By Jennifer Poindexter
Do you need a solid ground cover that looks good and keeps weeds at bay? The hay scented fern could be what you need.
This plant produces lush green fronds that add color, simplistic charm, and an extensive weed barrier. However, you must know how to grow and care for these plants to encourage them to thrive.
The healthier the plants are, the better they work as ground cover or even for regular use around your yard or garden.
If you’re interested in growing this plant, you’re in the right place. I’m going to walk you through what you should know to grow the hay scented fern.
Here’s how you should go about it:
Growing Conditions for the Hay Scented Fern
The hay scented fern produces beautiful green fronds which turn yellow during the fall. If this plant becomes disturbed, it will produce a scent like that of fresh cut hay. Hence, where the plant received its name.
You can find this plant growing naturally in wooded areas of the eastern and midwest portion of North America.
In the eastern portion of the United States this plant is considered invasive. However, many people enjoy growing the plant for its ground cover capabilities and for use as a border plant.
Should you choose to grow hay scented ferns as ground cover, be aware that they can take over an area in only two to three years.
If you’re considering adding them to a perennial flower bed, be mindful to plant them by themselves as they might choke out surrounding plants.
When looking for the right growing location for the hay scented fern, be sure to select a spot with full to partial shade.
They also prefer nutrient-dense soil. Yet, they aren’t picky about soil type. Hay scented ferns are perennials, should remain hardy in planting zones three through eight, and can live for up to ten years.
Ensure the area you select is roomy enough for the number of plants you’d like as these ferns are known for becoming up to three feet tall and equally as wide.
You now have an idea of what a hay scented fern needs and what to expect when growing this plant. Now, let’s talk about how you can grow them around your home.
How to Plant the Hay Scented Fern
There are two methods to propagate a hay scented fern. The first method is to propagate from spores. Ferns don’t produce seeds.
Instead, they produce spores on the bottom of fronds. When you notice spores growing on the fronds, cut each frond from the plant.
Bring the fronds indoors and place them between two sheets of printer paper. Leave them there for an entire day.
By the next day, the spores should release from the fronds. If so, remove the frond, and it should look like an art project created from the dust of the plant because there should be an outline of the frond.
The sheet of paper which doesn’t have the outline on it, lay it on a flat surface. The paper which does have the outline, gently roll it up and pour the spores on the paper lying flat.
Fill a growing container with well-draining soil and sprinkle the spores over the container. Wrap the growing tray in plastic wrap to create a greenhouse effect.
Leave the tray in an area where it can receive indirect sunlight for most of the day. In the coming month, you should see a carpet of tiny foliage filling the growing tray.
Be patient as this is a sign that the prothallia is coming. Prothallia is heart-shaped greenery that contains both a sperm and egg which is how ferns are created from spores.
When the prothallia develops and is ½ inch tall, mist it with water. If sporelings don’t emerge within a few weeks, mist the greenery again.
Once you have sporelings, remove clumps of them from the seed tray and fill a fresh growing container with new growing medium.
Plant the clumps of sporelings in this container. Place the new growing container in indirect sunlight as well and ensure the area is warm.
When the new plants are an inch tall, transplant them to their own separate growing containers. Keep misting them with water and ensure they’re growing in containers and soil that are well-draining.
Once your ferns are approximately a half-foot in height, you may transplant them into their permanent growing location assuming that it’s early spring. If not, wait until spring arrives.
When ready to transplant, ensure there’s at least eighteen inches between each plant and water them deeply at the time of planting.
The second growing method for hay scented ferns is to grow from rhizomes. This is how these plants spread so quickly because they create thick rhizome barriers which form new plants.
If you’re trying to spread the wealth of these plants around your property, in the spring, dig up the rhizomes of the plants at the crown.
Once you’ve removed some of the rhizomes, use a sharp knife or a pair of shears to divide them. When your divisions are made, plant the rhizomes in an adequate growing location and water them deeply.
Propagation by division is much easier than by spores and has a much higher success rate.
However, pick the method that works best for you and begin adding hay scented ferns to the area you’ve selected as soon as the weather permits.
Caring for the Hay Scented Fern
The hay scented fern is not only great for adding beauty to your home and for using as a natural weed-barrier, it’s also low-maintenance.
To care for this fern, you must begin by watering the plant deeply during its first year. After the first year, the plant should be established enough to survive on rain alone.
However, in the first year, ensure you water the plant heavily once or twice per week for a longer period of time.
This saturates the roots. Between waterings, the plant will dig its roots deeper into the ground to retrieve more moisture.
This encourages deeper roots which should keep the plant healthier. The next thing you must do is apply a layer of mulch around the plants as it helps them retain moisture.
At the end of the growing season, you should cut the plants back to ground level. They’ll reemerge in the next growing season.
If they come back too thick, you may always divide the plants anytime throughout the growing season. Just ensure you water the transplants well at the time of planting.
These are the few steps you must take when providing proper care to your hay scented ferns.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Could Impact the Hay Scented Fern
Most plants face issues no matter where they grow due to pests and diseases. However, this isn’t the case with the hay scented fern.
These plants don’t face any serious or common issues with pests or diseases. In fact, these plants are sometimes used to deter certain issues around the garden.
For instance, if you have a problem with deer, plant hay scented ferns. Deer don’t enjoy the fragrance of this fern and won’t eat it. They tend to stay out of areas where this fern is growing as well.
Not only is the hay scented fern a beautiful plant, great for weed barrier and ground cover, and low-maintenance, it also doesn’t face many threats.
In fact, it can be a gardener’s friend when keeping unwanted guests out of your growing spaces. Keep in mind, this plant will need attention to keep it from taking over.
However, with proper attention, some maintenance, and dividing the plants as-needed, this could be a useful plant to keep around your home.