The kangaroo paw fern is an easy-to-grow epiphytic fern house plant. Also called kangaroo foot fern or microsorum diversifolium, the foliage has leathery and glossy green fronds that are unevenly shaped, spreading outwards by at least three feet or more.
This makes it a complete delight to grow and in this one-stop care guide, you find all the information that you will need to care for the plant.
Our experts list out tips and tricks and give you a complete run-down of all the challenges you may face while growing it and also some quick-fix solutions to tackle them all, read on!
- What Is Kangaroo Paw Fern?
- Kangaroo Paw Fern Care
What Is Kangaroo Paw Fern?
Kangaroo paw fern is a low-maintenance house plant belonging to the fern family. The plant has both rich and leathery foliage inclusive of perennial large fronds with flowers that cluster at the tip of stalks. The plant is an absolute beauty and can grab sight easily.
Kangaroo Paw Fern Care
Kangaroo fern care is easy and the tufted rhizomatous foliage does not require complex conditions to thrive and grow. This makes it a delight to grow even by beginner-level gardeners.
Provide it with adequate light, well-draining soil, and moderate levels of warmth and humidity and the plant is good to go. In this section below, read out experts speak about each of these care aspects so that you can maintain the plant in a hassle-free and fuss-free way.
– Water Requirements
Paw ferns are moderate feeders and thrive well when the soil is consistently moist, remembering that water is one of the key factors which will help in maintaining a thriving fern. It is important to note that the plant does best when watered with distilled water or rainwater, in addition, this plant has to be watered once a week.
It will be under stressful conditions in both situations- overly watered as well as being under-watered. Thus, you must avoid both situations to keep the foliage lush green and going. Increase frequency of watering if the weather outside is hot and sultry.
You must not let the soil become completely dry or go bone dry as the transpiration rate of ferns are quite high and hence moisture is required at all times. A completely dried-out plant will shed its leaves extensively and the tips will turn brown so keep the top inch of the soil moist but not soggy.
On the other hand, the roots should not sit in pools of water as this prevents them from taking in oxygen from the soil, leading to wilting of the foliage.
– Light Requirements
The kangaroo fern light needs to be bright yet indirect sunlight. Do not overexpose it to direct sunlight as the leathery leaves can get scorched easily and the foliage can turn yellow. At the same time, the plant will not tolerate low light conditions. Place it in a dingy and dark corner and the plant is surely going to exhibit slow and stunted growth.
You can also place it in a semi-closed space such as a patio, as long as it receives a minimum of four hours of indirect sunlight every day. In case you are growing it indoors, move it near a window where it can receive maximum morning sunlight. In addition, you could also place it under artificial grow lights to meet its requirement indoors.
If you are growing kangaroo paw fern outdoors, protect it from harsh and direct light, for a long time, by placing it under larger trees which will form a natural canopy. Alternatively, place a garden sheet to create a greenhouse effect and some diffused light.
– Soil Requirements
Kangaroo paw fern grows properly in well-draining soil that is light and porous. They will not prefer heavy or loamy soil as these retain a lot of moisture.
The soil needs to be just slightly moist and not soggy, overly saturated, or bone dry. The best way to make the soil light is to throw in some perlite, orchid bark, and pine bark to improve drainage and increase aeration.
Additionally, you could also throw in some coco coir. Keeping the soil porous and loose helps the roots to spread in the soil and absorb adequate oxygen for the well-being of the plant. You may also add in some organic compost to increase the nutrition in the soil.
– Temperature Requirements
Grow the paw fern plant in moderate levels of warmth between a temperature range of 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remember that the warm climates aid it to sustain its perennial and evergreen fronds and keep the foliage bushy. Avoid temperatures lower than this ideal range as the plant will be stressed out resulting in brittle and crisp fronds.
Keep the plant away from cold drafts, frost conditions, and chilly winds, and move it indoors during the winter months to grow it under artificial grow lights.
Additionally, do not overexpose to hot and sultry weather which wilts the fronds and makes them brown and curl inwards.
In such a scenario you could consider moving into semi-closed spaces or under a greenhouse to provide it with some cooler temperatures. Do not subject the plant to sudden fluctuations in temperature as well, the latter will easily stress the plant.
– Humidity Requirements
Similar to the Boston fern variant, kangaroo paw ferns like moderate levels of humidity above 50 percent. So if you are growing your plant in a dry zone, you will have to mist the air around it to kick in some moisture.
Alternatively, you could use a pebble tray below the plant filled with water and as this water evaporates it will provide the plant with some much-needed humidity. In addition, another option would be investing in a humidifier.
You could also group it with other plants so that it could benefit from collective humidity. If you are growing your plant indoors where the humidity may be considerably low, use a humidifier or a pebble tray to meet the plant’s needs.
– Fertilizing Requirements
The plant is a moderate feeder and does well with a diluted liquid fertilizer once a month, especially during the growth phase of the plant, in the spring and summer months. Do not over-fertilize or apply the formula in winters as this could lead to fertilizer burn making the plant bear a wilted look along with browned leaves.
On the other hand, organic compost in the soil is also a great option that will aid to keep the soil well-nourished, as they won’t be receiving harsh amounts of minerals.
The fronds can spread wide thus pruning will help to control and keep the plant in the desired shape. The plant has a reasonably fast growth rate so pruning will aid in keeping the plant looking good and also curtail the spread of pests and fungal and bacterial diseases.
Regularly prune back dead or decayed stems with the help of sterilized garden knives. Check for pest infestations and fungal spots at this time and snip away any sections that seem susceptible.
You can propagate the plant in an easy and hassle-free manner using some seeds, fern spores, and rhizome division, without looking out for kangaroo fern for sale.
Keep some basic gardening tools such as a sharp and sterile garden pruner, potting mix, and pot or container with proper drainage holes and you will be able to create your delightful fern varieties.
In this below section, our experts give you the complete process in a step-by-step manner. Read on to get all the information and grow a kangaroo paw successfully.
– Propagation Method Rhizome Division
The right season for kangaroo paw fern propagation is in the warm months of spring and summer when the roots will be able to establish themselves healthily. Avoid the cold days of winter as the plants enter a state of dormancy thus achieving success is more long drawn. Here are the steps you will have to undertake to propagate kangaroo fern through division.
Begin by picking up a healthy and mature kangaroo fern and expose the rhizomes. With the help of sharp and sterile garden pruners, divide the plant in such a way that the cut section has some fronds as well as some rhizomes intact in it.
Now, you must plant the divided section in a sterile pot with a well-draining potting mix. In a few weeks, this divided rhizome section will establish itself as an independent plant. See, you have successfully propagated the kangaroo fern using the rhizome division method.
However, in order to maintain the care for the plant, it is key to water it properly. Water your fern regularly with a frequency of at least once a week. This however depends on the season and climate you are growing it in, which means if there is excessive humidity in the air, reduce watering to once in ten days.
Just ensure the topsoil is moist by at least an inch. Remember to scale back in winters, increase frequency during hot days, and do not overwater the plant as the plant can tolerate short spells of drought but seldom likes soggy soil.
– Propagation Method Through Seeds
As much as propagating through seeds is an easy process, it is far slower in developing into a plant in comparison to the division method. Read the way you can go about it below.
Pick ripe fruits from the plant after kangaroo paw fern flowers, after which you must empty the seeds and dry them out. Place multiple seeds in soil spaced out evenly and cover them with a thin layer of potting mix. Let them rest for the germinating process under a warm spot and the soil lightly moist.
It may take an average time of two or three weeks for the seeds to sprout. It may be months before these tiny sprouts will individually grow into plants, but the key here is to be patient.
– Propagation Method Through Fern Spores
By harvesting spores from healthy fronds, you can propagate a new fern. First and foremost, begin by picking up a healthy frond and putting it in a plastic bag, allowing it to dry out inside it for a few days. After the leaf has completely dried out, slightly shake the plastic bag and let the dry spores fall to the bottom.
Collect these spores and place them in a potting mix within a pot with good drainage holes. Place this pot in a warm and sunny spot covered with a plastic bag with tiny holes to kick in humidity.
In a few weeks, you will notice a slimy green coating forming at the surface of the potting mix. This is an indication that the process of spore propagation has begun.
Wait for a few more months and you will begin to notice tiny fronds beginning to appear out of the slime. Over the months these fronds will develop independently growing into mature and adult ferns.
While growing the plant you are most likely going to encounter some fairly common challenges. These are easy to tackle and in this section below we address them in detail. Our experts list out the problems and also provide you with exhaustive tips and tricks to handle each one of them. Read on to know it all.
– Kangaroo Ferns Turning Brown
Do you notice the fronds of your ferns turning brown? Then it could be because of several reasons. Some of the most common reasons for the fronds to turn brown are low humidity, underwatering, overexposure to sunlight, or high temperatures. You will have to tackle each of these issues appropriately to get the plant back on track.
The plant requires a humidity level of 50 percent so if you are growing it in a dry zone, mist the plant often, group it with other plants or use a pebble tray below the pot. Water the ferns thoroughly such that the soils are slightly moist but not overly saturated.
Provide the plant with adequate bright yet diffused sunlight by placing it in partially closed spaces or under natural tree canopies. Too much light can harm the plant by scorching the leaves.
Keep the plant under cool temperatures and always away from an air conditioner or heater vents that blast sudden air. Apart from the above-mentioned, another overlooked reason for browning is if the plant is root bound.
Check the pot or container and if you find the roots sticking out of drainage holes it is an indication that the plant is indeed roots bound and it’s time to transplant it. Move the plant to a pot one inch bigger and the plant should limp back to life.
– Pest Infestations
The kangaroo fern can be infected by common house garden pests such as spider mites and mealybugs. These pests can be quite a nuisance as they suck out the sap from the plant, making the foliage go weak and limp.
These pests can be disastrous to the overall well-being of the plant as they leave behind a sticky substance that further attracts other pests like ants. You will find tiny webbing, similar to spider webs and just like clumps of cotton.
Severe infestations also cause early leaf drops thus getting rid of pests as soon as they infect the plant and before they rapidly spread throughout the foliage. Firstly, isolate the fern so that other nearby plants don’t become victims of the pests. Secondly, spray an organic solvent such as neem oil or a soapy solution. The odor of neem oil repels the pests and the soapy solution will make them fall off the foliage.
Repeat the application once every week until you have gotten rid of all the pests. Thirdly, and lastly, prevent the occurrence of such pests by keeping the plant dust free with regular misting. At the same time, avoid excessive moisture around the plant which can lead to the growth of mold on the soil, which in turn attracts pests.
– Root Rot
Root rot is a classic condition caused by overwatering of the plant. With excess moisture in the soil and pools of water at the roots, they are unable to take in adequate oxygen from the soil.
In such a scenario the plant receives less oxygen and therefore the plant tends to wilt and look limp. The plant is drought resistant and is extremely sensitive to too much water around it and thus becomes susceptible to fungal diseases and rot.
If you suspect root rot, scale back on the water immediately. Let the soil go completely dry before adding in more. This should get the plant back on track. In case it does not, gently tap the base of the pot and remove the plant entirely from the soil.
Inspect for blackened root sections and snip them away with a sterile pruner. Transplant back into fresh and well-draining potting soil, as this soil should set things right for the plant’s health.
– Yellowing Foliage
If you notice the leaves and stems of the plant turning yellow it could be due to either over or under exposure to light. The plant requires adequate light which is diffused, away from the harsh and direct rays of the sun.
At the same time, if overexposure is hazardous to the health of the plant, exposure too can kill it. Never place your plant in dingy and dark corners where light hardly reaches it.
If you are growing the plant indoors, move it near an east-facing window where it can receive maximum morning light which is not very harsh. You could place it under artificial grow light indoors. If outdoors, place it under larger trees that may provide a natural tree canopy giving it gentle partial light.
In addition, you could also place a garden sheet over it so the light that reaches it is diffused. These steps will make sure that your fern gets back to health and grows happy and thriving.
– Dropping Leaves
Are your plant leaves dropping and looking dull and limp? This is due to a stress condition of the plant caused due to an inconsistent watering schedule. As mentioned in all of the above sections, this fern requires slightly moist soil consistently. This means you should never allow it to go bone dry as well as you should never let the roots stay in a pool of water.
With moisture inconsistencies, the leaves fail to cope with the stress and result in dropping before time. Dropping of leaves can be a nuisance as the leathery fronds drop down like needles and can litter the space around the plant.
If the shedding of leaves is due to dry soil conditions, try gently misting the plant to kick in some moisture for the plant. Also, ensure your watering schedule is per what the climate demands, with warmer days requiring more frequent watering and cold winters requiring lesser.
1. Is Kangaroo Paw Fern Toxic?
The kangaroo paw is not toxic. The plant is a robust type and can safely be grown indoors as it seldom harms pets and humans if accidentally consumed. So fear not and place them at any spot you choose.
After reading this detailed guide you have understood how easily you can give the kangaroo paw plant care.
Let us summarize our learnings below.
- Kangaroo paw fern is an easy plant to grow and its leathery fronds that are evergreen and perennial are a delight. This makes it a favorite among beginner-level gardeners.
- The plant is a hardy and robust plant and does not require complex care to sustain foliage. All you need to provide it with is well-draining soil, moderate light, and warmth.
- Fertilize the plant once a week, especially during the growing months, and prune the plant to keep it in shape and reduce pests and fungal diseases.
- You can propagate the plant using rhizome division or seeds. Both methods are easy however seeds take a while to germinate and produce results, in comparison.
- The most common problems of the plant can be tackled by keeping pests, and fungal and bacterial diseases at bay. Monitor the plant’s watering schedule, and light and temperature conditions and you should have a healthy and thriving plant.
You now can confidently grow the plant in your home or garden and grab some eyeballs due to its attractive foliage. So what are you waiting for? Get it today and let it adorn the space it is placed in.
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