DESCRIPTION: These are evergreen or deciduous (leaf-losing) Ferns native to North America, the West Indies, Japan, northern Asia and Europe. Those grown in North America are hardy. The most popular kind is O. regalis, the Royal Fern. It can reach a height of 6 feet with a 3-foot spread. This deciduous Fern has broadly oval to oblong, bright green fronds. At the ends of mature fronds, rusty-brown, fertile segments are produced. This Fern is great for planting near the water.
POTTING: Grow Osmundas in sun or partial shade in wet soil. They grow best at the edge of water, but can be grow in beds or borders as long as plenty of water is supplied. They best way to ensure adequate moisture when planted away from water is to dig a hole 2 feet deep and 2 feet around for a single plant, larger for more plants. Puddle the bottom and sides with clay or make them watertight with cement and fill the hole with equal parts of loam, peat and leaf mold. Planting should be done in early spring and the crowns should be set just above the soil level. In the spring, a top dressing of rich compost should be supplied and the dead fronds should be removed. Don't remove the fronds in the fall, as they protect the crowns during the winter.
PROPAGATION: They may be divided in the fall or winter, or spores may be sown as soon as they are ripe. They tend to take a long time to recover after division, therefore, sowing spores is recommended. The spore-bearing spike is gathered when the spores are ripe (when they are green) and placed in a paper bag, which is then hung in a dry, ventilated room for 48 hours. The ripe spores will be at the bottom of the bag. Finely sifted compost should be placed in 5-inch pots or shallow seed pans and charcoal dust is scattered on the surface. The containers are set in water to moisten the soil and set aside to drain. The spores are sprinkled on the surface and a pane of glass in set over the pot or pan. (The spores are not covered with soil.) Set the container in a saucer of water, which is kept filled with water. After they germinate, which takes several weeks, they form a moss-like growth on the surface. When the growths are 1/2-inch in diameter the fronds begin to develop. If they are crowded at this time, transplant them to pans, at an inch apart, filled with finely sifted compost. Moisten the soil and shade from sun. When they're large enough, they can be transferred to larger pots.
VARIETIES: O. regalis (Royal Fern) & var. cristata, gracilis, palustris; O. cinnamomea (Cinnamon Fern); O. Claytoniana (Interrupted Fern).
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