic, all from Dave’s Garden PlantFiles. The banner image is a stock photo.

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