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How to Start a New Fern Plant

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017
Ferns propagate by producing spores on the underside of the leaves.

Ferns produce beautiful foliage for use as an accent in home decorating. These shade-loving plants also perform well as attractive additions to the shade garden. Gardeners can propagate fern plants in two ways. Ferns produce spores on the underside of leaves that can be used to form new plants. An alternative method involves splitting an existing fern plant to take sections of roots to re-pot in another container.

Dividing an Existing Fern Plant

Cover the workspace with a layer of paper to limit the mess of dividing the fern. You'll be tipping a plant pot upside down, removing soil and cutting roots on the plant. It will get messy.

Place the plant pot containing the fern on the workspace and slide the trowel down the inside wall of the planter. Work around the circumference of the pot to loosen the potting soil. Place one hand around the base of the fern right above the soil level in the pot and flip the pot upside down. Slide the plant out of the pot and shake or brush off as much dirt as possible.

Lay the plant on its side on the newspaper and examine the roots. Decide how many plants you'd like to create from this master plant. Slip a utility knife between the roots and press down sharply to separate the roots. Breaking the roots apart by hand or using the trowel will also divide the plant quickly.

Prepare a new plant pot by filling it halfway with new potting soil. Set the fern section root first into the potting soil and fill in around the plant. Firm the soil and water thoroughly to add moisture to all the soil within the pot. Water regularly to keep soil evenly moist and place in a location featuring indirect light.

Growing From Spores

Collect fern spores from mature plants in midsummer. Look for dark spore cases on the underside of a fern leaf. Fold a piece of white paper in half and slip a portion of the mature leaf between the folds. Spores will release in one to two days and will be caught in the paper. Released spores appear as a dark-colored powdery substance.

Prepare new planting containers by filling the pot with new potting soil or a cushioning layer of sphagnum peat moss on a halfway-filled pot. Moisten the potting soil or moss and gently dust fern spores onto the planting medium.

Cover the pot with a piece of plastic wrap to maintain moisture in the pot. Water regularly to keep soil or moss evenly moist. Place the plants in a warm location featuring indirect light. Small plants will appear within a month and can be transplanted to individual pots in six months.


Things You Will Need

  • Newspaper
  • Empty pots
  • Trowel
  • Utility knife
  • Potting soil
  • Sheet of white paper
  • Plastic wrap
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Watering can