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Ferns are one of the go-to choices by landscapers for adding a sight of lush green to any shady spot in your garden. It is a no-brainer to consider this plant because of its hardiness and low maintenance.
Moreover, it is also known to be an excellent air purifier. That means it has a unique ability to absorb harmful toxins in the surroundings while improving humidity levels. Its aesthetics plus benefit is the perfect combo too good to let pass.
Among the fern family, the lemon button ferns are one of the top favorites!
Lemon button ferns offer the same great qualities but at a more compact sizing. With only about a foot tall, it is literally like the little sister of the ever so popular Boston fern.
If you wish to get to know more about this gorgeous plant, you have just come to the right page!
In this article, we will tackle everything you need to know when growing lemon button ferns. Moreover, we will also include links on some of the best tools and products you can use when caring for such a plant.
The lemon button fern is also referred to as a button sword or fishbone fern. Or, scientifically known too as Nephrolepsis Cordifolia ‘Duffii’. Yes, this plant lives true to its name. It is being called so for the reason that it has small round leaves resembling that of a button. To further justify, this fern’s foliage also delightfully gives off a light lemon aroma, especially when crushed. Hence it’s called lemon button fern.
This variety of fern is native in the pantropical areas in Asia and Northern Australia. Lemon button fern is a type of woodland plant. Thus, it thrives comfortably in shady spots like that under the large trees in the forests.
The lemon button fern belongs to the Polypodiaceae family along with its popular relative, the Boston fern. But unlike the latter, the Lemon button fern is a small to medium-sized plant. Its compact structure makes it a favorable choice among urban homeowners with tight household spaces.
Appearance-wise, it rather looks similar to its very fussy cousin, Maiden fern. But unlike her, lemon button ferns are easy to care for. It is a hardy plant that requires just a bare minimum effort to grow.
How to Care for Lemon Button Ferns
This uncomplicated lemon button fern adapts well to any levels of lighting. It can tolerate from low to medium, and even brightly lit grow spaces. This makes it the perfect plant to have in any type of room. You can place it anywhere from outdoor to indoor, or move it from balcony to windowsill and more.
That’s how versatile it can be!
Although, because this originated as a woodland plant, it tends to love shady areas more. Thus, it is best to place your plant under indirect lighting. So, any place is good as long as it gives off filtered lighting.
Then again, even if it can tolerate low levels of lighting, it is still not okay to give it absolute zero. Thus, in cases where lighting tends to be insufficient, you can use artificial grow lights instead. There is a wide array of grow lamps available in the market today. Opt for one that can deliver full-spectrum sun-like appeal. Moreover, ensure to choose the correct size for your plants. The more pots you have, the more lighting you will need.
Our top picks for grow lights:
The lemon button fern is a very forgiving plant. It doesn’t require stringent watering routines. In fact, this type of cultivar is drought-tolerant. Even so, don’t be too hard on it and leave it bone-dry. It won’t do the plant any good. Instead, it is more preferable to water it once the top 2 to 3 inches of the soil already feels dry.
It is also not finicky with the type of water it needs. Tap water should work just fine as long as its level of hardness is not too much. In such a case, though, it is advisable to boil the water first. Then, let it completely cool before pouring into your plant.
On the other hand, there are also other gardeners who prefer to use bottled water to hydrate their plants. This ensures that there are no impurities that might come along with the water. Although, this option can be quite unnecessarily costly too.
So, how much water do you have to give lemon button ferns?
This is pretty much a very common question we are often asked, especially from newbies.
I hate to break it, my friend, but there is no specific answer to this question. No exact liters, nor frequency!
As a rule of thumb, though, it is good to give it thorough watering enough to saturate the roots. The even distribution of water is essential to keep all areas well hydrated. With much emphasis, it is important to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. Otherwise, too much watering can also lead to root rotting.
To ease your anxiety and improve your confidence, you can also use soil moisture meters. It is a simple garden tool with metal probes that you poke down into the soil to measure the moisture levels within. This literally takes you out of the guessing game of whether your plant needs to be watered or not.
Our top picks for soil moisture meter:
As mentioned, the lemon button fern is not the finicky type. It can be planted even with just a regular garden soil. Then again, it would benefit more if you provide it with the most conducive environment. A moist yet well-draining soil type is best suited for this type of plant.
In this case, it is ideal to incorporate peat moss, coir, and perlite into your mixture. This will create a loose peat-laden soil that can both provide good aeration and moisture retention at the same time.
Our top picks for soils:
The pH level is another element you should consider in your soil. Lemon button ferns are an acid-loving type of cultivar. In particular, it prefers a pH range between 4 to 7. Maintaining the acidic environment is vital for the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Moreover, pH levels also play an important role in inviting good microorganisms. Soil-dwelling creatures like earthworms help to improve the nitrogen levels in the soil. It does so by facilitating the conversion of nitrogen into a usable form. Thus, making it more accessible and easier for the plants to absorb.
Sulfur is the primary component for raising the acidity levels in your soil. Fertilizers such as sulfur-coated urea and ammonium sulfate are often the go-to choices. Warning though, these products tend to be very potent. Thus, you have to be extra careful to follow the manufacturer’s directions. The correct application mitigates the risk of burning your plants.
You can also use elemental or granular sulfur. These are rather slow-acting thus much safer to use especially for household gardening.
Our top picks for sulfur-containing fertilizers:
Lemon button ferns are not aggressive growers. They pretty much have slower growth than most types of cultivars. Thus, don’t expect to see it grow taller day by day. Nevertheless, this plant would appreciate a good nutrient boost too. So apart from giving fertilizers to acidify the soil, it is also ideal to feed it with balanced plant food.
A regular all-purpose fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 20-20-20 is enough to provide your fern with the essential nutrients. This includes the basic macronutrients such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. It is also advisable to use a water-soluble type of fertilizer. Such kinds are much easier for the plants to absorb. Thus, rendering it more effective than non-water-soluble varieties.
Meanwhile, there are also some gardeners who prefer to use slow-release fertilizers. Using such gives you more extensive coverage throughout the seasons. Moreover, it is also least likely to burn your plants.
Regardless of which type you choose, it is a must to always check the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper dosage and frequency. Furthermore, make sure to feed your plants during their active phase of growth. Sometime in early spring and summer seasons would be the best times.
Our top picks for fertilizers:
Temperature & Humidity
As you might already know, lemon button ferns came from the pantropic areas. That means these plants tend to be most suitable in warmer environments. To be specific, it prefers to be in a grow room with a temperature between 65°F to 75°F.
It also loves to sit in highly humid spaces. It thrives best within the range of 60% to 90% humidity. To help promote humidness, you can mist your plant with plain water from time to time. This is the most basic way to add moisture to the surroundings of your plants.
Another simple method is to place the pots in a tray filled with water and pebbles. The heat within the room aids in the evaporation of water thereby increasing the humidity level. Meanwhile, the pebbles allow your pot to sit on top of the water without getting soaked. It is inexpensive and somewhat decorative too.
If budget permits, though, you can also use a humidifier. This device conveniently delivers accurate levels of humidity as deemed necessary. Often, these machines can work in both ways too. So, it can elevate humidity and at the same time dehumidify if the room gets way too damped already.
Our top picks for humidifiers:
Pruning is one simple way of keeping your plants looking neat and tidy. The goal here is to trim off the dried out and unkempt fronds. That way, you can maintain the gorgeous and lush green appearance of your foliage.
It is normal for some leaves to wilt during the autumn and winter season. Then again, you should wait until the plant becomes active again before attempting to trim them out. Hence, spring is the best time to prune as this is the period where new leaves start to appear.
When pruning, it is a must to use sharp garden pruning shears. This gives your plant a cleaner cut with less trauma. So, it is a must to sharpen the blades of your shears from time to time to keep them in tiptop condition.
Furthermore, it is also important to sanitize your pruning shears before and after each use. Doing so will prevent cross-contamination of diseases from one plant to another. You can do this by simply wiping the blades of your shears with at least 70% Isopropyl alcohol.
When trimming off the wilted leaves, make sure to cut at the very base of the stem. Often, the base of a mature lemon button fern tends to be quite crowded. So, you have to be careful to trim only the dead portions. As much as possible, do not disturb any new growths to avoid shocking it.
Our top picks for pruning shears:
You should know that lemon button ferns do not produce flowers. Thus, there is no way for you to get seeds out of them. Instead, you can proliferate this plant either by spore propagation or division.
Spore propagation is how lemon button ferns naturally proliferate in the wild. But in an actual garden setting, this process is much more difficult to achieve. It is quite tedious and complicated. Thus, it is least likely advisable because of the lower success rates.
So, let’s skip this method for now.
Propagation through division, on the other hand, is a more simple and feasible technique. It is also known to have a higher success rate than any other means. This process entails the actual division of the mother plant into sizable individual sections. By that it means, each segment should have a decent amount of root ball and abundant fronds already.
In separating your plant, you should be extra careful not to damage the roots as much as possible. Extensive trauma to the root system can cause shock or even kill your ferns. In that sense, the more intact the roots are after division, the more likely it will survive the propagation process.
Once you have already secured individual sections, you are now ready to plant it in the soil. Always prepare a fresh batch of fertile and well-draining soil for new plants. It is also ideal to keep to the potting mix moistened to stimulate growth. Other than that, you just have to follow the usual care tips for lemon button ferns.
Pests & Diseases
Lemon button ferns are hardy plants. They rarely get affected by pests and diseases. When they do, it is fairly easy to resolve and manage. Often, they may commonly attract pests like aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, and slugs.
For small pests, simple rinsing and wiping off the plant with plain water will do just fine. If it continues to persist, you may then spray insecticidal soap or neem oil to keep these pests at bay. These are very safe and inexpensive products that you can use as often and as long as necessary.
On the other hand, slug infestation may take place especially when the fern is exposed outdoors. This is easy to determine because slugs tend to leave silvery trails. In such a case, you can apply diatomaceous earth around the top of the soil. The gritty texture of this powder lacerates the soft skin of the slug leading to its eventual death.
Our top picks for insecticidal soap, neem oil, and diatomaceous earth:
There you go! Those above are all the basic things you need to know to keep your lemon button ferns happy and lively. These versatile plants are very forgiving. Thus, there is absolutely nothing to be apprehensive about as long as you follow our simple care guidelines. So, just enjoy your plant journey and let the natural beauty of the lemon button ferns shine through your space!