Cretan Brake Fern: Growing The Pteris Cretica Fern

Pteris cretica (TARE-iss, KRET-ee-kuh) is an evergreen fern species belonging to the family Pteridaceae and is native to Europe, Africa, and Asia.

But, since the plant thrives in the subtropical climate, it almost has pantropical distribution.

It also adapts to indoor conditions because of which it is also commonly called table fern.

Different varieties of Pteris cretica are cultivated, and while each of them exhibits fronds in different shapes and colors, they all have similar requirements and characteristics.

You may also hear it called by its common names including:

  • Ribbon Fern
  • Cretan Brake
  • Cretan Brake Fern
  • Table Fern

Pteris Cretica Care

Size & Growth

Ribbon fern is a short plant typically growing to only 18” – 24” inches in height.

But, it is also a slow-growing plant and takes around 2 to 5 years to reach maturity.

The plant features short, underground rhizomes and clumps of long, erect fronds pinnately divided into 3 to 5 pairs of leaflets.

Flowering and Fragrance

Pteris cretica is a fern, and hence, it does not produce any flowers.

Light & Temperature

As mentioned above, Pteris cretica thrives in the subtropical climate, which means it requires sunlight to grow properly.

However, make sure not to expose the plant to direct sunlight as it can cause damage to the fronds.

Keep the plant in bright but indirect light throughout the year for best growth.

Experts suggest keeping the pot on a tray filled with moist pebbles and to mist-spray the plant with water, daily, when the temperature rises above 64° degrees Fahrenheit (18° C) and stays high for more than a couple of days.

60° – 70° degrees Fahrenheit (15° – 21° C) and 50° – 55° degrees Fahrenheit (10° – 13° C) are the ideal temperature ranges for day and night, respectively.

Watering and Feeding

Pteris cretica should be watered regularly and plentifully because it cannot tolerate dryness around its roots.

So, make sure to keep the soil thoroughly moist at all times.

However, reduce the watering to moderate when the temperature falls below 59° degrees Fahrenheit (15° C) and let the topmost layer of the soil to dry out before watering again.

Use a standard liquid fertilizer at half strength after every two to four weeks.

The frequency of fertilizer application varies with the type of potting mixture you have used with a peat-based mixture requiring the most frequent feeding.

Soil & Transplanting

Pteris cretica can tolerate a variety of soils as long as they are chalk-free, moist, and well-drained.

When grown in pots, the plant thrives in a peat-based mixture or a potting mix made by combining equal parts of a soil-based mixture and leaf mold.

Transplant the ribbon fern only when the roots fill the pot, and their growth is being restricted due to the small size of the pot.

When repotting, make sure to not bury the rhizomes too deep into the potting mixture; they should be just below the surface of the soil.

Spring is the best time for repotting.

Grooming and Maintenance

Pteris cretica is an easy-to-grow and low maintenance plant.

All you have to do is to regularly inspect it for old and shabby-looking outer fronds and remove them so the new ones can grow.

You may also like growing: Silver Lace Fern – Pteris Quadriaurita

How to Propagate Ribbon Fern

Propagate Pteris cretica by rhizome divisions in spring.

Cut the rhizome sections with a sharp knife and make sure each section has feeding roots and a clump of fronds.

Plant the rhizome divisions in moist soil and care for them the same way as you do for a mature ribbon fern plant.

The plant is also sometimes propagated through spores.

Table Fern Pest or Diseases

Provide the right amount of water and humidity, and your ribbon fern will not encounter any major problem.

Excessive exposure to hot sun can cause fading of the leaves, whereas too little water can cause them to turn brown and curl.

The fronds of Pteris cretica are delicate and bruise easily, so avoid touching them.

The plant is also not susceptible to any serious pests. However, it is suggested to watch out for scale insects, mealybugs, and aphids.

Cretan Brake Uses

Pteris cretica has been widely grown as an ornamental plant in both gardens and pots.

It is a wonderful addition to gardens, patios, pergolas, courtyards, terraces, and even outdoor living rooms.

There have also been reports the plant helps to remove arsenic from residential soils and drinking water supplies because its fronds can accumulate high concentrations of the chemical element.