Let's start with a little back story...I remember when I first heard about Fern Fibre (about 6 or more years ago now), it was from one of my good plant friends, he gave me a little Philodendron verrucosum and it was in this substrate that I had never seen anyone use before. I was so intimidated by it and didn't really know how to care for plants that were planted in it, it felt so advanced! I did some research and decided to get myself a small bag and experiment with it. I had amazing success propagating all sorts of house plants in it and as they say, the rest is history! I was converted to this new magical substrate (I felt like I had unlocked a new super power haha!)
Now let's get into why the hype about Fern Fibre and what it actually is.
What is Fern Fibre you ask? Fern Fibre is made from New Zealand Tree Ferns, Dicksonia fibrosa, which are sustainably harvested from private land via helicopter to leave the impact on the surrounding area to a minimum. The logs are then processed into either Fern Fibre, Fern Fibre totem poles or Fern panels. Fern Fibre is exactly what the names suggest, it's "chipped up" Fern logs, which leaves loose, long fluffy fibres that can be used as a potting medium (see pic to the left)
It is a favourite among Orchid growers, house plant enthusiasts and reptile keepers.
Why so much hype then? In my personal experience with using Fern Fibre, is that there isn't a plant I have tried in Fern Fibre that doesn't thrive (and this seems to be the feedback I have had from other plant parents too)
The fibrous structure makes air circulation around the root system exceptional, it won't compact down and suffocate roots. It also has amazing water retention abilities, while also draining freely and not becoming waterlogged. Those 2 factors are essential to successful propagating and growing.
I have tired Fern with a wide range of house plants from aroids like Monstera, Philodendron, Anthurium and Pothos to Hoya, Orchids & Snake plants, and all have done exceptionally well!
Fern Fibre is such a versatile substrate as well. It can be used as a potting substrate on its own, it can be mixed into a potting mix to create a light and airy mix, it can be used as a propagation medium and it can be used to fill aroid grow poles as a climbing plant substrate.
I use Fern Fibre for 99% of my grow poles for the moisture retaining abilities, as well as the fact aroids aerial roots seem to absolutely thrive in this substrate. One thing I have noticed over the years of using it in my poles, is that if fern fibre dries out in the pole, the plants roots stay plump and don't dehydrate (unlike in Spagmoss) and it doesn't need to stay consistently moist for plants roots to grow into it, this is probably my favourite characteristic.
A few things to note when using Fern Fibre on its own as a substrate. It contains very minimal, if any, natural nutrients, so plants will need regular feeding to provide plants with the essential nutrients they need to thrive. It does however have the capability of holing onto nutrients for longer periods then other substrates, so feeding doesn't have to be as regular.
Fern fibre is also extremely long lasting, meaning you won't have to repot as often and provided you have no pest or disease issues, you can reuse it over and over. You can sanitise substrates by boiling them in water for a period of time, I have never personally found the need for this, but to give you peace of mind, it can be done.
You may also notice little Ferns and other small plants will start growing in the fern fibre if you keep it moist and in a humid environment. This is TOTALLY NORMAL and actually looks quite cute! But if you're not a fan, reduce the humidity and let it dry out between waterings and they'll soon die off. I feel like this is something pretty special & cool though, because it means the substrate is completely natural and hasn't been chemically processed and tampered with in any way.
Fern Fibre totem poles are also fantastic for growing aroids on, as they are made from a "tree", which is exactly what aroids grow up in nature. Their fibrous structure provides the perfect surface for aerial roots to grip onto and into, no need to keep them moist either! The plants I have grown on Fern totems also seem to mature quicker. They also come in a range of sizes to suit a wide range of plants.
I like to give the Fern poles a good hose off before planting them in your pot with a plant, this removes any loose fibres (they can be a little messy to start with) and it also helps encourage your plant to root onto the pole in the early stages (once it is attached to the pole you no longer need to keep it moist)
The only down side to these is that they are not the easiest to extend, but it is do-able! You'll need to drill a hole down the middle of the 2 poles, find a dowel or bamboo rod to insert into one of the poles, then place the other pole on top.I have a quick video on the Fern fibre pole product page if you'd like to see a quick preview of how I extend them.
I think this sums up pretty well why Fern Fibre is so awesome! I would love to hear about your experiences with using Fern Fibre products in the comments and if you've been on the fence about trying it, I hope this BLOG helped convince you to give it a try :)
Thanks for reading,