How do you take care of a deer foot fern?

Answered by Randy McIntyre

Taking care of a deer fern, also known as a deer foot fern, requires attention to its watering needs, fertilization schedule, and overall growth conditions. Here are some detailed steps to ensure your deer fern thrives:

1. Watering: Deer ferns prefer consistently moist soil. It is essential to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Water the plant thoroughly when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. It is important to avoid letting the soil completely dry out between waterings, as this can stress the plant. Regular watering is key to maintaining the optimal moisture level for a deer fern.

2. Fertilizing: Feed your deer fern once a month, except during the winter season when the plant is usually dormant. Choose an all-purpose liquid house plant food with balanced nutrients. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package for proper dilution and application. Fertilizing once a month helps provide the necessary nutrients for optimum growth and overall health of the plant.

3. Light requirements: Deer ferns prefer indirect or filtered light, making them great indoor plants. Place your deer fern in a location where it receives bright, indirect light, such as near a north or east-facing window. Avoid exposing the plant to direct sunlight, as it can scorch the delicate fronds. If growing outdoors, provide a shaded area with dappled sunlight.

4. Temperature and humidity: Deer ferns thrive in moderate temperatures between 60-75°F (15-24°C). They prefer higher humidity levels, so it is beneficial to increase humidity around the plant. You can achieve this by placing a tray filled with water near the plant or using a humidifier. Avoid placing the fern near drafty areas or heating/cooling vents, as extreme temperature fluctuations can harm the plant.

5. Soil and potting: Use a well-draining potting mix with a combination of peat moss, perlite, and organic matter. This type of soil mixture allows excess water to drain away, preventing waterlogging. Deer ferns have shallow root systems, so choose a wide and shallow pot that provides ample space for root growth. Repotting may be necessary every 1-2 years to ensure the plant has enough room for its roots.

6. Pruning and grooming: Regularly inspect your deer fern for any dead or yellowing fronds. Gently remove these fronds at the base to maintain the plant’s overall appearance and health. Trimming also helps promote the growth of new fronds. Additionally, keep an eye out for pests such as aphids or scale insects. If detected, treat the infestation promptly with an appropriate insecticide.

Personal experience: I have had a deer fern in my home for several years, and following these care instructions has helped it thrive. I water the plant every week, ensuring the soil remains consistently moist. Once a month, I fertilize it with a balanced liquid house plant food, providing the necessary nutrients. The fern is placed in a bright, indirect light spot near a north-facing window, where it has grown beautifully. I also mist the plant occasionally to increase humidity, and it has responded well to this extra moisture. Pruning and grooming the fern regularly keeps it looking neat and healthy. the deer fern has been a relatively low-maintenance and rewarding plant to care for.