Introduction: How to Grow Ferns From Spores
Second Prize in the
Share Your Garden Photo Contest
I eventually accepted that my poor little fern was really gone. When I went to clear out the planter to make room for something else, I notice little brown bumps on the underside of the dead fern's leaves. I immediately flashed back to my university botany class where I learned about the fern's life cycle. These little brown bumps contained sporangia (spores), a means by which ferns can reproduce. Although my little fern is gone, I could create new ferns from its spores.
Ferns tend to produce spores in the summer. I was fortunate with my fern since it already had spores by the end of June. Look for little brown-black bumps (sori) on the underside of the leaf (see image 2+3 above), maidenhair fern sori appear towards the front edge of the leaves. When you find a frond with sori, remove the whole frond and place it into a paper envelope and store for a couple of days in a dry location. After a few days there should be a fine dusting of brownish coloured spores in your envelope.
It is important to use sterile soil when germinating spores. I used a glass container with a narrow opening so that I can place a plastic lid over to prevent the soil from drying out. In the container I layered of pebbles, some activated charcoal (since the container has no drainage), then the sterile potting soil. Water the soil then sprinkle the spores sparsely over the surface. Put a lid on the container and keep indoors in a place where it can receive indirect light and importantly, make sure the soil does not dry out.
This part requires patience, as you can see from the dates on my pictures above this process can take a while (I started in July 2010). Also it is important to realize that the first things you see growing, the prothalli (gametophytes), look nothing like the mature fern (see description of fern life cycle below). Just remember to keep the soil moist at all times and eventually things will start happening.
When the young sporophytes begin to mature and crowd the growing container you may need to transplant. In February I divided the clump of young sporophytes into two and placed the other half into a similar glass container, at this point they are still quite delicate and so transplanting requires great care. By late April, they were again crowding their containers so I transplanted some into pots.
Fern Life Cycle
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.