The Hart’s tongue fern is quite different from other ferns and its unique looks, shape, and growing pattern are the main sources of attraction. It derives its name from its fronds that resemble a male deer’s tongue.
This beautiful plant grows up to 24 inches both in height and width and it has leathery textured, shiny green leaves that add a pizzazz decorative touch to your spaces. For more details on growing a problem-free Hart’s tongue, read through this care guide.
- What Is Hart’s Tongue Fern?
- Hart’s Tongue Fern Care
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Hart’s Tongue Fern?
The Hart’s tongue fern is a slow-growing evergreen plant also known as Horse tongue fern or Christ’s hair fern.
It is native to Europe and hails from the Aspleniaceae genus. It has upright leaves or fronds that grow from its rhizomes and they bend over as they become large.
Hart’s Tongue Fern Care
Proper care is key to this plant’s growth and upkeep. It is very sensitive to its environment. Therefore, neglect or over-exposure to certain care needs will affect its performance and may even kill it.
Some of the damage that can be caused by poor care can be irreversible so you can’t afford to have your plant die on you.
– Water Requirements
This plant thrives in constantly moist environments throughout the year. These plants are quite thirsty, and they should be watered each time the few top inches of the potting soil dries out.
If not irrigated timely, the Hart’s tongue fern starts to wilt and may collapse if kept in dry soil for a long time. Although this fern proves to be a hands-on plant, you can mulch the soil to keep it moist for a long time, especially during your absence.
Although you need to keep the soil moist, make should sure it does not remain soggy for a long time. The Christ’s hair fern does not tolerate overwatering at all.
The availability of adequate drainage facilities is an important part of the Christ’s hair fern watering management. Please note that you should significantly cut back on watering during winter because the rate of evaporation and transpiration is low due to low temperatures.
We advise you not to practice overhead irrigation on this fern as wet leaves are susceptible to rot. You should apply water directly to the soil and, if by any chance the foliage gets wet, wipe it dry using a soft cloth.
In most cases, if you use tap water to irrigate your fern, elements like fluorides and chlorine settle in the soil causing growth problems. Purified water is the safest option when it comes to its irrigation.
– Light Requirements
This fern performs well when grown in intense to partial shade. You should expose this plant to bright indirect sunlight for not mot more than three hours per day.
Excessive sunlight exposure causes the leaves to turn yellow, thereby tarnishing the appearance of your plants. The best position where you can place this plant for adequate light exposure is close to a west or north-facing window.
In high sunlight environments, we recommend the use of blinds or curtains to protect your Horse tongue fern’s foliage from burns. The Horse’s tongue fern’s natural habitat has deep woods that provide it with heavy shade but, it also performs well in lightly shaded parts of the forests, so you should mimic these conditions.
This evergreen plant hates direct sunlight exposure, which burns its leaves and flowers. If you decide to grow your fern outdoors, consider a deeply shaded place like under leafy tree canopies.
– Soil Requirements
A well-draining soil that is rich in humus is best for the Horse tongue’s upkeep. This fern does well in heavy clay, sand, loam, and chalk that has a slightly acidic to highly acidic pH.
Although the Hart’s tongue fern is not picky on the soil type, it performs best in lightgrowing media that is not compacted. Despite the plant being tolerant to heavy and light soils, it does not like waterlogged types as they lead to root rot.
This fern also enjoys soils with high calcium content. You should use soils that do not get compacted. Also, be sure to use a disinfected tool to loosen the potting mix after every few waterings. Bear in mind that loose soil is vital for the fern’s root development as well as uninterrupted water and nutrient uptake.
– Temperature Requirements
Temperatures ranging from 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 18 degrees Celsius) are ideal for the Horse tongue fern’s upkeep. This fern hates hot temperatures. It is hardy to USDA Hardiness zones four and nine. This means that this fern can survive below-freezing temperatures, but you should keep it out of frost’s reach.
If grown outdoors we recommend that you move this plant indoors during cold periods especially, in winter.
You should not be confused by the low growth rate during winter because a prolonged stay in cold temperatures stunts the fern’s development. Please note that the fern’s feeding and watering should be increased as the temperatures increase.
Despite the spring and summer seasons being the active growing seasons, if temperatures rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) the fern’s growth and appearance are disrupted.
– Humidity Requirements
General indoor humidity levels are just not adequate for the Asplenium scolopendrium. Indoor humidity usually ranges from five to ten percent, which is too low for this fern.
The Hart’s tongue fern performs best in high humidity levels that are around 70 percent. The good news is that even if you want to grow this plant in a low-humidity place, there are certain moisture supplementing methods to consider.
We recommend the use of a humidifier as it can increase moisture levels around your plants by 50 to 60 percent which is fine for this fern. Another viable option to consider is the use of a pebble tray.
You just need to pour water that is enough to fill about three-quarters of the tray, put some pebbles inside, and place the pot on top. As the water evaporates from the pebble tray, it saturates the immediate environment with moisture.
If you use the pebble tray method, ensure that the roots do not get in contact with the water to avoid overwatering problems. We also advise you to move the Horse tongue fern into bathrooms where moisture is generally high. Given that the bathroom has enough light, the plant is more likely to flourish.
– Fertilizing Requirements
The Hart’s tongue fern is not a heavy feeder and does not need regular feeding. The fertilizing requirements for this fern depend on the type of potting mix it is grown on.
When grown on nutrient-rich, organic soil, less fertilizer is needed. If the soil mix has low or no organic supplements, you should fertilize the Asplenium scolopendrium once a month using liquid fertilizers diluted to half strength.
Please, note that you should water the soil first before fertilizing your plants. We recommend adequate fertilizing during the growing season to help the plant to develop vigorously and improve its appearance.
In winter, do not fertilize as the plant’s growth is very limited due to lower temperatures. Bear in mind that an over-fertilized plant risks burning its foliage and this may even lead to its demise.
– Pruning Requirements
Pruning is done to improve the appearance and well-being of your plants. It should be done during the onset of the growing season when chances of regrowth are high. You should use only sterilized tools to cut off any unwanted parts of your fern. In cases of disease infestation, we advise that you quickly remove the affected part before the entire plant is corrupted.
You should know that a neatly cut Hart’s tongue fern still looks appealing despite having only a few leaves. The fern’s foliage does not over-grow its spaces so pruning is usually done to remove old, damaged, and diseased leaves.
The Hart’s tongue fern can be propagated using plant division and spores methods. The best time to propagate this fern is during spring so that it gets enough time to develop as the growing season progresses.
– Propagation by Spores
The spore propagation method works best on the plant compared to all other fern varieties. The main reason is that this plant’s spores are very visible and you can easily distinguish the ripe spores from the unripe ones. Collect only the ripe spores and sow them in a humus-rich potting mix in early spring.
The soil should always be kept moist. You can cover the pot with plastic paper to discourage moisture loss.
Germination will take place in a few weeks and once the young fern plants are developed, you should repot them into separate pots. Keep them in a steady environment where care provisions do not fluctuate in any way until the leaves are at least 15 centimeters long. After that, you can now expose the new plants to the same growing conditions as the mature ones.
– Propagation by Division
To undertake propagation using the division method, use a sterilized knife or scissors to separate the young plants from their parent. Be gentle and make sure that the young plant’s roots remain intact. Clean off all the soil that remains attached to the plant and pot it into a humus-rich potting mix. Water the plant and keep the soil moist all the time.
Maintain high humidity levels and make sure the temperature is kept between 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 18 degrees Celsius). In a few weeks, the young plants will start showing signs of establishment and you will be good to go.
The Hart’s tongue is less susceptible to diseases and pests than other ferns. Carry out a regular inspection of the plant and deal with problems promptly.
You should look out for some intruders like the vine weevil grub, blackflies, capsids, and greenflies on your fern. The vine weevil grub feeds on the plant’s different parts, destroying its health and appearance. You should remove all the destroyed parts of the fern and apply pesticides to the rest of the foliage to prevent future infestations.
Blackflies and greenflies suck the sap out of the Horse tongue fern, thereby leading to stunted growth and weak-looking foliage. These flies also transmit viral diseases to the fern. On the other hand, capsids feed on the fern’s fronds, leaving white blotches on the leaves.
You should spray the plant’s foliage with a mild insecticide to prevent capsids. If the infestation is light, you can use Neem oil to eliminate them.
– Root Rot
The use of poorly drained potting soils is the main culprit to root rot. Additionally, pots without efficient drainage holes also increase the chances of root rot.
In short, root rot is caused by fungi that thrive in continuously soggy soils. Once the roots start to rot, the absorption of water and nutrients declines. thereby causing wilting, discoloration, and sickly-looking appearance of leaves.
Once you notice the symptoms of rotting, you should gently remove the plant from its pot and inspect its roots. Cut off all mushy or dead roots from the plant and repot it into a fresh potting mix. You should not reuse the once-infected soil to curb future rotting problems.
If the fern shows signs of rot and the situation is not solved earlier, rotting extends to the other parts of the plant. In this case, you should discard the whole plant as no chances of recovery will be left.
Frequently Asked Questions
– Is the Hart’s Tongue Fern Toxic to Pets?
No report has been heard about sickness or irritation caused by this fern. This means that both pets and children are safe around this plant. However, it is good to exercise caution around plants whose toxicity has not yet been established.
– Does the Hart’s Tongue Fern Flower Unlike Other Ferns?
If your fern is not producing flowers, do not be surprised. True ferns do not produce flowers and the Hart’s tongue is not an exception. Naturally, it reproduces asexually by dispersing its spores.
The Hart’s tongue fern is a very interesting plant as shown in this article but, sufficient care should be given to it for problem-free growth.
Let us jump to the main points once again.
- The Hart’s tongue fern performs well when grown in intense to partial shade and you should expose this plant to bright indirect sunlight for not more than three hours per day.
- Temperatures ranging from 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 18 degrees Celsius) are ideal for the Hart’s tongue fern’s upkeep.
- The Horse tongue fern enjoys high humidity, and such moisture levels are not present indoors. You should use a humidifier, or pebble tray, or move the plant into a bathroom.
- Despite Hart’s tongue being quite pest resistant, you should look out for some intruders like the vine weevil grub, blackflies, capsids, and greenflies.
The Hart’s tongue fern needs close attention from the grower due to its unusual properties. You should get one from trusted suppliers and spice up your places!
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