Discover the wonder of ferns, one of the most diverse and stunning plant groups on Earth. With hundreds of species to choose from, you’ll always have options. Though often thought of as shade-lovers, many ferns can also bask in full sun.
From outdoor gardens to indoor houseplants, ferns are a versatile choice. Today, we’re spotlighting the blue star fern (Phlebodium aureum), one of the most popular species for indoor growing. It also goes by names such as cabbage palm fern, golden polypody, golden serpent fern, gold foot fern, blue-star fern, and hare foot fern.
Genus name: Phlebodium aureum
Common name: Blue Star Fern
Origin: North and South America
Means of reproduction: Fragments
Plant type: Natural epiphyte
Height: Up to 2 feet at maturity
Propagation methods: Division or via Fragments
Water requirement: Regular watering, 1- 2 inches per week
Temperature: Warm temperatures
Tolerance: Less humid conditions
Light: Indirect light
Don’t be fooled by their simple, feathery leaf structures; ferns are living fossils. They date back hundreds of millions of years, even before the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Unlike flowering plants, ferns reproduce through fragments and have a fascinating lifecycle. So, delve into the world of ferns and uncover their ancient beauty.
Cultivation and History of Blue Star Fern
This unique plant is a true standout, with its striking blueish-green color, leathery texture, and undulating edges. It’s no wonder why it’s a favorite among plant enthusiasts.
But what sets the blue star fern apart from other houseplants? It’s a natural epiphytic fern, meaning it grows and attaches itself to other, bigger plants in its native habitat. You can mount it like a staghorn fern or keep it in a regular container or pot.
At maturity, this fern can reach up to 2 feet in height, sometimes even more. It’s native to tropical and subtropical regions in North and South America and thrives in warm temperatures. However, protecting it from cold temperatures is essential, as it’s only hardy down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
The blue star fern is the perfect choice if you’re looking for a plant that will add color to your home. Unlike most ferns, it thrives in drier, less humid conditions, making it ideal for indoor environments. To ensure the best growth for this plant, place it near a bright, indirect light source, such as an east- or west-facing window. With its low maintenance needs and stunning appearance, the blue star fern is an excellent addition to any home.
Propagation of Blue Star Fern
Propagating your Blue Star Fern is a simple and exciting way to add to your indoor plant collection. You can use two methods to create new plants from your mature fern, each with its steps. The first method is division, which involves dividing the plant into separate sections. To do this, gently take the plant out of its pot and observe the sections of the plant. You will see where the plant has grown separately rather than from a central stem. Using your hands or a sterilized knife, gently pull apart the sections so that each one includes roots, stems, leaves, or fronds. Then, pot each divided-off plant into the recommended soil mix and give it a good drink of water.
The second method propagates via fragments, which involves removing the small brown spots on the leaf underside. These spots, also known as reproductive fragments, are ready to be propagated once they have turned brown and crispy. To do this, gently pluck some brown fragments with your fingers and place them on top of moist soil in a plastic pot. Ensure the soil stays moist by regularly misting and placing the pot inside a clear plastic bag to maintain humidity. It could take a few months for the fragments to germinate and for small fronds to begin growing, but once they do, you can pot each baby plant into its pot. If there is no growth after five months, then it is unlikely the spores will germinate.
Blue Star Fern Care
Your blue star fern has few care requirements that involve minimal pruning and permits easy care. However, if you wish to maintain its shape and keep it contained, you can trim some of its longer fronds. Remember to use a sharp, sterilized blade to ensure a clean cut and prevent the spread of any diseases. Always sterilize your knife after each cut to maintain your plant’s health.
When you first purchase a blue star fern, it is typically young, with small leaves with one to three lobes per frond. As it grows, it sheds and replaces these leaves with larger, deeply pinnate fronds with long petioles. This is a natural process that results in a beautiful, mature plant. However, as the old leaves fall off, they leave behind small circular scars on the rhizome, causing the fern to lose its bushy appearance.
If you want to keep your blue star fern looking full and lush, we recommend gently misting the rhizome every two days, especially during the summer. This method works best in places with good airflow and encourages bigger leaves to grow, which fills in the gaps in the plant’s foliage. With proper care, your blue star fern will thrive and bring a touch of lush greenery to your home.
Phlebodium aureum Cultivars to Select
With its lush, bright green leaves and delicate appearance, it adds a touch of greenery and a pop of color to any room in your home. However, it is worth noting that only a limited number of Phlebodium aureum varieties are available, making it a rare and valuable plant in your collection.
One of the less common Phlebodium aureum varieties is Phlebodium aureum ‘Davana.’ This unique plant boasts crinkled and ruffled leaves that give it a distinct and eye-catching appearance. When it is compact and well-grown, the leaves resemble the top of a tree canopy from certain angles, adding a touch of natural beauty to your home. The Phlebodium aureum ‘Davana’ is just as low-maintenance as the Blue Star Fern, making it an ideal choice for those with busy lifestyles or limited gardening skills.
Whether you choose the classic Blue Star Fern or the rare and distinctive Phlebodium aureum ‘Davana,” you are guaranteed a beautiful and low-maintenance addition to your home’s decor. With their lush, bright green leaves and delicate appearance, these ferns are versatile and can complement any home decor style, making them a must-have for any indoor gardening enthusiast.
Blue Star Fern grows on the trunks of tall trees in the rainforest, so it’s used to growing in the shade of the canopy. That means it’s not too picky when it comes to lighting conditions. It fancies bright, indirect light as the best for this plant, but it will do fine with a little less light.
So, if you have a north- or east-facing window, that’s the perfect spot to place your Blue Star Fern. There is no need for supplemental lighting; it will be fine with the amount of light it gets from the location’s natural light.
However, if your only options are a west or south-facing window, make sure that the plant is not in direct sunlight. Direct sun is the one type of light that the Blue Star Fern won’t tolerate.
When choosing soil for the Blue Star Fern, selecting a light, porous mixture with a lot of organic matter is essential. The soil’s pH level should be slightly acidic to foster optimal growth, between 5.6 and 6. If you’re seeking a pre-made soil option, an orchid soil blend is a suitable choice, as the requirements for both Blue Star Fern and orchids are alike. However, if you prefer to make your own, you can mix equal parts of potting soil, perlite, and orchid bark. This DIY soil mix will provide the fern with the necessary structure, moisture, nutrients, and drainage to flourish.
Caring for your Blue Star Fern requires a balanced approach to watering. This rainforest native is accustomed to high moisture levels, but as it grows on tree trunks, it is not designed to survive in constantly wet soil. Don’t water on a schedule. The soil should be kept moist but never soaking wet, as the roots of this epiphytic plant require oxygen to function properly and may die if they cannot breathe.
It would help if you watered Phlebodium aureum when the soil’s top inch had dried. Water should be applied around the edges of the pot to avoid the potential rot of the crown. Rather than adhering to a strict watering schedule, it is better to check the soil moisture regularly and only water when needed.
Temperature and Humidity
The optimal temperature range for this fern is between 57 and 81 °F (14 and 27 °C), and it is not recommended to expose it to temperatures below 50 °F (10 °C) for extended periods.
To ensure that your Blue Star Fern is comfortable, keep it away from cold windows and drafts, as it is sensitive to extreme temperature changes. In addition to warmth, the Blue Star Fern prefers a humid environment, similar to its natural rainforest habitat.
If you observe the fringes of the foliage becoming brittle and sporting brownish tips, it indicates that the air moisture in the area may not be adequate. To enhance the humidity, consider putting your fern in a brightly lit bathroom where the steam from showers can enhance the plant’s condition. An alternative solution is to employ a compact humidifier close to the plant during the arid winter seasons or place it on a shallow dish filled with water and stones, ensuring the roots remain elevated above the water’s surface.
While misting the plant can provide some temporary relief, it may not effectively increase the ambient humidity around the plant and can also leave white marks on the fronds. A combination of warmth, humidity, and proper watering will help your Blue Star Fern thrive and bring a touch of tropical greenery to your home.
Blue Star Fern doesn’t require frequent fertilization, but an occasional application can help maintain its lush foliage. Twice every spring and summer, use a liquid fertilizer with a standard ratio of 10-10-10, diluted to half strength. When fertilizing, pour the solution around the edges of the pot and avoid the crown to ensure an even distribution of nutrients.
Fertilize the plant shortly after watering the soil. As the plant enters its dormant period in the fall, flush residual fertilizer from the soil by running water through it for 10 minutes to prevent a harmful buildup of nutrients.
Dividing and repotting
So, your blue star fern will likely outgrow its pot every few years. That’s because it produces new creeping rhizomes from time to time. When you see the rhizomes pushing against the sides of the container or the plant starts drying out quickly, it’s a sign that it’s time to divide and repot.
To divide it, just carefully remove the plant from the pot. Then, you can use a sharp kitchen knife or small folding plant saw to cut it into two or more pieces. Make sure each piece has a portion of the root and shoot systems. Don’t worry; cutting through the rhizomes won’t hurt them. Some gardeners even prefer to crack the root ball apart with their hands instead of cutting.
Once you’ve made the divisions, loosen the roots with your fingers and plant them in their pots using the recommended soil mix. Keep the same planting depth as the previous container and water the plant well. Don’t fertilize for the first two months after transplanting, as the new roots might be sensitive to fertilizer salts.
Blue Star Ferns don’t produce any flowers. Ferns don’t bloom, but you’ll still get to enjoy their beauty. Once it matures, it will produce some fragments on its older leaves in the late autumn.
These fragments, called sori, will appear on the bottom of the fronds in pairs, and they’ll start as golden yellow, then turn to orange, and finally to brown as they ripen. They’ll stick around for about a month before falling off.
You can try propagating the fragments to grow more blue star ferns or just let them be. Either way, your fern will still be a beauty to admire.
Problems with Phlebodium aureum
Blue star ferns, or Phlebodium aureum, are typically robust, yet like any plant, they can still encounter health issues. Nevertheless, these typical difficulties can be prevented and remedied with appropriate attention. A sign of a healthy fern is vibrant leaves.
To keep pests away, give your fern a weekly spray or wipe it down with water mixed with rubbing alcohol. This will keep mealybugs, spider mites, and fungus gnats at bay. If you see cotton-like clumps or yellow bumps on the leaves, it’s time to act. Rinse the plant in the sink or use yellow sticky traps to catch adult gnats.
Most blue star fern diseases are caused by too much moisture, so keep the soil moist and avoid letting water sit on the leaves. Your fern may have rot if you see yellow leaves, soft stems, and black roots. In this case, cut off all infected parts and replant them in fresh soil. Unfortunately, southern blight can’t be cured, so if you see the lower leaves yellowing and the plant collapsing, it’s best to dispose of it. Rust, root rot, and powdery mildew are caused by damp conditions and can be treated with a neem oil or sulfur solution and improved air circulation.
If your fern appears to be suffering, it may be due to a lack of suitable growing conditions. Yellowing leaf tips could indicate a lack of moisture in the air, an overabundance of fertilizer, or high levels of mineral content in the water. If foliage falls off, it could signify overfertilization or excessive sunlight. If the older leaves turn brown, it is simply a natural progression, but to restore its health, you should enhance the humidity levels, lighting, and soil. With these improvements, your blue star fern will quickly recover its luster.
Best uses of this houseplant
The Blue Star Fern plant is a versatile and attractive plant with a range of uses. It is popular in homes, offices, and public spaces like shopping centers and hotels. This plant’s unique blue-green fronds will add color and interest to any space. The Blue Star Fern is ideal for terrariums and hanging baskets, as it thrives in moist, warm, and humid environments. Additionally, it is well-suited to grow in the ground or containers outdoors in warmer climates, providing a lush and tropical feel to a garden.
The Blue Star Fern is also an excellent choice for use in vertical gardens, as its bushy, untidy form will cascade down walls, providing an attractive and low-maintenance way to green up any outdoor space. Additionally, this plant can help to purify the air in indoor spaces, making it an excellent choice for homes, offices, and other indoor spaces where air quality is a concern. In conclusion, the Blue Star Fern is a versatile and attractive plant with various uses that can add beauty and interest to any indoor or outdoor space.
The blue star fern is a beautiful and unique plant that can be grown indoors and outdoors. Its bright blue-green fronds add a touch of tropical flair to any space. It is best to provide bright, indirect light, consistent moisture, and a warm and humid environment when grown indoors. It can be planted in the ground or containers in warmer climates or brought outside in the summer months in temperate zones.
With proper care and attention, the blue star fern will thrive and add beauty to your home or garden for years to come.
Frequently asked questions?
What is the scientific name of Blue Star Fern?
The scientific name of Blue Star Fern is Phlebodium aureum.
What kind of environment is suitable for growing Blue Star Fern?
The Blue Star Fern prefers a warm and humid environment with bright, indirect light and consistently moist soil.
Can Blue Star Fern be grown both indoors and outdoors?
Yes, the Blue Star Fern can be grown both indoors and outdoors. It can be grown as a terrarium plant when young and in a hanging planter when mature. It can be planted in the ground or containers in zones 8b to 13a or taken outdoors in the summer months in temperate zones.
How often should I water my Blue Star Fern?
The Blue Star Fern should be regularly watered to keep the soil moist.
How long does it take for the Blue Star Fern to reach maturity?
It takes about five years for the Blue Star Fern to reach maturity.
What is the growth rate of Blue Star Fern?
The growth rate of Blue Star Fern is moderate to slow, with approximately one new frond growing per month.
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