How to Grow Resurrection Ferns

Miss Chen
The curious little resurrection fern, Polypodium polypodioides, may very well be the perfect plant for the unfortunately black-thumbed gardener -- or the incredibly lazy one. If there's a truly care- and maintenance-free living plant, this is it. The strange little fern virtually laughs thirst in the face and defies death as it takes even the severest of droughts easily in its stride. The resurrection fern simply takes a nap until conditions become more favorable. When rains return, the seemingly dead plant miraculously returns to life and its former beauty within a few hours. Resurrection ferns are readily available from mail order, online and brick-and-mortar plant retailers. If you live near a wooded area within this common little epiphyte's natural range, you can easily find fallen branches decorated with them just about anywhere on the shady forest floor.

Step 1

Remove the purchased resurrection fern carefully from its bag or packaging. Set it in a shallow container out of direct sunlight. Water all of its surfaces generously to the point of runoff with a repurposed plastic spray bottle. Within minutes, the plant will begin to unfurl its crumpled brown fronds and show signs of greening up.

Step 2

Fill a 4- or 6-inch pot with orchid growing medium if you wish to keep your resurrection fern as a houseplant. Set the pot in a shallow container of water until the surface feels moist. Remove it from the water and allow it to drain for about 15 minutes. Place the fern on top of the medium and set it anywhere out of direct sunlight.

Step 3

Spritz the resurrection fern with water and leave it alone. It doesn't need any fertilizer or further care.

Step 4

Choose a tree in your yard to which to secure the resurrection fern if you would rather grow it outdoors. While any tree will do, these plants seem to have an affinity for pecan and live oak. Carefully press one or more of the reviving fern's long, thin rhizomes into crevices in the bark of the tree's branch or trunk. Use lightweight wire to anchor the fern, if you wish.

Step 5

Collect a fallen branch with resurrection fern growing on it and haul it home to your garden if you'd rather harvest free plants. Prop one end of the limb against the trunk of one of your trees. Use some lightweight wire to secure the branch into place. Eventually, the fern will seed some of its spores right onto your living tree and propagate itself prolifically.

Step 6

Place the branch with resurrection ferns in any shady or partially shaded garden spot you wish, but these epiphytes do prefer to reside in and on living trees.

Step 7

Water the indoor or outdoor resurrection fern again when it begins to turn brown or look dry if you prefer to keep the plant fresh and green. Otherwise, withhold water and allow it to appear to die. Water it when you want to revive it.
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