Lycopodiums Now in the Genus Huperzia and How to Care for Them

by | Mar 18, 2023 | 0 comments

How do you care for lycopodiums? (Now in the genus huperzia) These plants are so weird and amazing. I first saw a Lycopodium (Huperzia) in Elvin McDonald’s book, The New Houseplant (page 45). It was a picture of a florist’s window in New York with one of these plants hanging in it. There was nothing to tell me what it was, as it was in the background of the picture. I loved it all the same.

My lycopodiums

The next time I saw it was at a local greenhouse and I parted with a lot of money and bought it. It was quite a large hanging plant. I hung it in my sunroom, but unfortunately, it was too hot, it dried out, and I lost it. I was so bummed. 

Know Your Plant

This is an example of the importance of knowing what your plants need before placing them in your home. If I had researched it first, I would have known it did not want to dry out and prefers elevated humidity.

Lycopodium squarrosa (huperzia)
My Lycopodium (Huperzia) on the counter 2014

My second lycopodium

So, the next time, I bought a small one though it was still expensive. For a long time, it was on my counter where I made sure it never dried out and the humidity was high. I bought it the summer of 2013, and it took over a year to double in size. (See picture above.) These aren’t the fastest-growing plants.

Lycopodium squarrosa
My second Lycopodium or Huperzia squarrosa 2023

The plant above is my plant today and it is getting big. I need to up-pot it and will use a regular potting mix and will add some orchid bark for aeration. Below is an Instagram post I made today so you can see the entire plant.

lycopodium (huperzia) stem
Lycopodium (huperzia) branch

Not a true fern

Though the common name, tassel fern, would lead you to believe they are ferns, they are not. They are spore-producing and are distantly related to ferns. The ones we are discussing today are epiphytic. There are terrestrial ones as well, but not as easy to grow.

They are called tassel ferns, becase of the tassel like growths that appear of the end of the branches. Thse are the spore-bearing receptacles.

They prefer moist, humid conditions and do not tolerate drying out for long, thus the reason my first one is dead. Lycopodium comes from the Greek lukos, wolf, and podion, foot. They are also known as ground pines or creeping cedar.

Matthaei Botanical Garden Lycopodium

When I saw this at Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, I was even more enamored with this plant. I mean, look at that!

Lycopodium squarrosa at Mathaei Botanical Garden
This is a Lycopodium (Huperzia) squarrosum at Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Longwood Gardens Lycopodiums (Huperzia)

When I walked into the fern corridor at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania in2012 and saw many of them and I was blown away. (I was already ecstatic to be there!) There were enormous specimens hanging from the ceiling. Wow! The following are pictures of those. There are many varieties, but I couldn’t read the tags and am not sure about them.

Care of Lycopodiums

Never let them dry out for long. This I have learned from experience. Mine is growing in the west window and seems to love it and I never let it dry out. My plant which I bought in 2013 has become a huge plant. When I go away for a week or so, I make sure my husband knows not to let it dry out. As large as it is now, it would be expensive to replace it. And I would be upset.

I hope you find one of these amazing plants to add to your collection. They really are architectual and weird plants. What more could you ask for in a houseplant?


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