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Germinating Tree Fern Spores

The following instructions will work for all species.

Like all ferns, tree ferns produce spores, not seeds. These spores are of microscopic size and will produce a translucent moss-like growth called a prothallus a few weeks after sowing. From this, the actual plants will grow. Reproducing ferns from spores requires patience and very clean equipment to avoid infections from bacteria, fungus or mosses.

A nursery tray or similar plastic container is best for sowing spores. Plant pots are usually too tall. Fill the tray with a few centimeters of substrate such as peat, sphagnum, perlite or a mix from a bag. Cocopeat often has a high salt content that may damage the plants and is not recommended. The substrate should be sterilized by placing the entire tray in a microwave oven and heating through until steaming. To be even more effective, let cool, then repeat the process.

Once cooled, sparingly sprinkle the spores on the surface. Bad results often come from sowing the spore too densely. Cover with a sheet of glass or plastic wrap, leaving a very small gap for ventilation, and place in a well lit spot but out of direct sunlight as that could overheat the container. Keep at around 20°C (68°F) or a little warmer for lowland tropical tree ferns. You should see some condensation on the cover.

After a few weeks you should see the prothalli forming. The first tiny fronds should appear a few weeks or months later. Allow a little more air in through the cover to harden the plants off a little. When they are big enough to grab, pot them up in a free draining, humus-rich mixture. Keep them covered and slowly harden them off to outside conditions.

More information can be found in the comments on the species pages. We also recommend consulting one of the books available through this website.

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