NEPHROLEPIS EXALTATA, THE SWORD FERN, is hardy to USDA Zones 9-11 and native to parts of Florida. It is the parent to the unbelievably popular Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis,’ the Boston fern. Because it is easy to grow—and because of its classic Southern charm—it appears on porches and patios everywhere.
WHILE THE BOSTON FERN is the most popular tropical or houseplant fern, there are a few other sword ferns that are quickly growing in popularity. For gardeners who want to try something a little different, the tiger fern, shown, also called the variegated Boston fern, may be just what they are looking for.
THE TIGER FERN HAS BEAUTIFUL green- and gold-striped leaves reminiscent of tiger stripes. The variegation is subtle from a distance, but as you get closer, the leaves grab your attention. Its leaves can be up to 6 inches wide and 3 feet long. It prefers moist soil but needs to dry slightly between watering. The ferns prefer shade to part shade outdoors or bright indirect light indoors.
SUMMER’S HIGH HUMIDITY is not a problem for almost any of the sword ferns; in fact, they thrive in it. Even with their tolerance for high humidity, ferns in this group are still easy to overwinter as long as they are in bright light and are kept moist but not soggy while indoors. Fertilize once a month from April through October and you will get lush foliage year-round.
ANOTHER POPULAR SWORD FERN, ‘Rita’s Gold’ has solid golden yellow foliage; it is difficult to tell tiger fern and Rita’s Gold apart from a distance. Both ferns will make an unusual statement alone or as an addition to a combination planter on a porch or shady patio.
Shelly Nold is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.
ASK THE GARDENER
by Angie McManus
I am harvesting blackberries from four rows. The berries are tasty and large but not completely black—they have white spots. What can I do to prevent this discoloration next year?
There are a few possibilities why your fruit had some discoloration, but it is likely because of uneven ripening. Blackberries are considered an aggregate fruit, which develops from a single flower. Each aggregate is formed by a cluster of drupelets, each containing a single seed. It may be that the individual drupes did not ripen at the same rate, and that is why your berries had discoloration.
White spots on berries are typically due to a physiological disorder, but it is difficult to say what causes it. Ripening depends on several factors, including temperature, sunlight, and available moisture. Hot, humid weather without consistent moisture can cause bleach spots.
Is it possible your berries were not fully ripe when harvested? If they were not as dark as they should have been, they may have benefited from more time on the plant.
Other possibilities include a fungal problem, which would typically encompass the whole fruit, or it could be from stinkbug feeding, which can bleach out individual drupelets. You can take a sample of fruit to your Cooperative Extension Service for an analysis.
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