Most ferns live in the tropics and they're usually identified by their feathery-looking fronds or leaves, which separate into leaflets. Because ferns grow in all sizes, colours, textures and shapes -- and because they keep successfully in water -- some of these nonflowering plants make effective decorations in your home, especially when combined with flowers. Use ferns to create a broad range of floral arrangements.
When you want a disease-free, pest-free fern, grow asparagus fern (Asparagus plumosus) for your floral arrangements. Commonly known as "florist's fern," asparagus fern has long, twining stems with fronds made up of tiny, feathery stems that look like leaves. Foxtail ferns, another variety of asparagus fern, stand out in vases or containers, since they grow into long, cone shapes containing numerous rosettes of small green needles. Each foxtail fern can grow 2 to 3 feet long.
You may have seen the most popular fern used indoors for decorating and for flower arrangements; it's the Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata). Also known as "fluffy ruffles fern" and "sword fern," this light-green, upright plant has fronds with a feathery look. Boston fern comes in various sizes, with fronds growing from 6 inches to 7 feet long, some spreading from 2 to 3 feet wide.
Harvested and sold to florists during the late 1800s to make wreaths, the evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) continues to be associated with Christmas. The pinnae, or individual leaflets, grow at right angles down the sides of the fronds and look like little mittens with a thumblike lobe. Some say the pinnae look like stockings. You can use Christmas ferns in your floral arrangements as they naturally appear or in a dry state or you can spray-paint them in gold or silver.
Another popular fern that works in floral arrangements is called leatherleaf fern (Rumohra adiantiformis); it looks like the maidenhair fern, Adiantum, with fine fronds that look like hair. Advantages of using leatherleaf fern in your arrangements include its being available throughout the year and having a long display life. If you need to store your leatherleaf fern, Michael S. Reid of the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of California recommends you keep it in waxed cartons at a temperature of about 0.556 to 5.56 degrees Celsius.