Artificial plants Ferns Garden Myths Houseplants

The Levitating Fern Certainly Spins, But Is It Alive?

Years ago, in the 1970s, a “plant” called the air fern was all the rage. It was said to thrive under household conditions, needing no water or fertilizer. That was, of course, a load of bunk, but a lot of people bought one and I’m sure many were thrilled with their instant green thumb… until the “fern” gathered so much dust it was no longer attractive.

Well, the air fern is back again, and this time it floats on the air! Yes, thanks to magnets and electronics, the pot hovers over the base, levitating and slowly spinning (as long as the base remains plugged in, that is). 

Give a click to watch de fake fern spin! Vidéo:

The description of the various companies that sell it joyously claim it needs no soil or water, but remains lush and beautiful, drawing moisture from the air. One even claims, “It thrives on sunshine and happy thoughts.”

Behind the “Plant”

The air fern, also called Neptune plant, is not a plant at all and in fact is as dead as a doornail. It’s a dried sea animal called a sea fir (Sertularia argentea), a type of hydrozoan and therefore a close relative of corals and jellyfish. Green is not its original color: it has been dyed that shade. And it doesn’t thrive at all (dead animals rarely do). 

Since it is dead, you can, of course, put it in sun or shade, dry air or moist. The claim that it “draws enough moisture from the air to keep it looking lush and beautiful throughout the year” is just nonsense. If you could find some way of putting it in a vacuum, with no air or moisture at all, it would still remain green.

And don’t water it: that would wash the dye off.

The levitating fern is simply an expensive knick-knack, perhaps a gift for that person who has everything and is fascinated by oddities. It’s cute enough, and it will certainly impress your guests, but… I prefer my plants alive! And they don’t have to spin to make me happy. 

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “The Levitating Fern Certainly Spins, But Is It Alive?

  1. Now, if only the folks interested in this type of ‘thing’ reads your post. 🙂

    • Hey, I’m interested! It’s hilarious! My colleague, the renowned landscape designer, Brent Green has one of these in his office. It is more tacky than the Chia pet he sent me for Christmas one year!

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