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Growing ferns in pots, for extra tranquility

By Ian Cox, Sydney

Ian Cox recently shared his success in growing ferns in pots. He has a large informal garden in the northwest of Sydney, which follows a walkabout garden style. Yet on one side of the house, he has created a shady porch, with a pond and many ferns. However, over the last year or so, he’s been growing ferns in large pots. He believes they add to the peace and tranquility of the garden.

Success to date

Ian says, ‘I’m satisfied with the results so far.

ferns in pots

This one is Todea barbara. It grows well in a pot. It’s extremely fast-growing, and as you can see is now almost hiding the pot. It looks majestic, graceful, imposing, and elegant. I suppose that’s why its common name is King Fern.

The king fern grows readily in gardens in temperate or subtropical climates. It prefers a spot in moist acidic soil in shade or dappled shade. It can grow in sunnier locations as long as it is watered often*.

ferns in pots

Here is Adiantum formosum, in the pot to the left, and Microsorum punctatum plus a young tree fern in the one on the right.

(Adiantum formosum grows best in acidic, well-drained soil and requires plenty of water and high humidity to grow at its best. It is a very attractive and vigorous fern that is tough and hardy provided it has enough moisture. It can make a dense groundcover over many metres. Source: APS NSW

Microsorum punctatum is an upright flat ‘strappy’ plant with fronds that have fully crested tops and frilly edges. A Queensland native fern, suitable for part shade to full shade. A very easy to grow and hardy ground cover, or specimen pot plant – indoors or out. Source: Bambooland)

Blechnum cartilagineum is doing well in a large pot.

(Gristle Fern is tough and adaptable fern, useful for shady spots, including in drier areas. It could provide texture and interest in an understorey role beneath tree ferns or other types of tree. Its broad fronds and reddish new growth could create an interesting focal point, and its fairly slow growth habit means it is unlikely to become dominant or invasive. Source: Growing Illawarra Natives)

Care of ferns in pots

I feed these ferns with liquid fertilizer such as diluted worm farm liquid about once a month, but not in winter. The potting mix is nothing special – just my normal sandy soil mixed with compost – and with woodchip mulch on top. Ferns around the house give you a sense of peace and tranquillity, and on a hot day you feel a bit cooler when you see them.

To see a large ferny garden in Sydney’s south, check out John and Liz Aitken’s garden in Sutherland.


  • Elliot, Rodger W.; Jones, David L.; Blake, Trevor (2010). Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants Suitable for Cultivation: Volume 9 – Sp-Z. Port Melbourne: Lothian Press. pp. 300–01. ISBN 978-0-7344-0974-4 from Wikipedia,