Nephrolepis - Ferns - Polypodiaceae Family - How to care for, grow and flower Nephrolepis plants

Nephrolepis - Ferns - Polypodiaceae Family - How to care for, grow and flower Nephrolepis plants

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The genre Nephrolepis belongs to that group of plants which are commonly calledFERNS includes very popular and widespread species in our apartments.






: Ferns and related groups











: see the paragraph on "Main species"


The genre Nephrolepis belongs to that group of plants which are commonly calledFERNSThey are Pteridophyte plants, i.e. plants devoid of flowers, fruits and seeds and in the botanical classification they belong to the great family of Polypodiaceaand where we find about 170 genera and more than 7000 species divided into 14 subfamilies.

For many years these plants have been shrouded in mystery because it was not possible to understand how they could multiply. Only in 1850 a German bookseller was able to unravel the mystery: he had observed on the underside of the leaves, the spores, through which the plant multiplied.


There are numerous species of Nephrolepis, we recall the most common:


There Nephrolepis exaltata it is certainly the most widespread and cultivated species of this genus characterized by long curved leaves of slightly papery consistency and with serrated edges.

Of this species on the market there are many varieties that also differ considerably from each other as a general aspect.


There Nephrolepis tesselata it is a fern with very long fronds (even 1 m) of a very intense green color and thin and blackish stems.


There Nephrolepis cordifoliais a splendid fern native to Japan, New Zealand and Oceania. It is a plant that does not have a great development in height but is characterized by fronds up to 60 cm long that arch at the ends of a beautiful intense green color. There are numerous varieties of this species.


In general, they are plants that can be easily distinguished from higher plants as they do not have classical visible reproduction organs such as flowers and from lower plants (mosses, lichens, fungi, etc.) as the plant is a horn that is to say a plant well formed in all its parts therefore provided with root, stem, leaves, vessels, pith, etc. with the exception of the reproductive organs, that is the flowers.

Leaves with sporangia on the underside

The FERNS to reproduce they produce spores (hence the name of SPOROPHITE) clearly visible on the underside of the leaves. The spores are contained within SPORANGI which are none other than the capsules in which the SPORESIn turn, the sporangia are grouped in so-called formations SORI.

The spore is carried by the wind and falls into the ground and germinates. From its germination an independent plant is born that produces GAMETI said PROTALLO or GAMETOFITO. On this prothalus the sexual organs are formed, ANTERIDS(male) e ARCHEGONI (female) where the ANTEROZOI and the OOSPHERE mature respectively. The male anterozoan moves in the plant thanks to the water (rain, dew, etc.) and goes to fertilize the newly fertilized oospherache (FERTILIZED EMBRYO) germinates immediately remaining in the Archegonium (in this phase the embryo produces a sort of root called austorium that sinks into the tissues of the gametophyte to be able to nourish). From this embryo the fern plant we know will be born.


Plants of the genus Nephrolepis they must be placed in an area of ​​the house where there is not much light even if, among the different types of fern it is the most robust genus and tolerates exposure to light better than other plants (obviously never direct).

The dark green color of the leaves helps them to get the most out of any type of light and since they do not bloom, ferns do not need as much light as the flowering plants absorb. Furthermore, in nature they are undergrowth plants for which the shade is their ideal environment.

Ferns do not need special attention: once you understand their needs, cultivation is very simple. First of all, remember that the optimal average temperatures are around 18 ° C and must stay away from drafts. If you see that the fern grows well in the place where you have placed it, do not move it. It means that it has found an ideal microclimate in that place.

A recommendation that applies to ferns but which I recommend for all plants: NEVER use polishes for the leaves. These products in fact block the glistomas of the plant preventing it from carrying out its normal physiological functions. To clean the leaves simply use a damp cloth.


The main problem for ferns is humidity. In fact, an environment that is too dry or too hot causes serious damage.

Generally the Nephrolepis, despite being robust plants, they are sensitive to dehydration when they stay for too long in a dry environment. To overcome this inconvenience it is essential to keep the environment around the fern humid with constant nebulizations, at least twice a day during the hot season. This slows down the loss of water from the fronds.

Another system is to place the pot on a saucer full of pebbles and then fill it with water, making sure that the bottom of the pot is not immersed in water as in this way the soil of the pot would become saturated with water, causing the roots to rot. . This system allows, when it is hot, to evaporate the water in the saucer which consequently moistens the surrounding air.It is advisable to remember to fill the saucer whenever the water has evaporated.

In any case, the soil must always be moderately moist.


Generally the Nephrolepis they have a rapid growth therefore when the plant has reached an excessive size, it is repotted in March. They remove the normally dry base leaves and place them in a slightly larger pot.

Put on the bottom of the vase a consistent layer of gravel and small stones that serve to facilitate the flow of water. The compost should consist of three parts of peat, 2 parts of coarse sand and a good dose of basic fertilizer.


During the whole spring-summer season it is necessary to carry out regular fertilizations, twice a month, with liquid fertilizers to be diluted in the irrigation water.

Use a fertilizer that in addition to having the so-called macroelements such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) also has microelements, i.e. those compounds that the plant needs in minimal quantities (but still needs them) such as magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo), all important for a correct and balanced growth of the plant.


The Nephrolepis they do not bloom.


For the Nephrolepis we cannot speak of pruning. The leaves that gradually dry up must simply be eliminated to prevent them from becoming a vehicle for parasitic diseases.

Make sure that the tool you use for cutting is clean and disinfected (preferably with a flame) to avoid infecting the tissues.


The multiplication of Nephrolepis it can happen in two ways: by division of the tufts or for propagation by spores, the latter not easy to achieve.


The division of the plant takes place in spring, approximately every three years. She takes the vase and turns it upside down, sliding it out of the vase.

At that point you grab the clod of soil in your hands and divide the plant into two or more parts, making sure that each portion has at least a couple of buds. The two parts are planted in single pots using a soil as indicated for the adult plants and are treated as such.


Spore multiplication is a difficult technique to implement in domestic conditions. In any case, if you want to try it, a procedure that can be attempted in the home environment is explained below: In spring, a fern leaf that contains the spores is cut, scraped and dropped into a sheet. it contains moorland and peat in equal parts and the spores settle, then water sparingly so as not to form pits or holes in the soil and put a glass plate or transparent plastic sheet on top.

At this point the box is placed in the dark and at a temperature of about 20-23 ° C, taking care to keep the soil always moist. The glass plate or the plastic sheet is opened every day in order to eliminate the condensation that forms.

After about 2-3 months the first seedlings will be born and at this point it is necessary to move the box to a brighter position (but not too much) and remove the glass plate.Once the seedlings have grown and developed they must be transplanted 2-3 per pot which must have a diameter not exceeding 6-7 cm.


Falling dry leaves

This symptom means that the plant does not have the right water balance. It is necessary to increase watering and humidity.
Remedies: as a first step it is advisable to immerse the pot in a bucket of water so that the earth gets soaked, then it drips well and then rests in its place by regulating watering and humidity more correctly.

Leaves pale and discolored

If the leaves show this symptom, it means that the plant is too exposed to the sun.
Remedies: move it to a more suitable place.

Curled leaves

Curled leaves occur when the temperature is too low.
Remedies: move the plant to a warmer place.

Dark edged leaves that wither fairly quickly

If this symptomatology occurs, it means that the environment where your fern is located is too hot.
Remedies: move the plant to a cooler place.

Leaves with dark spots

If this symptom is present, it is likely that the plant is undergoing a fungal attack, most of the time due to water imbalances, i.e. excessive stagnation of water in the saucer.
Remedies: remove the affected parts and use specific fungicides products.

Brown spots on the underside of the leaves

Brown spots on the underside of the leaves could mean that you are in the presence of cochineal: brown cochineal and mealy cochineal. To be sure, it is recommended that you make use of a magnifying glass and observe yourself. Compare them with the photo shown, they are characteristics, you can't go wrong. Also if you try to remove them with a fingernail, they come off easily.

Remedies: remove them with a cotton swab soaked in alcohol or if the plant is large and potted, you can wash it with water and neutral soap rubbing very gently with a sponge to remove the parasites, after which the plant must be rinsed very well to eliminate all soap. For larger plants planted outdoors, you can use specific pesticides available from a good nurseryman.


The name Nephrolepis derived from nephros "Kidney" e lepis "Flakes" due to the shape assumed by the membrane that repairs the spores.

Video: Cotton Candy Fern. Nephrolepis Exaltata Cotton Candy. #FernFriday