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Australian Native Ferns

Course CodeVHT116
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Grow and Use Australian Indigenous Ferns           

For the enthusiast or commercial grower.

Learn which ferns occur naturally in Australia along with:

  • how to identify ferns,
  • where to obtain relevant accurate information,
  • how to propagate ferns, and
  • growing and using ferns in baskets, terrariums, and landscapes.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Review of the system of plant identification, general characteristics of the ferns, main groups, information contacts (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs, etc.)
  2. Culture
    • Planting, mulching, watering, pest & disease, feeding, pruning, protection from wind, salt air, etc.
  3. Propagation
    • Methods of propagating ferns. Propagation of selected varieties.
  4. The Most Commonly Grown Varieties.
    • Maidenhairs, tree ferns, stags, elks, common ground ferns.
  5. Other Important Groups
    • Blechnum, Nephrolepis, Pteris, etc.
  6. Other Varieties
    • Hares foot ferns, Bracken, Fans.
  7. Making the Best Use of Native Ferns
    • In containers, in the ground, as indoor plants, growing and showing, growing for profit (to sell the plants or what they produce).
  8. Special Assignment
    • A major project on one genera of ferns.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

Ferns are Propagated mostly from Spore
Strict hygiene is vital, when collecting spore; during sowing and while germinating –in all materials and equipment. 
Collection of spore from plants in the wild is generally preferred because purity of spore is easier to control this way. When spore is collected in a nursery garden, with different species growing closely together; it is relatively easy to end up having two spore contaminated with spore from other species.
Spore contamination can also occur in the wild; particularly from weedy species (eg. Histiopteris incisa or Hypolepis spp)
Raise spore in any type of medium as long as it is clean (free of disease & algae) and can be kept moist. It should also be an even consistency, and relatively loose, so that young plants can be pricked out (ie. lifted and transplanted) without difficulty. Ideally the media should be slightly acidic (pH 5.5 to 6.5). Sieved peat moss is an ideal medium.  Whatever medium is used; it is valuable to sterilize it before planting the spore. (NB: Sterilisation can also have a negative effect though –killing beneficial mycorrhyzae).
Place trays or pots of sown spore in an area that is away from other ferns (that might drop spore into the container); and is free of draughts or extreme heat that might dry out the pots (or bring in disease organisms).
After sowing; usually cover the container with something to keep it both clean and from drying out (a sheet of glass or plastic film might be appropriate. If the media is quite moist before sowing; the container might only need additional waterings a couple of times over a average 4-6 month period before the seal is removed to expose a mass of young ferns.
Note: For most  fern species; growth of the prothalli will be visible within 3-4 weeks of sowing.
The period require before the prothalli is mature can vary according to the species –for most it is between 3 and  6 months.
Bottom heat is generally not important; but for some species it can increase the growth rate; and through increased vigor the plants may be more resistant to disease.
Once there is a good mass of young ferns appearing; the glass can be tilted so it only partly covers the container; and allows the young plants to harden up. After a week or two the cover can be completely removed to allow further hardening. A further 2-6 weeks on and the young plants can be removed and potted

Meet some of our academics

Rosemary Davies Leading horticultural expert in Australia. Rosemary trained in Horticultural Applied Science at Melbourne University. Initially she worked with Agriculture Victoria as an extension officer, taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer. She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe. In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has completed her 6th book this year and is working on concepts for several others. Rosemary has a B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Yvonne SharpeRHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has worked in many areas of horticulture from garden centres to horticultural therapy. She has served on industry committees and been actively involved with amateur garden clubs for decades.

Check out our eBooks

Landscaping with Australian PlantsLandscaping with Australian Plants gives you a new perspective on how to use Australian Plants when designing a garden. This ebook is perfect for gardening students, landscapers and keen gardeners.
Starting a Nursery or Herb FarmThis is both a guide to “how to propagate plants” as well as an exploration of the possibility of starting a small nursery or herb business that could eventually grow into a blossoming business! It's often amazing how much can be produced, and the profit that can be made from a few hundred square meters of land. Since it was first published by “Grass Roots” in 1981, we have lost count of the hundreds of people who have told us how this book kicked off a successful business or career for them. 63 pages
Growing FernsA complete guide to growing Ferns in Australia, New Zealand and beyond. A great reference for professional and amateur gardeners, and fern enthusiasts from anywhere around the world.
Landscaping & Gardening in the ShadeThe ‘Landscaping and Gardening in the Shade’ ebook explain what you need to know about designing a shaded garden. It will go through specific plants you could use, how to care for them and different plant varieties that will give you a great shaded area.