Fern Care Guide

Ferns add lushness, greenery, and life to indoor decor. And many attractive ferns are also easy keepers; they don't require strong light or constant care. Here's a rundown of how to care for ferns and some of the easiest ferns you can grow.

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Indoor fern care

Keep indoor ferns looking their best by accommodating their needs for the right light, moisture and humidity, and occasional feeding. 

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Lighting

Ferns prefer indirect light, which means ferns should reside in the interior of a room and not be placed directly in a window. The indirect light from a north window is perfect. If ferns receive too much sun, their leaves can become burned looking and dry out faster. Ferns do best when indoor daytime temperatures range from 65 to 75 degrees F., and are a bit cooler at night. Most ferns hail from the tropics and don't like very cool temperatures, so keep ferns out of cold drafts in the winter. 

Moisture and Humidity

Most ferns like evenly moist soil. Water regularly to keep the soil moist but not wet. Overwatering your fern will result in yellow or wilted leaves; too much water may cause the roots to rot. To gauge soil moisture, stick your finger into the soil. If it is dry, give your fern a drink. If it is still wet, wait a few days before watering. All ferns like high humidity so keep plants on a tray with pebbles and water to keep moisture levels around the leaves as high as possible.

Feeding

Ferns enjoy a fertilizer snack to keep their green good looks. Use a liquid houseplant fertilizer once a month in the late spring through autumn. Withhold fertilizer in the winter months. 

Transplanting Ferns

Depending on their growth, ferns may need to be divided and repotted every couple years. The best time to divide ferns is in spring; remove the plant from the pot and divide the roots. Replant into several containers.

Propagation

Ferns produce spores, which appear as brown spots on the back side of the leaves. If you'd like to propagate ferns, remove the leaves and place them in a paper sack to dry. When the spores fall off the leaves, plant them in seed-starting mix. Baby ferns will sprout from the spores.

Varieties

Here's a list of the easiest indoor ferns you can grow.

  • 'Fluffy Ruffle' Boston fern (in photo) (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Fluffy Ruffles')
    Long-lived and lush, Boston ferns are probably the most common of all indoor ferns. Their ruffled fronds are a beautiful accessory for any decor. It grows 2-3 feet tall and wide and likes medium to bright light.
  • Rabbit's foot fern (Humata tyermanii)
    The fuzzy brown stems that creep over the pot's edge give this fern its name. The fronds are finely cut and gorgeous. This fern grows 2 feet tall and wide and likes medium to bright light.
  • Brake fern (Pteris cretica)
    The fronds of this fern are flat and bear a spidery appearance. It likes medium to bright light and grows 2 feet tall and wide.
  • Bird's nest fern (Asplenium nidus)
    Bright green fronds radiate from the center of this plant to create a bird's-nest shape. This slow-growing fern grows 1-2 feet tall and wide and enjoys medium to bright light.
  • Maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum)
    This beauty features fine arching fronds. New fronds are light green and  darken as they age. It grows 2 feet tall and wide and likes medium to bright light.
  • Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum)
    This broad-leaf fern bears leaves in the shape of a deer antler. It doesn't need soil to grow in, so it can be mounted on a wall or a post.  Staghorn fern grows 6 feet tall and wide and likes medium to bright light.
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