Kangaroo fern care, unlike other ferns, is simpler because it is much more adaptable to indoor conditions and less picky, and it can be successfully grown by those without much gardening experience. This 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.
Continue reading this complete guide to see how you can make your fern thrive!
JUMP TO TOPIC
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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 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!
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 another pot that is an inch larger.
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!
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.
This is how you can propagate through rhizome division:
- 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.
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.
This is how you can propagate through spores:
- 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 shake off the sheets with dried spores of fine dust particles.
- 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 them without a protective cover.
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 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a Kangaroo Fern be used in a vertical garden?
Yes, Kangaroo Ferns can be used in vertical gardens due to their ability to grow upwards and tolerate varying light conditions. Make sure to provide the ideal conditions when it comes to light exposure, temperature, watering, humidity, etc.
How do you revive a dying Kangaroo Fern?
To revive a dying Kangaroo Fern, try trimming back any dead or damaged fronds, adjusting its watering schedule to ensure proper moisture, and providing adequate light and humidity.