How to Grow Ferns

Boston fern

Ferns are a large group of perennials. They can vary in height from a few inches to 50 feet. Most are forest plants. Plant ferns outdoors in a cool, shady place. Indoors, ferns grow well in indirect light away from drafts or forced air.

Get to know Ferns

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing Zones and range: 9-11
  • Hardiness: Average conditions with day temperatures up to 75°F (24°C) and nights between 55° and 65°F (13°F/18°C)
  • Light: Medium to high, indirect light
  • Height and width: 10” to 36” or more depending on the variety
  • Foliage: Glossy deep green fronds
  • Uses: Grow outdoors, houseplant
  • Botanical name: Various genera – see a few below
  • Common name: Ferns

Growing Ferns

  • Grow ferns in small pots in a light, well-drained, all-purpose mix with added peat moss and perlite.
  • Grow outdoors in moist, humus-rich soil that is neutral or slightly acidic.
Sword fern

How to water and feed Ferns

  • Keep evenly ferns moist, water daily if necessary. Extra humidity is a plus.
  • Fertilize ferns twice a year—in early spring and early summer—with fish emulsion.

Ferns care

  • Repot ferns in spring as needed. Grow ferns in soil rich in organic matter.
  • Mulch outdoor ferns in winter.
  • Ferns in spots too dark or shaded can become thin and disease prone

Ferns common problems

  • Scales may produce small, irregularly spaced spots on the fronds; scrape them off with or fingernail, or with a cotton swab.
  • Lower fronds commonly turn yellow and die back; lift the healthy green leaves and trim off the dead fronds; this will stimulate new growth.

Ferns propagation

  • Divide clump-forming ferns; grow new plants from spores, or pin the runners to soil and repot them when they are rooted.

Ferns varieties to grow

  • Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’) has graceful, arching fronds.
  • Maidenhair ferns (Adiantum spp.) thin, dark stems and lacy, light green fronds.
  • Australian maidenhair (A.hispidulum) has a rugged look.
  • Rabbit’s foot fern (Davallia fejeensis) has furry-footed rhizomes.
  • Bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) unfernlike fronds; excellent houseplant; epiphyte can grow without soil can grow in sphagnum moss.
  • Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) epiphyte can grow without soil can grow in sphagnum moss.

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