The Drynaria ferns, also known as oak leaf ferns, are challenging epiphytes that are best suited for dedicated fern enthusiasts. These striking and beautiful plants are found in tropical Asia and the South Pacific and are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
They have two types of fronds: a short, sterile, unlobed type that grows around the base of the plant, similar to a stag’s horn fern, and a longer, fertile frond that is deeply pinnate and can be found hanging from trees and baskets in the tropical regions. Cultivating these ferns requires meeting their unique requirements, and the most difficult aspect of keeping them healthy is proper watering.
Drynaria Ferns Growing Conditions
- Light: The Drynaria ferns thrive in dappled sunlight or shaded areas. They will display more reddish coloration in their fronds with increased light. In their natural habitat, they are often found growing on tree trunks.
- Water: The Drynaria ferns require a consistent supply of moisture and a high level of humidity to survive. As epiphytes, they need to be watered daily and are not suitable for long-term growth in a container.
- Soil: The Drynaria ferns thrive when mounted on tree fern or planted in a slat container similar to an orchid. If grown in a container, use an orchid potting mix.
- Fertilizer: Provide a weak liquid fertilizer during the plant’s growing season.
Propagation: Spore propagation is best left to experts, but the Drynaria ferns can be propagated by dividing larger plants or taking pieces from an established plant. Ensure to include both types of fronds and some roots when taking cuttings, and secure the new piece to a new mount. It should start growing quickly.
Drynaria Ferns Repotting
Repotting: As epiphytes, the Drynaria ferns do not require repotting. These plants look best when they have grown to a substantial size. However, in indoor or greenhouse settings, it may be beneficial to reduce the size of large plants through division.
The Drynaria genus includes only about 20 species found primarily in tropical Asia and the eastern hemisphere. These ferns are often used as accent plants in tropical gardens, where their 3-foot fronds emerge from baskets of sterile fronds and adorn both trees and baskets. The most widely cultivated species is D. quercifolia, also known as the oak leaf fern, due to the resemblance of its fronds to large oak leaves.
The Drynaria ferns have specific growth requirements similar to other demanding epiphytes: They require a warm and humid environment, bright conditions but no direct sunlight, consistent watering and proper fertilizer application during the growing season. They are sensitive to cold temperatures, but even more susceptible to drought, which can cause browning and death.
Growing Drynaria ferns is similar to cultivating vanda orchids and Huperzia species. A greenhouse or conservatory is ideal, but if you have a bathroom with a skylight, it can also be used to create a small forest of lush epiphytes. These ferns are susceptible to pests such as aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and whitefly. To prevent damage, identify infestations early and use the least toxic treatment option available.