Ferns forum→Seeking some advice on growing ferns in a desert climate indoors

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Name: David Velez
Las Vegas, Nevada (Zone 9a)
Fumez
Sep 22, 2020 3:32 PM CST
So I am apart of a small group of individuals that keep in touch but live in a desert climate trying to grow japanese painted ferns. We've all met one way or another seeking some guidance or help to get these guys to grow where we live.
I live in Nevada where summers are brutal and winters are a hit and miss at times. I started collecting ferns late in the summer which I've attributed (partly) as the reason they are not doing so well.
My ferns are kept indoors at 78F with 40-50% humidity. The lowest it gets is 35% before I make the corrections.
They were sitting facing north of the back sliding door, getting natural lighting but I noticed a few issues. Mainly excess heat seeping in and drying out the fiddleheads.
So now i've resorted to grow lights and keeping them in an area of the house that stays a little cooler. Not much but it makes me sleep better at night. I'm currently using a full spectrum grow light and they are getting about 500 foot candles of lighting now. Before it was about 200-250.
I'm currently waiting on a grow tent to help stabilize ambient temp and humidity conditions so I'm really curious what sort of conditions should I be providing them once they're in the tent?
I'm wondering if I'm providing them with enough light to grow properly. My previous growths have looked really weird. The fronds where not growing straight up and out.
After I moved them from the sliding door window, I put them near a skylight which seems to have helped but I was still having issues with the fiddleheads drying out. I assume that's due to the a/c kicking on and off during the day.
Any information in regards to lighting, humidity or temperature would be much appreciated. Tia!! I tip my hat to you. Thank You!
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Sep 25, 2020 11:18 AM CST
Welcome!

Tell me about it! Since January 1, we've gotten 1 2/3 inches of rain and not enough snow to bother with the snow shovel. Where in NV do you live?

What soil do you have them planted in? How wet/dry do you keep them. I would think Japanese Painted Ferns will be tricky in pots because they spread by rhizomes and are deciduous.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: David Velez
Las Vegas, Nevada (Zone 9a)
Fumez
Oct 1, 2020 5:06 PM CST
I'm in Las Vegas area.
At the moment, they are in a black gold cocoblend mixed with perlite and fine orchid bark with those puff balls removed.
I keep them in a grow tent (as of recently) set with 40% humidity and it hang right around 78F sometimes going to 80F but never higher. I know thats one of my issues since I have to wait till the a/c kicks on to pull that cool air into the tent. But prior to that, I was battling too much air hitting the fern throughout the day. lol It's seriously been a back and forth battle.

I keep then fairly moist while trying my best not to over water them. I've been doing a lot better with that since I redid my soil ratios.
Since getting the tent set up, I have noticed to positive growth coming out of some of them. The fronds are no longer turning sideways and stuff. They are literally growing straight up, unfurling and then laying to the sides. So I think my issue was lighting but thats sort of opened up another can of worms that im currently trying to learn.

PFF, PFFD, PAR, Umol's, DLI and then mixing it all together. Having grow lights has really helped out though. Im just trying to learn how to best utilize them for the best growth.

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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Image
DaisyI
Oct 2, 2020 12:28 PM CST
"PFF, PFFD, PAR, Umol's, DLI and then mixing it all together."

Sorry, I have no idea what any of those are.

In their native habitat, JPFs enjoy humidity closer to 70% because they are living in shady conditions on stream banks but shade outdoors means a little more light indoors. To attempt to copy that, you may want to place your pots on large pebble trays. I'm not sure what your light situation is. The best color will be achieved with something mimicking morning sun/bright shade but, the summer temperatures also need to be cooler.

The soil should be rich and humus-y but light (not dense). You can't overwater as long as the medium drains promptly but they do like to stay moist. So moist soil but not sitting in water - they need oxygen in the root zone. What are the "puff balls" you took out?

Don't fertilize. The pH should be around 5 - 6.

Your plants should go dormant this winter. If they haven't by November, you should cut all the fronds off to force dormancy. During dormancy, they will also need to much stay cooler.

You have chosen to grow a fern that really likes to live in a cooler, wetter, more humid climate than Las Vegas, even more so then you are currently providing indoors. It will be a challenge.



Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: David Velez
Las Vegas, Nevada (Zone 9a)
Fumez
Oct 5, 2020 3:03 PM CST
In short, they are reading or measurements between the photons grow lights give off to the photons that are actually reaching the plant at a specific height to the amount of light a plant gets at a set distance.
I've been pretty much trying to set up the grow tent to optimize growth. I've got my lighting set but now it's the ambient temp thats giving me issues.
I finally got the grow area to maintain 70-75% humidity while still circulating the air every 15 to 30 minutes. I had a few nights of some really nice cool temps (75F) which has now started to change the color of my autumn brilliance. I see the tips starting to fade into that light yellowish orange color. One of my JPF turned a nice rich purple or is starting to turn to that nice rich color purple. I only got a few days of it and am looking forward to the end of this weeks temps since they will be dropping down for us.
I did notice a lot of growth starting to come up but died off once the temps started reach back up there. I have a solution that Im going to give a shot today afterwork to see if it helps. Ill be hanging about 1lb to 1.5lbs of dry ice to help lower the temps a little. I know its not a long lasting solutions but its worth a shot plus the extra co2 may or may not help. We'll see with that.

The puff balls I was referring too looks like perlite but is much bigger and seems a little more puffy then perlite. Almost looks like styrofoam or something. They're pretty big which is one reason Im not found of using them and when I use the moisture meter to take a reading, 9/10 times I also seem to cruch right into one of those puff balls and sometimes have a hard time taking a reading. So I started manually removing them as much as I can and just get the bark. Its honestly a waste of money and time however, I really dont need a large bag of bark sitting in the garage. I use very little of it.

Ph is the other thing that Ive been taking a closer look at. I read that JPF can thrive in neutral to acidic soils but when I dig deeper, it always points to acidic of neutral. If your experience, can they thrive in neutral ph soil? I have a lady fern that seems to be doing fine in neutral ph which is partly why I havnt messed it the others so much. Over this past weekend, I introduced some PhDown to lower the ph in a couple of pots to make sure I was doing it correctly and not burning everything up. I did test before and 2 times after before giving it to the plants but now Im wondering if I should swap out the soil completely and start fresh with soil thats already in that range.
Do you have any recommendations?
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Oct 5, 2020 8:32 PM CST
I doubt there's anything wrong with what you are doing but you have to give the plants a chance to react. Especially this time of year when they are trying to shut down for their long winter nap. Being too warm this winter will be the most harmful them.

I wouldn't use any chemicals on them. Make sure the soil is appropriate: slightly acidic to neutral. Soil outside the correct pH range will make nutrients inaccessable to the plant but, this plant has a pretty good pH range from slightly alkaline, neutral and into pretty acidic. If you are worried, add leaf mold or peat as a top dressing.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: David Velez
Las Vegas, Nevada (Zone 9a)
Fumez
Oct 20, 2020 11:51 AM CST
So a quick update: Although temps outside have dropped, the inside grow tent temp is still getting spikes of 82F throughout the day however, Im not sure that was my issue this whole time. I have since increased humidity to 70-80% and have noticed the responses the plants are giving me. Although still small, Im starting to get growth in pretty much all of my pots.
I did swap soils out in most of them (all the ferns have new soil) and that seems to have made a difference on its own. I went with foxfarm and added nothing to the mix itself. I do have a layer of course bark on the bottom and a thin layer of charcoal on top to help with bacteria and thats it.
I think part of my issue was my previous mix was to airy and would dry out to quick. Although my watering really hasnt changed too much, im able to maintain better overall moisture in the soil so they dont dry out which I think was one of my main issues. This soil had good draining right out of the bag although Ive read otherwise in reviews.
I also started using a 20-20-20 fertilizer on them which i think they appreciate.
Thank you very much for the help. I think from here on out, its literally just a waiting game till they get bigger.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Oct 20, 2020 2:05 PM CST
Thank you for the update. I was wondering how they were doing. I'm glad things are looking better.

Just a couple cautions...

Reduce the strength of ther fertilizer. I usually mix it at 1/4 to 1/2 depending upon how often I use it. Potted plants can be quickly overwhelmed by the salts in the fertilizer. They can't use it all anyway. Its like have Thanksgiving dinner every day. It helps to flush the pots with lots of water before you fertilize.

Remember, they will go dormant and then will only need moisture, not food. Hoefully you can get the temperatures down this winter. Dormancy is going to be interesting if you can't.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: David Velez
Las Vegas, Nevada (Zone 9a)
Fumez
Oct 20, 2020 3:19 PM CST
The fertilizer Im using is called Jack's Fertilizer but was once called JR fertilizer or it might be the other way around. Its the only fertilizer I've used so far so i'm not sure what subtle differences there are but it dissolves pretty quickly in water and doesn't clump. Directions said 1/4 teaspoon once a week or 1/2 teaspoon every other week.
I wasnt sure exactly how they were going to respond to it so I went with the 1/4 teaspoon once a week. Due to the heat in the tent, Im having to water ever 3 days or so and not very much. I've only been watering when the moisture meter reads below 6 and if its below 5 I add just a tad bit more water to bring it up to where it needs to be and then its water for the rest of the week. Ill keep what you said in mind. I have read about nutrient lock and that doesnt sound like a path i want to go down so Ill take it extra easy with the fertilizer.

I do have a question for you about dormancy. If the temps remain the same in the tent throughout winter, should I keep treating them as if it were summer or do I need to push them into dormancy by lowering the temps somehow?
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Oct 21, 2020 3:02 PM CST
I don't know. It will be interesting to find out.

But plants react differently, species to species. Your ferns may never notice their lack of dormancy or they could be pretty upset or they could go dormant, no matter what you do. Even if they retain their leaves this winter, I would be tempted to cut off last years leaves to force the plant to replace them if nothing else.

Examples of different reactions:

Roses need to be forced into dormancy for the health of the plant, even if the weather stays warm. Without dormancy, they die. The 'forcing' is done by picking off all the leaves when the buds start to swell.

Prunus trees will drop their leaves right on schedule but will not set fruit if the required 'chill' time is not met.

Have you ever seen a California Buckeye tree? They are native to the CA foothills where most of the rain comes in the spring. The trees have acclimated to that climate by leafing out in January, flowering and dropping all their leaves by July. The rest of the year (summer and winter) they are sticks. I thought with good water, the trees would stay green all summer. But even with summer irrigation, the leaves fall off in July.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org

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