How To Care For A Fern

Boston Fern

Care of Fern Plants

Easy to grow, beautiful to look at, and coming in a huge array of varieties – the Fern is one of the oldest plant family on the face of the earth. Having been part of woodlands and forests for over 300 million years, the ferns have made their rightful place among the most attractive plants that can be grown in a garden or even inside a house.

Varieties of Fern:

There are about 12,000 species of ferns around the world, as estimated by the American Fern Society. These include ferns that can grow in the cold hard weather as well as those that thrive in tropical environments.
If you are looking for a fern to grow in your garden, here are the most common ones to choose from:
• Southern Maidenhair Fern – famous for being able to grow in multiple soil conditions.
• Lady Fern – tolerance for drought, with an upright height of up to 3 feet.
• Autumn Fern – known for its changing colors throughout the year. Its leaves turn coppery pink during the spring, going to a full copper color in the fall after turning green in the summer.
• Male Fern – famous for its interesting vase-like shape and its height of 5 feet.
• Boston Fern – one of the most famous indoor ferns.

Caring for Outdoor Ferns:

One of the best factors of outdoor hardy ferns is that they don’t require a lot of care to grow well. Their survival instinct is very strong, and at times they will forgive you for not noticing that they’re there.
Ferns do require rich soil for growth. Soil that has a lot of organic matter in it is best for garden ferns. You will need to mulch regularly and water the ferns consistently during dry periods. Being tropical plants, ferns also require high levels of humidity. This can be acheived indoors by placing the plant on a saucer filled with a bed of gravel – and keeping the gravel wet, allowing the water to evaporate up into the plant.

Caring for Indoor Ferns

Indoor ferns, like the Boston fern, have a slightly more rigorous care mechanism associated with them. Being indoors, they don’t quite get to enjoy the nature that any plant needs, and need to be cared for a little more than outdoor species. Follow the instructions below and you should have no problem keeping your fern thriving for years to come.


Many ferns grow well in indirect light because direct sunlight causes their leaves to turn brown and wither away. Placing indoor ferns in front of a north facing window is a good idea, while you can also place them in front of an east facing window in winters when the sun doesn’t hit them directly in the morning. Many people believe that the fern is a plant of the shade, but this is not true. They are used to living in the canopies of trees, so they see a lot of filtered light. This makes it important to provide bright, yet indirect, light to indoor ferns.


An average indoor temperature of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit is optimum for healthy fern growth. At night, these temperatures go down 10 degrees. Temperatures higher than 75 degrees make the plants dry and they need to be watered more frequently.

Watering Ferns

Ferns require consistent watering. The soil has to be kept evenly moist, without being too wet. If you water the soil too much, the fern’s fronds will turn yellow and may wilt after a period of time. Diseases such as root rot and fungal attacks follow. Wilt is also caused if you water too little, which makes watering an important part of fern growth. Checking your plant frequently or using a water meter is the best way to judge the moisture level in the soil.


Almost none of the famous or commonly known ferns will grow well in dry atmospheres. They are plants of the woodlands and forests, where they have enjoyed high levels of humidity for millions of years. Therefore, it becomes important to ensure a humid environment for ferns to grow indoors.
One way to do this is to place their pots on trays of damp pebbles that create a humid micro-climate around the plants. You will also benefit from misting the ferns regularly. If you can afford it, a humidifier works best for keeping moisture in the air.


Ferns have delicate roots that have been adapted to grow in the light soil of the forest. Indoor and outdoor ferns both require a rich soil to thrive. Use the right kind of compost so that the roots don’t get waterlogged. Compost consisting of peat or any such fibrous substitute is best for the healthy growth of these plants.
Ferns should not be fed directly and in large quantities as their root system can get damaged by such treatment. They require to be fed every two to four weeks with a light liquid fertilizer, a few drops of which have been added to the water the plant is being misted with. Winter time is resting season for the ferns, so don’t feed them at this time.

Fern Disease, Insects and Pests

Ferns are not affected by a lot of diseases, however they are susceptible to the usual pest attacks. Mealy bugs and mites are common attackers. They should be hosed off the plants with water as pesticides can injure the ferns. Even a mild solution of rubbing alcohol and water can prove to be a strong weapon against Mealy Bug or Spider Mite.

Repotting Ferns

After a few years, the fern will need to be repotted. This can be done by placing it in a soil-less mix with a healthy amount of peat moss in it. Remember to repot in the spring season to encourage growth.
The underside of fern leaves produces spores, which can be separated from the leaves and then used to propagate new plants. Simply place the spores in a growth mix and water well. When the fronds start appearing and reach up to three inches in height, pot them in separate containers and treat as adults.

These are the basic requirements that the fern needs. Special requirements may be applicable depending on what species of the plant you are growing. No matter which fern you decide to grow, however, you can be sure that you will receive a lush green, beautiful reward at the end of all the hard work.

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