Indoor Ferns – Your Complete Care Guide

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Indoor ferns can be catered to your unique space to show off your personality, arranged around your home in many different ways, from hanging baskets, basic pots, and wall supports.

Ferns are known to be one of the oldest groups of plants on Earth. Fossil records date back to 383-393 million years ago. Currently, there are about 10,500 living species of ferns.

Ferns are commonly found in moist, shady spots. They like forests, rock crevices, and prefer to be sheltered from the direct sun.

One-third of ferns are epiphytes; it is normal to find them growing from other plants, boulders, and tropical trees.

There are many ferns to choose from with difficulty levels, from beginners to more advanced gardeners. The top 10 indoor ferns for this list are Staghorn Fern, Boston Fern, Bird’s Nest Fern, Asparagus Fern, Rabbit Foot Fern, Kimberly Queen Fern, Frosty Fern, Lemon Button Fern, Maidenhair Fern, and the Foxtail Fern. Here’s why they are top 10.

1. Staghorn Fern

Staghorn Fern

Staghorn ferns, also called elkhorn ferns or antelope ears, are epiphytic plants, and because of this, mounting or hanging is an excellent way to grow this indoor fern.

These plants are relatively easy to grow indoors; they require medium to low lighting, require humus-rich soil, and as long as they are provided a high moisture volume, they will thrive.

These simple indoor ferns have two leave types antler resembling foliage and flat-basal-like leaves. Their antler-like foliage produces spores as their reproductive organs, and the basal leaves are there for stability.

Growing Staghorn ferns from baby to adult plants is one of the easiest plant growths to accomplish. Over time you will begin seeing small ferns popping up around the main plant. Simple cut this baby fern from the pot of its parent plant, replant it to its own space, and then continue care just as you would the adult plant. Given proper lighting, soil and moisture, these baby plants will grow into beautiful adults in no time.

2. Boston Fern

Boston Fern

Boston ferns are among one of the most popular indoor ferns to have. They do, however, require more strict care guidelines to survive.

Boston Ferns need high humidity. If the leaves turn yellow on a Boston fern, the plant is not getting enough moisture in the air. The best way to provide this for your fern is by creating a humidity tray or misting your fern several times weekly.

Boston Ferns, originating in tropical climates, do not like to get dry. Keeping their soil moist is essential. These ferns do best in a soil mixture high in peat moss. It is a good idea to soak your plant once monthly to thoroughly ensure it is watered and then continue with regular watering daily if the soil feels even slightly dry to touch. The number one reason Boston ferns do not survive is that they get too dry.

Boston ferns do not like direct light and can quickly burn, but they need plenty of indirect sunlight to grow optimally. It is best to fight a bright window and place these plants nearby.

Boston ferns are susceptible to spider mites and mealybugs even when indoors. If you notice pests starting to destroy your fern, be sure to treat it quickly to prevent not being able to recover your gorgeous fern.

3. Bird’s Nest Fern

Bird’s Nest Fern

The tropical loving Bird’s Nest Fern, native to regions of Asia, Africa, Australia, and Hawaii but can thrive indoors given the proper conditions.

Birds Nest ferns have simple large fronds that some think resemble banana leaves. This is ironic because these plants are epiphytes and are often found growing high up on palm trees. Bird’s Nest fronds are crinkled like french fries, light green, and start emerging like eggs from the ferns rosette.

These ferns are relatively easy to care for indoors. They like to hang from ceilings or perched on higher locations.

Bird’s Nest ferns like plenty of indirect sunlight and high humidity but can survive on low indirect like and average home humidity levels usually.

However, these ferns require an indoor temperature of between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but luckily, these are standard indoor temperature settings.

Unlike its Boston fern cousin, while it loves tropical regions, the Bird’s Nest fern does not like to be saturated with water. These indoor ferns require watering roughly every two weeks or when the soil starts to feel fifty percent dry.

4. Asparagus Fern

Asparagus Fern

The Asparagus fern can successfully be grown indoors even though it is not necessarily a common houseplant. Asparagus ferns have light green, feathery, thick foliage, which can be attractive and add elegance to any decor.

These plants are known to become invasive plants when outdoors, so the secret to having a well-kept plant indoors would be regular trimmings to keep your plant bushy and complete but not to let them become untamed.

Asparagus ferns are just ferns by the name; believe it or not, they are relatives of the Liliaceae family.

These Liliaceae ferns prefer low light, well-draining acidic soil, and high humidity. Asparagus ferns can easily appear dried out and dead but can quickly be revived with thorough watering and higher humidity levels.

5. Rabbit Foot Fern

Rabbit Foot Fern

Rabbit Foot Fern, scientifically named Davallia Fejeensis, is one of the most unique ferns. The Rabbit Foot Fern is unlike most the other ferns since it does not need constant moisture and can survive with dry soil for short periods. This fern is a good choice for those of us that can sometimes forget to water our plants. 

Even though they do not need constant moisture, they still love water and often need to be watered thoroughly. Try to keep the Rabbit Foot Fern’s soil moist but not soggy. However, if it does dry out occasionally, do not panic.

These ferns can quickly burn, so avoid direct sunlight and find a bright spot with indirect lighting. Because of the need for bright lighting, these ferns need fertilizer more frequently than others. It is ideal to add some liquid fertilizer to your plant’s soil bi-monthly.

Once your Rabbit Foot Fern has fully matured, you will begin noticing brown circles on the underside of leaves. This is not bugs or rot; but instead, it is this fern’s version of seeds. You can replant these leaves when this occurs to create new ferns.

6. Kimberly Queen Fern

Kimberly Queen Fern

Kimberly Queen ferns are easy to grow indoor ferns. These plants have straight, narrow, upright leaves, which originates their second name, the sword fern.

The Kimberly Queen fern originates from Australia and can thrive in the sun or shade. These ferns are quick-growing, dynamic, bold, and full of bold, beautiful leaves.

Like most ferns, Kimberly Queen ferns love water but do not want to be saturated. These ferns will grow best if 25% of their soil is dry before adding more water. If your plant loses its vibrancy, it is thirsty, but it is too saturated if it starts to turn brown.

The optimal temperature conditions for Kimberly Queen ferns are between 60 to 70 degrees indoors. These temperatures are slightly cooler than most homes; consider turning the thermostat down or find a colder room of your home.

7. Frosty Fern

Frosty Fern

The Frosty fern likes well-drained, continuously moist soil, indirect bright light, and a pH soil level between 5.5 and 6.

Frosty ferns received their name from the subtle silvery appearance of their foliage.

When keeping frosty ferns as an indoor fern, it is good to know it requires minimal upkeep. The first step to a thriving fern is to find high-quality potting soil. Once you have the best soil for frosty fern, search for bright indirect sunlight and water your plant. Water your frosty fern until all of the soil is damp, allowing it to drain properly, and then continue watering as needed throughout the fern’s lifespan to keep the soil wet but not saturated.

When fall and winter come around, we tend to crank up the heat indoors. When you do this, your indoor plants lose a significant amount of their moisture. Place a humidifier nearby or try a humidity tray to keep your frosty ferns’ humidity level above fifty percent.

8. Lemon Button Fern

Lemon Button Fern

Lemon Button Ferns are great for beginner gardeners due to their simplistic level of care.

Like most ferns, consistent moisture, indirect sunlight, and damp soil is necessary; these Lemon Button ferns are no different.

Lemon Button ferns do well when assisted by a humidity tray. To create a humidity tray, place pebbles into the bottom of a shallow plate, fill the container up midway with water ensuring not to cover the rocks; after water is added, place the plant on top of the tray and let it get to work.

9. Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair Fern

The popular Maidenhair Fern is a slow-growing fern typically taking three years to reach full maturity. These ferns are a common choice to have as houseplants due to their delicate lace-like appearance.

Even though popular, these ferns are one of the more difficult picks to keep indoors. Maidenhair ferns are particular in their conditions, causing them to be hard to keep happy and healthy.

Maidenhair ferns need low indirect light. The delicate leaves of these ferns can quickly burn and become damaged; they need to mimic their natural habitats. A canopy of trees usually shades their habitats, so a nice shady spot receiving indirect light is ideal.

Incorporating moss into the Maidenhairs soil can improve your chances of survival indoors. Maidenhair ferns like quick-draining potting soil but at the same time like to retain moisture. The moss additive to the plant’s soil can help with the water retention your plant prefers, while the well-draining soil will allow excess to escape.

Always watch for yellow leaves that indicate your plant is too saturated, but counterintuitively these ferns do best with multiple moisture sources. Try to water your plant every other day minimum, and at the same time, place a humidifier in the room nearby to allow your Maidenhair fern to get the humidity it needs.

10. Foxtail Fern

Foxtail Fern

Foxtail ferns are hard to upkeep indoors for some. They need high humidity levels and bright, even sometimes direct light during off-seasons of October through March to grow.

Foxtail ferns are perennial evergreens, and like the famous Christmas tree, they have fluffy stems with pine needle-like leaves. Just like the Asparagus fern, the Foxtail fern isn’t a fern at all; rather just holds the name fern.

The Foxtail Fern is a forgiving plant to those of us who may forget to water it from time to time. What makes this plant a hardier plant to upkeep indoors is its high level of grooming requirements. If not trimmed occasionally, these plants can become overgrown fast.

With adequate trimming, watering, proper soil, and bright indirect sunlight, these can be beautiful, luscious, full plants to have indoors.

Conclusion

As you can probably tell by now, ferns are relatively easy to keep indoors. Growing and having these indoor ferns thrive require most of the same essential items. Well-draining soil, indirect sunlight, and high humidity levels creates a wonderful starter package. The majority of indoor ferns love water so overwatering ferns can be hard to do unlike a lot of other indoor plants that tend to turn yellow and die from the slightest over watering.   

Deciding which indoor fern to bring into your home is the hardest decision for this bunch. Ferns are green, luscious and add vibrancy to any decor, just have fun with it!

FAQ

Every fern will have its optimal individual care requirements to thrive indoors. However, when first bringing a new fern home, you can usually stick to a few core steps to set it off in the right direction.

Most ferns prefer:

  • Indirect sunlight
  • High humidity in the air
  • Thoroughly watered, damp soil
  • Well-draining potting soil
  • Temperatures between 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit

No, Foxtail Ferns and Asparagus Ferns are not the same plants though they are commonly mistaken for one another. The Foxtail and the Asparagus Ferns are not ferns but instead apart from the perennial evergreen family.

An easy way to tell them apart just from appearance is the growth pattern of their stems. Foxtail ferns do better in a standing pot due to their upright stems. Asparagus ferns do better in a hanging or high basket because of their limp and flowy foliage.

Staghorn Fern, Boston Fern, Bird’s Nest Fern, Asparagus Fern, Kimberly Queen Fern, Rabbit Foot Fern, Frosty Fern, Lemon Button Fern, Maidenhair Fern, and Foxtail Ferns are among the most popular indoor ferns.

This will be a personal decision because what is easy for one could not be for someone else. If you are a novice gardener, the Bird’s Nest Fern and the Kimberly Queen Fern tend to be popular choices.

Both the Kimberly Queen Fern and The Bird’s Nest Fern require fairly minimal upkeep to help them thrive indoors.

Most true ferns are non-toxic to our indoor furry four-legged family members. Plants like the asparagus ferns are not true ferns and are toxic to pets.

However, whenever bringing any plant indoors around pets, always do your research to triple-check that your plant is pet friendly.

Even if your plant should be safe for your pet, a good thing to do is still discourage chewing and ingestion of any plant or plant leaves. What should be non-toxic can still cause common GI upset for any pet if it does not agree with their tummy.

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