Kangaroo fern is a lush and elegant houseplant from the family Polypodiaceae, originating from the warm parts of Australia and New Zealand, where the temperatures do not fall below the freezing point. It is an atypical fern species because its foliage is not lacy serrated but entire, elongated, and slightly bent, making the plant significantly different from other family members. In addition, unlike other ferns, this one is much more adaptable to indoor conditions and less picky, and it can be successfully grown by those without much gardening experience.
What Is Kangaroo Fern
Kangaroo fern is a herbaceous perennial that grows from a rhizome root typical of all ferns. The fronds of the kangaroo fern are dark green, shiny and leathery, growing to 6 inches in length. The formation of adult leaves is similar to the print of a kangaroo paw, which is why the plant was named kangaroo fern, kangaroo paw fern, and kangaroo foot fern. It is not a large plant, it grows up to 12 inches in height, but it spreads quickly and can grow several feet in width.
– Kangaroo Fern Growth Rate
In its natural habitat or planted outdoors in a garden plant where climatic conditions allow it, the rhizome spreads underground, so the plant forms dense colonies and plantations. Kangaroo fern indoor, in a pot, grows fast if the conditions are ideal. It will reach mature size during one or two seasons.
Moreover, in the absence of space, the rhizome produces thick root-like stems that emerge from the pot and on which new leaves grow, making interesting creations of shape and texture. Due to these properties, kangaroo fern can also be grown in hanging pots, where their playful form will come to full expression.
– Kangaroo Fern Flowers
Like all ferns, kangaroo fern does not produce flowers because it is not propagated by seeds but by spores that form on the back of the leaves and resemble brown dust. Fern flowers are a myth because they are not scientifically possible. However, this in no way diminishes their decorativeness. Kangaroo fern, like other ferns, will unquestionably enrich any space with pleasant greenery of its irregular fronds even though it does not bloom!
How To Care for Kangaroo Fern
Most species of ferns that are grown as potted plants indoors might be demanding to maintain. Fortunately, kangaroo fern is a modest houseplant that is not particularly difficult to provide conditions to grow into profuse green decoration. To create an environment in which this tropical plant feels comfortable, follow our tips listed below.
– Kangaroo Fern Light Requirements
In general, ferns are known as plants that can grow quite successfully in shaded habitats. They are often seen at the edges of forests or at the foot of tall trees whose canopies are not too dense.
Kangaroo fern is no exception and likes such conditions. Indeed, it is more tolerant of lack of light than many other houseplants, but this does not mean that the plant will thrive in a dark corner where sunlight never reaches. It can tolerate some shade, but it will grow more vigorously if it gets sophisticated, indirect, filtered light.
Therefore, place it at least five feet from the south window, two to three feet from the west window, or along the east or north window. In nature, this is a plant that is never exposed to the bright midday sun, which can burn its leaves. Kangaroo fern fits perfectly with the botanical rule that plants with dark green leaves tolerate shade better than direct sunlight!
– Kangaroo Fern Water Requirements
Watering kangaroo fern might seem somewhat demanding, especially for inexperienced growers, since the plant needs continuously moist but not soaked soil. The ground in which it grows in its natural habitat is protected from bright sunlight, making water evaporate slowly. Therefore, the soil never completely dries out and always retains a certain level of moisture. Kangaroo fern house plant requires similar conditions. Compared to other ferns, kangaroo fern is a little more tolerant of the lack of water in the soil, but proper and regular watering still is a crucial factor in its cultivation.
How to water kangaroo fern
Even moisture in the soil is unusually compelling for this plant, so the classic watering by pouring water on the surface of the substrate is often an inefficient method. In a well-permeable substrate, water drains quickly, leaving some parts of the soil in the pot parts completely dry.
Therefore, it is best to immerse the pot with your plant in another one filled with water. After about ten minutes, you could remove the pot with the plant and leave it to drain. Repeat this procedure every week from spring to autumn when the plant grows intensively. During the week, between two irrigations, check that the soil on the surface is dry to a depth of one inch and, if necessary, classically pour a little more water.
In winter, when the plant does not grow intensively, its water needs decrease, so water it less frequently, approximately when half of the substrate in the pot is dry. The thickened rhizome roots of the plant accumulate water and, it is better not to overdo it with watering when the plant is stagnant.
Avoid tap water and leaves wetting
When it comes to watering, you should avoid using cold water directly from the tap. This plant does not like the chemicals that this water contains, so water it with stagnant soft water at room temperature or rainwater if you can collect it. Also, you should avoid wetting the foliage when watering, and always pour water along the edge of the pot under the leaves. Water droplets that remain in its densely leafy crown are an excellent medium for fungal disease development!
Mulch the plant base
One of the ways to simplify the watering process is to put a pine straw mulch on the substrate surface. The mulch will prevent the substrate from drying out too quickly and retain moisture in the soil. The thickness of the straw cover depends on the diameter of the container. This layer should be at least one or two inches thick in containers with a diameter of 10 or more inches.
– Kangaroo Fern Soil Requirements
Kangaroo fern requires slightly acidic, loose, airy, well-drained soil rich in organic materials. In a firm and compacted soil, the roots cannot perform their function, which causes the plant to decay. Therefore, add equal parts of perlite compost and pine or orchid barks to the standard potting soil.
You can also add one handful of humus to the mixture to maintain the PH range between 5.5 and 6.5, ideal for growing kangaroo fern. Rough blend components, such as pine or orchid barks, will contribute to soil permeability, and compost will allow the soil to retain the required amount of the mixture.
– Kangaroo Fern Humidity Requirements
When growing kangaroo fern indoors, you should also pay special attention to the level of humidity in the air. Namely, these indoor plants grow in a shady environment with elevated humidity caused by the evaporation of surrounding vegetation and slow soil evaporation. Therefore, the ideal humidity level is around 75 percent and above.
How To Increase Moisture Level
As already mentioned, although spraying is an undemanding and practical method, it is not desirable in the case of kangaroo fern. However, do not take this as an obstacle to the cultivation of this plant because other equally effective methods will also do the job. A humidifier is one of them. You could install the life-saving gadget and forget the elevated humidity issue.
The next, even easier way is to group the plants in one part of the space creating a microenvironment similar to that in which plants grow in nature.
Then, you can place the plant in a bright bathroom or kitchen, two areas where the humidity level is always higher compared to other rooms.
All these methods are related to creating ideal conditions. It is not to say that the plant can not grow even when the humidity level is below the desired value. On the contrary, kangaroo fern is adaptable enough to survive in standard living room conditions where the humidity level is around 30 to 40 percent. However, there is a big difference between surviving and thriving. The latter means a healthier and lush plant.
– Kangaroo Fern Temperature Requirements
Kangaroo fern is not resistant to frost or low temperatures. It thrives best at temperatures between 60 and 70 F. If the temperature often rises significantly above 70 F or drops below 50 F, your plant cannot adapt to such conditions and may die.
Therefore, it needs a stable, moderately warm environment in which the daytime temperature does not exceed 70 F and the night temperature does not fall below 55 F. In other words, a room that is evenly heated throughout the year is ideal for growing this plant.
You can take the plant outside to enjoy the open space and constant airflow in the warm summer months. Find a shaded position on the balcony, in the garden, or on the terrace, sheltered from direct sunlight. Pleasant shade where you like to stay in the summer is a condition where your kangaroo fern will feel comfortable too.
Like all plants of similar origin, kangaroo fern can grow outdoors only in areas with very mild winters. If you live in the US climate zone 9 to 11, you can enrich some shaded corner of your garden with this gorgeous plant without fear that it will perish in the colder months. However, for preventive purposes, you could mulch the base of the plant. Its root is shallow enough that a sudden drop in temperature can damage it.
If the mixture in which you planted kangaroo fern is enriched with humus or compost, additional feeding during the growing season comes down to adding a liquid fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 14:14:14 diluted to half the recommended concentration once a month. These plants thrive well with nutrients that the well-combined soil contains so that additional fertilization is not even necessary.
In the absence of organic materials, you can add a small amount of slow-release granular fertilizer with the same pH ratio, always following the instructions on the package. Excessive feeding damages the root system and can cause the exact opposite effect than expected. Therefore, if you are not sure whether you need to feed the plant or not, you could start with small amounts to see the plant’s reaction. Adding nutrients is easy- the problem is its excess!
– Kangaroo Fern Repotting
When it comes to transplanting, you do not have to rush! Only when the rhizomes fill the pot and parts of the roots start to appear through the drainage holes can you transplant your kangaroo fern into one inch larger one. It means that it can spend at least two or three years in the same container. Moreover, being root-bound does not seem to be a problem for the plant!
How To Propagate Kangaroo Fern
You can propagate Kangaroo fern in several ways. The most common one is dividing adult plants, but you can also do this by germinating spores, plantlets, or air-layering.
– Rhizome Division
Kangaroo growing rate is pretty high, and the plant quickly fills the pot with rhizome root from which new leaves sprout. In the spring of every second or third year, when you transplant your kangaroo paw fern, if you do not want to plant it in a new, larger one, it is an ideal opportunity to divide the plant and get a few new specimens. The procedure looks like this.
- Take the plant out of the pot and clean the roots from the ground.
- Divide the roots with your hands, sterilized scissors, or a knife so that each part has several leaves.
- Plant the babies in a prepared pot with a loose substrate, best identical to the one in which the plant previously grew.
- Water the plant after the procedure, but do not fertilize it until next spring.
– Propagation by Spores
It is the natural fern reproduction process. Yet, Mother Nature is in no hurry, and the process itself can take months! Therefore, if you opt for this method, you must first and foremost be patient. If you still are interested in trying, here is a step by step procedure:
- When the spores on the back of the leaves turn brown, it is a sign that they are mature enough for propagation.
- Cut the frond with spores and put it in a paper envelope.
- After seven days, open the envelope, and dried spores of fine dust particles with dust shake off the sheets.
- Prepare a planter filled with a combination of peat moss and substrate. The mixture should be moderately moist.
- Sprinkle spores on the surface and cover the container with a plastic bag or lit.
- Place the installation in a warm spot without direct sunlight. Constant humidity of the substrate stimulates germination, so do not allow the surface to dry.
- A few weeks later, tiny green disc-like seedlings will appear on the surface. In the next few months, these discs will grow into small fern leaves.
- When the leaves have grown enough that you can handle them, transplant the babies into individual pots and continue to grow without a protective cover.
Kangaroo Fern Problems
If you have provided acceptable conditions, as we have described in the article, cultivating kangaroo fern will be an effortless pleasure. If some of the conditions are not met, then it is possible to face the following problems:
- Dropping fronds are the result of a lack of moisture in the soil. You should pay more attention to irrigation because the plant does not grow in dry soil.
- Yellowing of leaves is a consequence of excessive watering and excess water in the substrate. Stop watering the plant for the next ten days until the substrate dries and remove the yellow leaves.
- Brown, necrotic surfaces on the leaves are an indicator of excessive exposure to direct light. Your plant needs a shady position!
- Brown, dark, mushy spots on the upper surface of the leaves indicate fungal diseases caused by stagnant air by poor air circulation between the leaves and an excessively humid environment. Cut off the infected leaves, ventilate the area or bring the plant closer to the light source. If necessary, you can apply one of the standard fungicides and treat the plant with it.
It seems that kangaroo fern is not particularly interesting to pests on houseplants. However, this does not mean that it is resistant to them because it can be occasionally exposed to their attack. Most often, these are aphids, mealy bugs, and spider mites.
The latter is especially common if the air in the room is dry. These tiny pests easily hide in the dense crown of the plant. They feed on plant sap, drill holes in the leaves and cause leaf twisting or discoloration.
If you notice these symptoms, use a neem oil solution, insecticidal soap, or a mild chemical insecticide to control pests.
The elegant kangaroo fern is an ideal fern type for growing at home or in the office. It tolerates reduced amounts of light well and adapts to indoor conditions. It is more modest and less fuzzy than most other indoor ferns, making it a good choice even for inexperienced growers. All you need to do is provide the following:
- Once a week, from spring to autumn, immerse the plant in a bowl of water and let the substrate soak well. During the week, add a little more water if the substrate dries too quickly.
- Avoid wetting the leaves and pour water under the crown directly on the substrate. In winter, reduce watering.
- The optimal humidity level that kangaroo fern requires is 75 percent, but the plant can survive at much lower values.
- Kangaroo fern is not resistant to frost and thrives best at temperatures between 60 and 70 F.
- The soil in which you plant your kangaroo fern plant should be nutritious, loose, and well permeable, with slightly acidic reactions ranging between pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
- Feed the plant once a month with a liquid fertilizer diluted to half of the recommended concentration.
- You do not have to prune it; it is enough to remove withered or damaged leaves regularly.
- Transplant it in spring every second or third year. You could plant it in a bigger container or divide it to get more kangaroo fern plants.
If you like lush plants with unusual leaf shapes and playful formation, opt for the kangaroo fern and ennoble an empty shady corner in your home. It will make a magnificent difference indeed!
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