Entries in club moss (2)


Peacock Fern For House and Garden

I am smitten with my new fern in the woodland garden, though it is not a real fern but a type of club moss. Selaginella uncinata is also called peacock fern and rainbow moss, and it is easy to see why.

Do you see a resemblance to these peacock feathers?Its texture is so soft I am tempted to pet it; it feels like moss, but its lacy foliage has the look of an exotic fern. The foliage has a shimmery blue-green iridescence, though its intensity depends upon light, moisture levels and temperature. In winter the foliage will take on a bronze cast.

Peacock fern is tougher than its delicate appearance would suggest. It may be grown outside in hardiness zones 7-10. It will usually go dormant for the winter in zone 7 and will be evergreen in zones 8-10. I am on the border between zones 7 and 8, so I will mulch mine well and see if it will remain evergreen for me.

Peacock fern should be planted either in full shade or where it will receive only morning light. It needs rich soil that is well-drained and high in organic matter. Two parts peat moss to one part loam and one part pine bark is a good combination. Mulch the soil around the fern with pine straw or wood chips to conserve moisture and to help prevent weed growth. Peacock fern needs consistent moisture, but do not overwater the plant or the roots may rot. In winter one should cut back on watering, but do not allow the roots to dry out.

This wonderful fern is a low-growing spreader up to two feet wide and six inches tall. It makes a good ground cover at the base of shrubs. However, it grows slowly, so for this purpose plant several about two feet apart. Peacock fern can be grown in a pot and looks great in a hanging basket. It also does well as a houseplant or in a terrarium.

If grown outdoors, fertilize in early spring with an organic fertilizer high in nitrogen. If it is grown as a houseplant, water well at least once a week, and from spring to fall fertilize once a week with half-strength water-soluble plant food.


Arborvitae Fern: An Evergreen Beauty

Selaginella braunii is known as arborvitae fern, but it's not a fern. It's also called spike moss, but it's not a moss, either.The only thing I knew about it when I bought it last year was that it was a deeply discounted, dried-up plant. However, the nursery owner assured me was still alive and would be beautiful. I had my doubts, but at a couple of dollars each, I was willing to try.

I bought six of them. I planted three under a large Japanese maple in the front garden, the other three closer to the house beneath some azaleas. The ones close to the house are watered often, as they are a few feet from the water faucet. The other three get watered when it rains. One under the maple died, but the other two survived, though they are growing slowly.

Now this plant has stolen my heart. Yesterday I was strolling around my garden, examining plants to see what winter has wrought and looking for signs of spring. The colors of the arborvitae fern caught my attention. While some fronds remain green, others have taken on silvery bronze colors. I love the effect.

Since last year I have learned a lot about my arborvitae fern. This plant is a lycopod, an ancient relative of plants seen in fossils. The free online dictionary defines a lycopod as a primitive evergreen moss-like plant with spores in club shaped strobiles. The small club shaped cones give the plant another name: club moss.

A native of China, Selaginella braunii will grow in zones 6-9, in shade to partial shade. It needs moist, humous rich and well-drained soil. A lovely plant for a container, it likes humidity and also makes a good plant for a terrarium. It grows up to a foot high and will spread to about two feet. Eventually clumps will form, and it can serve as a ground cover, eliminating weeds. This is why I originally bought mine, though I will have to wait a few years for that to happen. Little roots form along the stems, and it is easy to propagate the plant by division. They grow relatively slowly, and I don't want to divide mine yet; so I am thinking about buying more. I plan to put several down in the woodland garden, where they will complement the hosta, azaleas, and ferns already growing there. I will fertilize my plants in early spring with an all purpose, slow-release fertilizer, and I promise to keep them - all of them - well watered.