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Sunday, February 23, 2020

How to Care & Cultivate Tassel Ferns

This particular type has a cascading effect where the plant rather grow downward instead of upward. It has a fern like feather where the often mistaken for a fern,
rather it is a fern ally closer to a moss genes.

Currently there is a huge classification ID brawl taking place on which one goes where. And so, these Huperzia & Lycopodium had it's names interchanged and reclassified the updated version is ignored by majority.

However, my concern is much more focused on the Care & Cultivation rather the identification. Therefore, Hope these details may help you - work out the necessarily information for best care for this plants.


I must ask you when you purchase this plant, in what condition did you receive it?
How did it come? 
Is it planted in a potting mix or a cocopeat?
Or is it rolled up tightly - its root-ball in a wire mesh?

I understand - if these were sold in a rolled wire mesh, chances are these were recently harvested in some forest or jungle and sold haphazardly without letting the ferns acclimated nor with suitable medium that would make this plant last even within few weeks.


I had tried few medium types and failed miserably, the fern fronds dried out crisp. Over the years of careful checking and planting I found the best optimum medium material:

Coconut husk chuck chips. You may personally have to collect the coconut husk yourself and trim them using scissors and cut them in small chucks. 

You may also need a plastic hanging pot where you have cut of a considerable hole for the root ball to sit inside carefully and so the plant is planted upside down. This helps the water to drain out downwards while watering at the top of the pot.

Place the root-ball carefully inside and layer tightly with the coconut husk chips as so the root ball do not fall off from the cut out bottom side, you may tie it up with a wire or a string and fasten it together at the top to give it a support as it won't fall off later in the future.


Watering is important. Do water it daily but make sure that it is fast draining. The coconut should able to hold the moisture for a day or so but it should not be too soaking wet (muddy wet that it can cause root rot) It should hold enough water that it dries out within a day.

The trick is not to let the root ball totally dried out before the next watering. If this occurs, you will notice the leaves start to loose color and may appear it's vibrant green slowly turning paper crisp and burn drying out. Sometimes, it may appear to be withering due to too hot and not enough water to co-op the water loss.

You can water it heavily from the top to bottom also spraying on the foliage. Continue to experiment and see how the plant handles it. If the plant is doing well, it will sprout out new shoots and often grow upwards.

If you have Rain Water. It would be the Best for this one.
Next option would be Filtered Water. Chlorinated water will cause this plant to burn at it edges.


It requires few hours of sunlight, at least indirect bright light.
Does not do well in total shade with heavy dark areas.

I had placed saplings and they all slowly rotted and died.
I think due to - too wet and it had caused root rot.
Airy & brightly lit areas helps it to regulate this fern for better overall growth.


This one does good with good humidity.
Placing this under a water body, like under a pond or below a water feature helps to regulate the humidity well and keep the greens well maintained.


The best is dried banana peels on weekly basis.
I use to put in fresh banana peels but it had attracted fruit flies and worse squirrels and tree shrews that came investigating due to the aroma and wreck apart the crown and frond of this ferns.

Also, Foliar Fertilizer, spray weekly on half strength works best for this type of fern allies.


I had totally missed out this one. Thanks Salie from Australia for pointing out this one.
Propagating this one is quite complex but not impossible - I had failed many times with few success that I had just left it to grow in their individual pot.

Method 1: Rootball Division.

The best chances of multiplying this particular type of Huperzia is to divide the rootball into few portion according to it's growth, similar like separating a fern root ball - just make sure there are fibrous roots attached to the stem as these can easily break off.

Method 2: Layering

This one is less risky - Lay the tip of the tassel fern frond into another potting medium and it will slowly sprout out new growth from there. It may be taking months to see visible successful growth but eventually the plant will start it's own colony from that connection.
This requires a lot of patience and sometimes even after many months - there can be no visible growth taking place.

Cuttings: Failed Attempt.
However based on my experience - cuttings seemed to be the most challenging endeavor and risky - I had not managed to get even one to grow as all of them succumb to rot or dried away.

This is based on my years of experience of care and cultivating these Tassel Ferns - the Huperzia species.

The ones that I currently care for: 

Huperzia phlegmaria

Huperzia nummularifolia

Huperzia squarrosa 

Huperzia carinata

And the one from the nursery: Huperzia goebellii

Here - I share the details: 


I use Coconut chuck - chips which I had cut and placed them around the root ball.


Once a Day - Just keeping them lightly moist but not over-watered as it can cause crown rot.

The Medium must be fast draining by the next day.


To be placed in an indirect shaded area. 

Too direct Sun can burn the foliage - Too shaded can cause plant stagnation and rot.


I use Osmocote as I find it is the best solution - other fertilizers tend to burn the plant.


Airy and good airy movement is good for the plant.

Huperzia is a sensitive plant and therefore good care is required. 

 Once it is established it is fairly easy to maintain in a long duration of time.


Unknown said...

Hello thankyou for sharing your experiences in growing these beautiful plants. Could you possibly share any propagation tips please ?

Salie Australia WA

James David said...

Thanks Salie for pointing this out, I had added the information on the methods of which you can try to propagate based on the risk factor.

Unknown said...

This was a lovely learning taught very well in detail.2 questions how do the roots look like brown or tender white or greenish. As i recived a brown bundle .2nd is where do we spray the fertiliser the roots of the leaves?.i stay in a hoy climate around 32 deg day and min 28.Sun is to hot but lots of humidity.
I hope i succeed. Thank you.

James David said...

Hello, Hope you enjoyed my blog and glad it was helpful.
Answering your questions:

1) How do the roots look like brown or tender white or greenish - as i received a brown bundle.
Yes it is in a brown bundle kind of mass - more like a coconut husk like structure. They are tight and coarse - so do take care in handling them as they are indeed sensitive.

2) Where do we spray the fertiliser the roots of the leaves?
Check what the instruction on the fertiliser are you using - if it is a foliar fertiliser then when you mix with water - you can spray on the leaves too.
I wouldn't recommend to use strong fertilisers especially used for common plants as this particular species is super sensitive and will start to show burns on the leaves - if it does - then the fertiliser is too strong for it.

Hope this helps.
Also do check on my video on this:
click below

kk said...

Hi James. Some of the tassel tips have turned brown and dry. Not enough water or too hot? Should I cut them off?

Anonymous said...

Very valuable information here. Thank you.

James David said...

Hi James. Some of the tassel tips have turned brown and dry. Not enough water or too hot? Should I cut them off?

It happens, They are indeed unpredictable - you can trim off them but do check your scissors are well sterilized. And yes - Not enough water & too hot. Too wet - they turn yellow and mushy

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My Malaysian Tropical Garden mainly focused on unique and colorful plants ranging from rare to common plants all around the tropical belt across the world. Ideal for inspiration for challenging areas in the garden space - indoor gardening, balcony gardening and small green spaces especially for ariods, bromeliads, begonias, edibles, cascading & vertical garden plants, succulents & cacti, orchids, together with both shade and sun loving plants.

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