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Ferns come across as delicate, difficult leafy creatures, yet most of them are low-maintenance houseplants tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. Their fronds vary from strap-like to feathery and finely divided, which makes them immensely sought-after.
They are best grown next to an eastern or northern window where they can absorb bright to medium indirect light. Nearly all of them are the happiest in a humid environment and it is common knowledge that ferns are bathroom must-haves. Mix the potting medium with peat moss or coco coir. Keep soil evenly moist to the touch, but not soggy. Indoor ferns look dazzling because of the range of leaf shapes and varied shades of green.
Here are the 22 best indoor ferns to try.
22 Best Indoor Ferns
Fun Fact: Fern Fever became a craze during the Victorian era when collectors began growing hundreds of these humidity-loving plants in their greenhouses or conservatories. Nowadays, a bathroom is a substitute for it.
The leaves of Asparagus Fern are very tiny and feathery, so it makes a highly architectural display. It has similar needs as Emerald Fern, but it likes higher humidity than its cousin.
Provide bright indirect light, group it with other plants for increased humidity, and bring it to a bathroom often. It requires regular watering.
The family of Adiantaceae originates from North America and eastern Asia and it is known as Maidenhair ferns because of their shiny, dark green fronds and leaf stalks that resemble human hair.
Two species are immensely popular: the five-fingered maidenhair fern and the delta maidenhair fern. Both of them require warmth, air, and humidity to thrive, including indirect sunlight with a dose of shade. Both of them are used to complement and soften other arrangements.
Miniature Tree Fern
This is a large tree fern from Fiji that carries fronds in a rosette. The leaflets are shiny, green, and slightly dropping. It can reach a height of up to one meter.
Keep very moist and fertilize monthly in spring and summer with half-strength liquid fertilizer. Place it on a pebble tray to increase humidity.
Nephrolepsis exalata or Boston Fern is a very full species, great for filling an open corner by hanging the plant or placing it on a plant stand in a white pot. It is also known as Sword Fern or the Ladder Fern.
It is a lush, graceful fern with long and arching fronds, perfect for hanging baskets as well. It prefers warm partial shade and moisture at all times as dry air leads to the browning of the pinnae.
Lemon Button Ferns
Lemon button fern plants have unusually shaped bright green leaves that look like tiny circles embroidered along the stems from both sides. It isn’t one of the classic ferns, but it is one of the favorite ferns of many gardeners.
Originating from New Zealand and Australia, this fern prefers a slightly drier environment. It has low, arching, and spreading fronds in dull green. It makes a great filler plant in a large display.
Provide medium to low light, normal room temperature, consistent moisture give it more room to grow. It can make a central piece on a coffee table with its lush foliage. Mist daily if the temperatures rise in the summer.
Bird’s Nest Ferns
Curly Asplenium nidus or Bird’s Nest Fern originates from tropical Asia and has leathery, apple-green leaves which form an open rosette. New leaves start uncurling from the brown central core and they are very delicate for the first few weeks.
This indoor fern brings a tropical feel to your bathroom with its vivid ferns. Never expose it to direct sunlight. Keep warm, never below 16 degrees C.
Hare’s Foot Fern
This attractive fern is ideal for a hanging basket with its mid-green fronds, long and arching. It is one of the most architectural plants and definitely worth cultivating.
It requires partial shade and regular moisture year-round. Keep the soil moist. Use a balanced fertilizer during the growing season.
Holly fern is an evergreen species from Northeast Asia that has high, broad, dark green, lance-shaped fronds with spiny teeth.
Growing ferns indoors is easy when you know how to do it. As for other ferns, provide higher humidity, regular moisture and indirect sunlight.
This species of ferns are very neat, small, and compact found in tropical and subtropical areas. The fronds are long, arching, and can be stripped, variegated, or plain, depending on the variety. It reaches a height of 30 cm, so it is ideal for a small, attractive pot.
Provide indirect sunlight to partial shade, normal room temperatures, and keep thoroughly moist. Cut older fronds as they mature. Increase humidity.
Rabbit’s Foot Fern
The rabbit’s foot fern produces deeply lobed, blue-green leaves that reach the height of 1 to 3 feet. It produces a rhizome that hangs over the top of the pot and looks uncannily like a rabbit’s foot, hence the very name.
It is a graceful, sculptural, and surprisingly drought-tolerant plant. Water it when the top half-inch of the potting mix feels dry to the touch. Let it absorb bright indirect light or partial shade.
Squirrel’s Foot Fern
Another fern with an interesting name, Davallia fejeensis is a smaller plant with finely cut foliage that reaches up to 18 inches in length. It looks dazzling in a hanging basket, where the rhizomes will eventually circle the pot, sending the fronds in every direction to form a ball of fern.
Like many ferns, water only when the top half-inch of the soil is dry. Expose it to indirect light and keep it thoroughly moist.
Elk’s Horn Fern
This native of Australia is striking in appearance with its down-covered green fronds that grow from the center of its brownish back leaves. Unlike other ferns, it doesn’t mind a dry atmosphere as its sterile leaves grow right over the soil and leave no gaps for the watering can.
That said, the best way to water it is to plunge the pot into a bucket of water. Provide full sun and maintain room temperature above 16 degrees C.
Tsussima Holly Fern
This petite fern from Japan looks fragile, yet it is robust enough to thrive in low humidity. It bears clusters of short, stiff, bushy fronds that make it an ideal plant for growing in a pot, dish garden, or even terrarium. It may be difficult to find, but it should be available in some large botanical gardens.
It tolerates a range from light shade to bright light. Use equal parts potting soil, sand, and peat moss. Misting it three times a week would be beneficial.
This fern is used as a ground cover in frost-free areas such as Florida, but it is also surprisingly durable as an indoor plant. It can be grown in a shallow pot or a hanging basket.
It features emerald-green leaves that are very shiny. It needs shade from midday summer light. Use perlite and peat moss for the soil mix.
East Indian Holly Fern
This is a favorite of many gardeners because of its striking striped foliage and easy attitude. It brings woodland charms into your home. Its arching, fan-like fronds can extend up to 60 cm. Try cutting a few and adding them to other floral arrangements.
It is best suited to moderate light and consistently moist soil. Try to provide high humidity.
Cretan Brake Fern
Pteris cretica is a very forgiving plant if you forget to water it. It has slightly wider leaves, apple-green in the center, and edged with darker green.
It requires a north or east window, watering when the top inch of the soil is dry and a pebble-filled tray of water. Also, mist the leaves regularly.
This is a member of the lily family and not a true fern, but it does look like one. The botanical name is Asparagus densiflorus, Sprengeri Group. It has graceful, feathery foliage.
It requires bright indirect light, a place away from heaters and air conditioners. Don’t let the compost dry out completely.
Hemionitis arifolia is another dazzling display. If given the right presentation, a fern will step out of the shadows and be every bit as wow-worthy as any bloomer. They need occasional rotating too to keep from arching toward the light source.
Japanese Painted Fern
Japanese Painted Ferns are extremely colorful and varied ferns that do great as indoor plants. They originate from natural habitats where light levels are low, so they are perfectly suited to be grown indoors. No fertilizing is necessary, but make sure the soil is fertile, rich, and well-draining.
Staghorn Ferns grow attached to trees in their natural habitat, so they are woodland ferns. They have pale green leaves that brighten and soften any indoor space. In fact, their leaves don’t resemble the usual lacy fronds that ferns usually have.
Provide ample humidity, diffused light, and water it with a spray bottle or by soaking up the plant. Too much light can damage the plant, so avoid direct sun.
This plant has a delicate appearance, but it is very easy to grow and makes a handsome hanging basket specimen. It has feathery fronds that cascade over the sides. It is not a true fern, but it is usually sold as one owing to its appearance.
Provide filtered light, low to moderate humidity, a temperature of at least 13 degrees C.
Crocodile Fern is best displayed where its distinctive crocodile-skin leaf patterns can be admired up close, such as in a hanging basket.
This highly architectural plant requires high humidity and will thrive in the kitchen or bathroom. Place it out of direct sunlight in a slightly shaded spot. Repot every two years.
Special Care Notes
Ferns cannot thrive if they are not cared for properly. They need moist air and soil, as dry air and cold drafts will harm them.
Ferns do best with humidity, so keep the soil evenly moist (not soggy) and increase ambient humidity levels by placing ferns on gravel trays or misting.
Also, remove older fronds as their appearance starts deteriorating to allow space for new shoots.
Remove dust by misting the leaves or gently wiping them away with a damp cloth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Ferns Do Well Indoors?
Many plant enthusiasts are skeptical when it comes to growing ferns indoors, as they look fragile and easily broken. However, they are not so demanding and can thrive indoors if given the right conditions.
How Do You Keep Ferns Alive Indoors?
Most ferns require normal room temperature which doesn’t drop below 15 degrees C, high humidity and moisture, bright indirect light, and potting mix that contains perlite, peat moss, or coco coir. Dispose of old stems and keep young ones clean by misting or gently wiping the leaf surfaces. Fertilize monthly in spring and summer with half-strength liquid fertilizer.
What is the Easiest Fern to Grow?
The Boston, maidenhairs, and Sword ferns can be fussy. Other species are slightly easier to grow, such as Asplenium, Athyrium, Humata, Nephrolepsis, and Pteris.
The diversity of ferns’ fronds is fully recognized and appreciated by beginner and experienced gardeners alike.
Ferns are elegant and graceful plants with feathery, pinnate, long, or even holly-like leaves. They can be grown both indoors and outdoors as inhabitants of shady places and they are the happiest in a place with moderate to bright light and plenty of moisture. So, choose a variety and enjoy the sight of them.