7 Easy Air Fern Care & Growing Tips

air fern
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An air fern is a small, two-leaved plant that grows in tight clusters and has unusually long roots. It’s often used as a houseplant or an accent piece in commercial facilities. The air fern plant itself can be placed on top of the soil, set in a dish with water, or hung upside down directly above the water source.

This “air” part of its name does not mean that this plant is light or weightless; rather it refers to its unusual root system. Air ferns have fine roots that grow down into the water and absorb nutrients from the air.

The air fern plant likes high humidity and should be kept in a medium to low-light environment. Roots of the air ferns do not like being exposed to light; this will damage them and prevent the plant from growing properly. If your air plant is not attached to anything, find a way to hang it upside down above the water source.

How to propagate air fern

The air fern plant can be propagated from its spores or by laying cuttings in water. It grows best when it’s kept warm and moist — but make sure you change out the water every few days or so.

air fern

The new plants can be propagated by division, and this is easiest to do when they are still small. Larger air ferns tend to have very brittle roots (which makes them hard to divide without damaging the plant), and older ones may not produce sufficient offsets for propagation.

Propagation by division is best done in early spring before new growth starts, or in late summer. Air ferns were originally propagated by the division of mature plants, which is still the method that will produce the healthiest and fastest-growing new plants. The plant can also be propagated from cuttings taken just above a leaf joint (where it forms its small round leaves) from an existing plant, and from rooted ones.

This can be done in the spring or summer (in the northern hemisphere) when new shoots are about 3 inches long. Rooting them is best done under cold conditions (e.g. a refrigerator), but it will live as well under warm conditions in water with no added plant food.

When taking cuttings, always remember to leave one or more leaf joints on the cutting when you divide it away from a parent plant. These will quickly grow roots if they are kept in water. You can take cuttings at any time of year, but they should not be allowed to dry out before rooting.

When rooted, cuttings have root systems consisting of 1/8 to 1/4 inch long roots, they can be planted in pots or tubs with soil.

Rooting is easiest when new growth is actively growing and you have warm air and a lot of humidity around – so it’s best done outdoors in summer under the shade of a tree.

General care information for air fern

air fern

Light requirement

The air fern does well under low light conditions, so you will have to check whether the lighting in your living room is right for your plant. The air fern is a tropical plant. So if you can’t give it good lighting, then try keeping your plant under a sunny window where the plant grows best and focus on giving this plant as much water as possible when you notice that the leaves start to droop.

A south-facing window provides bright sunlight for most of the day, and this is the ideal place for your air fern.

Otherwise, an east- or west-facing window with direct morning sun is good.

It does not matter if your air fern grows under fluorescent lights as long as it receives some natural light. When you are going on vacation, set up a grow light to ensure that enough light reaches your plant. At most, the plant should only get a couple of hours of direct sun per day.

0-10% is low light, 10-50% is medium-light and 50-70% is bright or high light. Measure with a lux meter to be sure. For more information on indoor lighting for houseplants refer to the article on houseplants lights.

Watering

air fern

The air fern prefers humid and tropical conditions which allow you to water it less often than other plants but when watering, does so very thoroughly. The plant is tolerant of under-watering, although this can cause foliar damage to your plant if the soil dries out completely between watering.

Water when the top inch of soil is dry and soak the pot in deep enough water that water runs out from the bottom hole.

Temperature and Humidity

Air ferns like the humidity level to be between 40-60%, and they also prefer high temperatures ranging from 21 – 28 degrees Celsius. The temperature and humidity can change depending on the season. In winter, it’s best to keep air ferns indoors in a cool place so that they do not freeze. That is why tropical areas are perfect for air ferns because they can withstand considerable temperature and humidity changes.

Soil/Potting mix

Air ferns like to live in high humidity, tropical regions that have good draining soil. They do not want the soil to be too dry or moist; you will know that your plant is over-watered if its leaves start to turn yellow or if its leaves are droopy. However, it is equally important that the soil does not dry out completely, because when air ferns do not get enough water they start to take in moisture from any surrounding sources such as an adjoining plant and this could cause roots of other plants to rot.

Repotting 

Air ferns do not need to be repotted often. If you’re not sure whether or not it is time for your air fern to be repotted, look at its roots. If they are growing out of the drainage holes and are white in color, then it’s probably time for a new pot.  Your air fern should be repotted using a bonsai soil mix, which is very good for air ferns because it drains well and retains moisture.

Pruning

air fern

 

You should prune your plant before new growth emerges in spring. This will encourage the plant to grow denser leaves, and also make them more compact.  If you notice at any time that new growth is coming from between the leaves, you should cut them off. You can also prune your air fern if you notice that it has grown too big for your pot or if you want to make a bonsai.

Hardiness zone

Air ferns are not necessarily hardy plants. Grown in areas where temperatures get below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, air ferns will start to turn brown and the leaves will die off. This is because they cannot handle cold temperatures.

Toxicity

If the sap from an air fern is rubbed into your eyes, it can cause moderate eye irritation.

Insects and Pests

Air ferns do not have many pests. However, if you find that there are holes in the leaves of your plant, then they may be caused by mealybugs which are white insects with powdery bodies. You can get rid of these insects by first washing your hands, and then applying alcohol to a cotton ball or swab. Then, you should dab the leaves with the cotton ball.

You should also try to prevent pests from attacking your plant by letting it have good lighting conditions and air circulation. If there are too many flies around your plant, then you can use flypaper or a sticky trap to catch them.

Diseases

You should take every step necessary to prevent your plant from getting infected with scale insects because they are very difficult to get rid of. This is because they secrete chemicals that help their bodies stick onto the leaves and avoid being killed by insecticides.


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