Fern Down for What: A Guide to Growing Ferns Indoors
Ferns instantly create that indoor jungle look that every houseplant collector yearns for—I mean, have you ever seen a Boston fern in all its leafy glory? Incredible, ten out of ten, an inspiration to us all. However, growing ferns indoors takes a teensy bit more effort than your typical low-maintenance houseplants, so if you want to keep that bad gal looking glossy and fresh, follow this guide to indoor fern care.
A Quick Little Disclaimer About Growing Ferns Indoors
Before we get into the nitty gritty of indoor fern care, there’s one important tidbit of information you should keep in mind. While most ferns can be easily grown in a pot of soil, some are epiphytic—similar to orchids—and have different growing requirements. For this guide, we’ll focus on how to care for classic potted ferns like Boston fern, maidenhair, and lady fern. However, we’ve added some bonus info regarding epiphytic fern care at the end of this blog.
She’s a Ten, But She Demands Bright, Indirect Light
Ferns grow in forests underneath leafy tree canopies in the wild, so they’re not down with direct sunlight hitting their leaves. Too much intense sun will turn those glossy fronds brown and crispy—not a cute look. If your fern isn’t getting enough light, the leaves will start turning yellow, and growth will be slow.
An ideal spot for your fern is a bright, north or east-facing window. Alternatively, you can place your fern in a south or west-facing window with a sheer curtain, as the fabric helps diffuse and soften the light.
Watering Indoor Ferns
The tricky thing about ferns is they love consistently moist soil, but if the soil is soaked and soggy for too long, fungus will develop, damaging the roots. The simplest solution to overwatering is using a container with holes in the bottom. That way, excess water drains out instead of remaining stagnant in the pot. Watering your plant every 3–4 days should be sufficient.
Ferns also benefit from humidity, and the easiest way to achieve this indoors for a big, thick fern is by misting the leaves regularly. Leave a little mist bottle nearby in the room and get into the habit of giving your plant a quick spritz, gently rustling the leaves with your other hand. This method is especially useful when you’re growing ferns in hanging pots.
How to Make Ferns Grow BIG!
Surprisingly, despite their fast growth and plentiful leaves, ferns aren’t heavy feeders and don’t require much fertilizer. One application of a slow-release, balanced 10–10–10 fertilizer every year in spring will be all you need to keep these plants happy. Too much fertilizer can seriously harm their leaves—in the wild, they survive from the nutrients they get from fallen plant debris and water runoff from trees. If you want to enrich your fern’s soil even further without running the risk of overfertilization, sprinkle in some worm castings. This biodegradable compost material contains beneficial microbes that nourish your plant.
Remove any dead or damaged plant material when you see it. Leaves don’t last forever, so your ferns will lose some fronds every now and again—there’s no need to panic. Removing dead leaves will ensure that your plant doesn’t continue wasting energy on damaged material.
“An ideal spot for your fern is a bright, north or east-facing window. Alternatively, you can place your fern in a south or west-facing window with a sheer curtain, as the fabric helps diffuse and soften the light.”
Growing Epiphytic Ferns
Staghorns and bird’s nests are two of the most popular epiphytic ferns among houseplant collectors. In the wild, their roots absorb nutrients from the air, so they shouldn’t be grown in a pot of soil. Instead, you can grow them in a chunky, soilless medium, wrap the roots in a bundle of peat moss, or even mount them to a piece of driftwood. Like other ferns, bright indirect light is preferred, so keep them away from direct beams.
We recommend watering the roots regularly, and misting is helpful too. If possible, cup the root ball in your hands and hold it under a running faucet to give it a good soak. Shake off the excess moisture before putting your plant back in its place. Apply a 1–1–1 water-soluble fertilizer monthly from March to October.
For the best selection of indoor ferns on Long Island, visit Dees’ Nursery. We have so many trendy varieties that will earn you houseplant influencer status, whether you like it or not! Don’t blame us if you go viral.