How to Keep Your Fern Alive: Indoor Plant Care Tips

How to Keep Your Fern Alive: Indoor Plant Care Tips

Like many new plant owners, you've eagerly brought home a trendy new fern, only to have it kick the bucket within a matter of weeks. You'll benefit from some essential fern care tips. Ferns aren't necessarily challenging to take care of—they simply have specific preferences for light and water, and improper care can result in sparse leaves with browning tips. Before you snatch up that gorgeous new fern, read this guide so you can be sure you're giving your plant precisely what it needs.


Boston Ferns and Other Classics: Basic Care Tips

Ferns are a pretty diverse group of plants, so we've organized these care tips into two categories, but let's start with the ones we know best––classic ferns. When you imagine a fern, you probably think of a big, shaggy houseplant with tons of fringed foliage, like a Boston fern or maidenhair fern. These classic ferns can grow to impressive sizes and have powerful air-purifying abilities, so learning tips to care for them inside is a valuable skill. 


How Much Sun Does a Boston Fern Need? 

Finding a spot that provides ideal light levels is one of the trickier parts of fern care. Bright, direct light can scorch the delicate leaves of your plant, whereas too little sunlight can damage it just as quickly. You have to find that sweet spot in between––bright, indirect light. So, if you've got a big, South-facing window with tons of sun streaming through, that's going to be too bright. Instead, try a window shaded by trees outside or a North- or East-facing window. That will provide a soft glow of sunlight without any bright, direct beams hurting your fern. 


boston fern sunlight

Moisture and Humidity For Ferns

While you're probably used to allowing the soil in your plant pots to dry out before watering, you'll have to water a bit more often with a fern. They prefer their soil to be consistently moist but not soggy. Try not to overdo it because, as you probably know, overwatering can be just as damaging as underwatering. If you notice the tips of your fern leaves are getting dry and crunchy, increase watering to help it perk back up. In winter, during your fern's dormant period, you can reduce the frequency of watering.

Okay, here's one of the most critical care tips you'll need for indoor ferns: you need to make sure they receive enough humidity. Ferns thrive in humid air, but the air in our homes can get pretty dry, so we need to supplement that moisture. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using a fine mister. Spritzing your fern with a delicate mist all over its leaves every week will make a huge difference in the health of its leaves.

Here are some other care tips to boost humidity for your fern:

  • Place the plant pot on a tray of pebbles filled with ½ inch of water.
  • Use a plug-in humidifier.
  • Bring your fern into the bathroom, crank up the shower and let the room fill with steam. Let your fern soak in the moisture for an hour. 


boston fern soil care

Soil, Fertilizer, and Other Fern Care Tips

High-quality, loose, well-draining potting soil is necessary for ferns, especially when you have to water them frequently. Avoiding overwatering is easier if you use a plant pot with drainage holes, but you can use a pot without holes if you make sure not to oversaturate the soil. Frequent watering can also wash away a lot of the nutrients in the soil. We recommend using a liquid houseplant fertilizer once per month from spring until fall to maintain soil health. 

It's important to keep your ferns in a spot with consistent, mild temperatures. Take the Goldilocks approach: not too hot, not too cold. Temperatures above 95°F or below 40°F can significantly harm your fern. Ideally, you'll want to maintain temperatures around 65–75°F and avoid any cold drafts that may shock your plant.


epiphytic staghorn fern

Care Tips for Epiphytic Ferns

Let's discuss the less common ferns now. What's an epiphytic fern? Well, it's kind of like an orchid—it has aerial roots, and in the wild, it grows on other trees and structures, not ground soil. New fern varieties such as these are growing in popularity, and figuring out the proper care tips can be confusing.

Just like orchids, epiphytic ferns such as bird's nest and staghorn can be grown in a very loose potting medium with bits of bark and mulch. Alternatively, you can mount epiphytic ferns to a wooden plaque or piece of driftwood, with a bundle of peat moss to encase the root system. Staghorns look especially cool on a wall-mounted plaque—they're like deer antlers, only plant-based! Watering something that isn't in a pot of soil might seem confusing at first, but simply hold the root ball underneath some tepid running water for a few seconds, and it will sufficiently hydrate your plant. 

Epiphytic ferns also tend to be more tolerant of bright light. While direct sunlight isn't necessary and bright, indirect light is fine; an epiphytic fern can handle direct sun on its leaves in the morning or afternoon without getting scorched. 


Now that you've read through our crash course on fern care tips, you're ready to start adding to your growing collection! Check out all our fabulous new ferns, plus plenty of other trendy new plants in our complete catalog online. We're constantly updating our stock, so there's always something new and beautiful available to be shipped right to your door!