Help with Bird's Nest Fern

aquadriacJanuary 4, 2011

Hey all- I've had this bird's nest fern for about a year now... Lately it's been looking somewhat leggy, upon closer inspection I noticed there are two 'birds nests' in the middle, so there are two plants I'm guessing. Might one be choking out the other- and whats the best way to separate them??

Here's some pictures

The other 'center' (I don't know what to call it- where the leaves come out) is tucked underneath the other in the 2nd photo.

Thank you for any advice- I love this plant and it's hard to come by in my area- I'm afraid I'll screw it up! :)

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Whether or not the plants are 'choking' each other would be a function of how congested the roots are in the entire soil mass. Root congestion restricts growth because the soil becomes packed with 'conductive' roots, roots the primary function of which is to move water and nutrients, rather than to gather them. This leaves a reduced volume of soil to support the fine hair roots that do all the real work.

The 'center' you refer to would be called the 'crown'. If the roots have filled the pot and are restricting growth, you should consider repotting/root pruning or separating and repotting the plants in the future, but winter is a poor time to consider work as major as that. Instead, wait until early summer when the plant(s) have gained some energy and they are better able to tolerate the stress.

If the smaller plant is an offset from the larger, you can simply cut them apart with a longitudinal cut so each has a healthy portion of the root system. Dust the cut with powdered sulfur if you want, to help thwart any rot organisms that might want to wreck your day. If the plants are individuals, tease or cut the root mass apart to separate the plants & repot.

Don't be afraid to cut the plants back and prune roots. This type of treatment forces growth from cells closer to the root systems, which are ontogenetically younger (juvenile) and more vigorous, which is where the term rejuvenation pruning comes from.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 4:34PM
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oh thank you so much! Instead of sulfur might I be able to use cinnamon powder? I use it on my orchids when I cut them to prevent infections... same deal right?

I will wait and divide them in spring/summer, they should have plenty of room in there for roots.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 3:02PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Cinnamon should work fine, though either would just be an added precaution. I use the sulfur mainly on cuttings of THICK cacti and succulents. Beyond that, I rarely bother. If your soil is well-aerated, the threat of rot issues are greatly reduced.

Take care.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 3:26PM
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