Of all the beautiful houseplants that we know and love, ferns are definitely one of the more difficult ones to grow. They can’t be too dry or too wet, they need lots of light, but not too much! Should you feed them? What kind of soil do they like? Wow, they just really don’t vibe with certain pots. All of these components can be a little daunting to keep track of-- but they don’t have to be! We’re going to set you up for fern-success with this care guide full of helpful information and pro-tips!
Ferns have evolved to thrive on the filtered light found on the forest floor. Beneath a canopy of trees, there’s not much (if any) direct sunlight, so they wouldn’t be able to withstand those scorching rays beating down on them. Indoor ferns are no different. This doesn’t mean they don’t need light, just not directly. Ferns need a lot of bright but indirect sunlight to flourish; if they don’t receive enough light, the fronds will droop and turn yellow, while too much light will cause burnt fronds. The best thing you can do for your indoor fern is to plant it in a room with a northern or eastern facing window. If the only space you have has a super sunny window, just place your plant a little further away and try to filter the light with sheer curtains or something along those lines!
This is probably the most crucial detail of fern care. A proper watering regimen is the key keeping your fern alive. DO NOT let your fern dry out. These plants need consistently moist soil; without this, your fern’s fronds will burn, shrivel up, and crumble. If you’re looking for a plant that you can forget to water and overall neglect, these aren’t for you. You may want to try a ZZ Plant or Sansevieria if you’re a forgetful waterer. You’ll need to water your fern when the top of the soil starts to feel dry. All of this being said, don’t let your fern sit in water. Simply put, they like damp, not soggy soil.
Humidity is arguably just as important as watering! Most indoor plants love humidity because AC/Heating systems can cause a dry atmosphere, but ferns CRAVE it. They will undoubtedly die without it. This doesn’t have to be as high-maintenance as it sounds though; there are various ways to increase the humidity in the space around your fern! Having a humidifier is probably the most efficient and easiest option. If you buy one with a large reservoir, you will barely have to worry about refilling it and it will keep your fern perfectly humid.
Another option is to place your potted fern in a tray of water and pebbles, this will increase the humidity directly around the plant. Lastly of course, you can always mist the fronds with a spray bottle, but you’ll find yourself needing to do this often.
Pot & Soil Choice
Now we’re getting into the small details that can make a huge difference in your fern growing experience. You want to choose a pot and soil combination that will hold moisture the most efficiently. For example, planting your fern in a terracotta pot will work against you. Terracotta is known for its ability to draw moisture out of soil, so your plant will dry out quickly. It’s a better idea to use porcelain or plastic pots for your ferns.
Soil is just as important as the pot, again, it needs to hold moisture! A good fern soil will be rich and loamy, and have some extras mixed in to hold water. We suggest mixing vermiculite, peat moss, or sphagnum moss into your potting soil. All of these will help prevent your fern from drying out.
Ferns as a species are accustomed to the many nutrients found in the forest from decaying plant life. Your indoor ferns will benefit from a regular feeding with a diluted liquid fertilizer. During the growing season (April-September) we recommend fertilizing once per month with standard houseplant food, but only mix in half of the recommended amount.
Source: University of Vermont
These five elements all play an important role in raising a healthy house fern. You now have the knowledge to successfully not kill this very lovely but picky variety of houseplant, so go forth and plant without fear!