Grow Ferns For Pleasure or for Profit
A detailed look at the identification and culture of ferns. You learn to propagate (spores, division, tissue culture), different groupings (e.g. epiphytes, ground ferns, tree ferns) and both common & uncommon species. Growing techniques (baskets, indoor/outdoor containers, terrariums) and cultural methods (soils, watering, pest & disease control) are also examined.

Study at Home to Become a Fern Expert

Ferns are plants which are of unusual shape and growth habit which make them particularly interesting to study.

To most people ferns are very graceful and lush and invoke an image of coolness, calmness and peacefulness. Though lacking flowers they have enormous variety in plant size and form and in the texture, shape and color of the fronds. Ferns are very adaptable and can be grown in a wide variety of situations. While most prefer moist, shaded conditions there are ferns that are suited to open sunny positions, growing naturally in rocky crevices, exposed coastal cliffs, high on living tree trunks or on fallen trees, in alpine bogs, even in semi arid areas. Some species of ferns are tiny with fronds only one cell thick, others can reach a height of 15m or more. Some ferns will spread to form huge colonies, while others will grow like climbers.

Initially ferns need water during their early development from spore to full adult plant. But once growing in the soil, some ferns are very hardy. Different ferns tolerate different climatic extremes, especially considering they have been around since the beginning of time. Some can survive prolonged drought in semi-desert conditions and others are adapted to surviving under feet of snow.

They are great indicators of the natural balance in their environment. Growing only when the conditions are right to their preferable niche. They are often used in environmental surveys of flora as a measurement of the environments condition. If the native species for that area are not surviving, then it is an indication things are out of balance.

Course Content

The content of each of the eight lessons is as outlined below:


    • Review of the system of plant identification
    • general characteristics of the ferns (especially the fronds)
    • main groups of ferns (filmy, tree, terrestrial, epiphytic and water ferns)
    • information contacts (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs, etc.)
    • pronunciation of plant names.


    • How best to grow ferns
    • Conditions do they need.
    • Planting, mulching, watering,
    • pest & disease and their control,
    • feeding,
    • pruning,
    • protection from wind, salt air, etc.,
    • compost making.


    • Methods of propagating ferns - spores, division, tissue culture.
    • Propagation of selected varieties.

4.The Most Commonly Grown Varieties.    

    • Maidenhairs, tree ferns, stags, elks, common ground ferns.
    • How to grow and propagate these ferns.

5.Other Important Groups.   

    • Asplenium,
    • Blechnum,
    • Nephrolepis,
    • Pteris and other groups.
    • Group characteristics, cultural details, propagation methods.

6.Other Varieties

    • Hares foot fern,
    • Bracken,
    • Fans,
    • Corals
    • Combs.

7.Making the best use of these Plants.

    • In containers,
    • hanging baskets,
    • terrariums,
    • in the ground, 
    • indoor plants,
    • growing and showing,
    • growing for profit (to sell the plants or what they produce).

8.Special Assignment -

    • Detailed culture and identification of one genera. Emphasis is placed on the horticulturally valuable species.

Course Aims

  • To distinguish between different types of ferns in cultivation including at least twenty different general and many different varieties.
  • To determine critical cultural practices required to successfully grow ferns in different specified situations.
  • Determine the cultural requirements of specific fern varieties.
  • Determine the cultural requirements of specific fern varieties.
  • Explain the different ways of propagating ferns.
  • Apply various specialised techniques to the culture of ferns.
  • Prepare a planting plan for an area using ferns.
  • Plan the establishment of a collection of different cultivars of ferns suited to growing in a specified locality.


The identification of ferns is full of contradictions. Many of the experts throughout the world have conflicting viewpoints on what different ferns should be called. The information on fern varieties in this magazine attempts as much as possible to use the botanical names most commonly accepted.

Ferns make up the class Filicopsida and can be further sub divided into subdivided into four classes according to morphology, structure and reproduction method:

  • Filicopsida – true ferns
  • Psilotopsida, Lycopsida, Equisetopsida – fern allies.

Most ferns are shade loving plants of moist places. There are exceptions though, and fern species can be found in most environments across the world, except the absolute extremes of desert and arctic areas.

There are 10,000-12,000 species of ferns throughout the world. They are widely distributed globally with the greatest species concentration in the humid tropics where the environment is ideally suited for ferns and their need for moist/wet environments.

Some species of ferns are tiny, while others can reach a height of 40 ft.

Ferns are identified largely by the shape of their fronds or leaves.

Fronds can be strap like or undivided, or feathery in appearance like many of the palms (ie. divided). Fronds are described as being 1, 2 or 3 pinnate according to the degree to which a single frond is divided into smaller "leaflets". A 3 pinnate frond will have a much finer texture and smaller leaflets than a 1 pinnate frond.