How can a Maidenhair fern live in a puddle of water?

Plant Parent

So I’ve started this experiment. I had a maidenhair fern for months now and I found it hard to keep it evenly moist.

So I installed a blumat watering device (works through capillary action) and the soil is now moist all the time. Still, I didn’t like the way the installment looked. A nursery online gave me the tip to just put my maidenhair fern in a tray of water.

So, afraid of losing my old friend, I bought a new one and took it to the test. I regularly top off the tray. This way, my fern has wet feet all the time. Still looks wonderful and keeps producing new fronds. Sitting directly in a northwest facing window

Now my question: is it because of the high respiration rate that the maidenhair fern doesn’t develop root rot? Is continuous circulation enough to not encourage anaerobic activity at root level? I can imagine, since the plant has very thin leaves, that water easily transpires which keeps pulling water up from the roots through capillary action.

Darryl

You have witnessed the reason why I think “overwatering” is an incomplete way to explain how root rot occurs. It’s good that you are able to think about how water moves through the system by passive means (transpiration and evaporation). Now, let me point out the *biological* usage of water: photosynthesis also consumes water AND contributes to the plant’s health. When the plant is able to produce enough carbohydrates for its maintenance and growth, its roots are stronger and less susceptible to root rot. Photosynthesis is only possible with good light – and “good light” for a maidenhair fern comes from having a WIDE view of the sky (for indirect light); and 1-2 hours when the sun shines directly on the plant (through a glass) is tolerable so long as you ensure the soil moisture remains high (which you are doing by keeping the plant in to pool of water).

Here’s why it all comes down to light: if you sat the same plant in a pool of water but kept it far from your windows, the plant’s productivity would be very low – and just like a starving person is more susceptible to getting disease, a light-starved plant will struggle to remain healthy. That plant would be dying slowly no matter how you watered it.

My maidenhair fern lives inside my shower, which means it gets wet EVERY DAY. There are no windows but I keep a grow light shining on it for 12 or more hours. It has been living very well for the last year in this light/water situation: READ MORE HERE.

For further reading about “overwatering”, you might find THIS ARTICLE helpful.

Thank you for your question – I’m happy to see that people don’t want to just blindly follow instructions on plant care. You’re very capable of thinking logically about how things work!

Tired of your houseplants dying on you?

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