Indoor Ferns

Growing Indoor Ferns

Growing indoor ferns can be somewhat of a challenge at first, though you can start with some varieties that are a little easier to work with than others. Some ferns can be rather demanding as far as care and maintenance are concerned, though once you get into the hang of it, most all varieties become easy to work with. We'll take a quick look at the care and maintenance of two types of indoor ferns, those that grow in temperate climates, and tropical ferns. Caring for both types is somewhat similar, but there are a few additional things to keep in mind if you decide upon a tropical indoor fern.


In general, ferns prefer low light, which makes them an ideal plant in many households. They won't grow in the dark, but don't require direct sunlight either. In fact, direct sunlight can scorch the leaves, or fronds, and also dry out the soil, which must be kept moist. Ferns will do best when near a north  facing (in the northern hemisphere) or east facing window. As far as an east facing window is concerned, a little early morning sun may not hurt, but the sunlight coming through the window should not allow the surface of the plant to become too warm or the soil to become hot. A south or west facing window might be acceptable if light curtains are kept in place. Just remember that low light or indirect lighting is always preferable to very bright light, or direct sunlight. In any event, most ferns will be at their most attractive in a low-lighted location.

Sufficient Humidity Is All Important - As important as proper lighting may be, moisture is really the key. Ferns like a humid environment. You needn't keep the whole house feeling like a sauna, even if you choose a tropical fern, but the air immediately surrounding the plant does have to be humid. This can be accomplished, first by keeping the fern out of the path of warm dry air, such as would come form a wall or baseboard heater. A humidifier may be needed in some cases, in others, simply keeping a shallow pan filled with water near the plant will suffice. The pot the fern is in does require drainage, so the roots will not become overly wet. The pot however can be placed over a pan of water containing pebbles, or in a larger, sealed pot which has pebbles and water in the bottom. The purpose of the pebbles is to allow the pot containing the fern to rest just above, but not touching, the surface of the water. In this way, the fern will get the humidity it needs, and its roots will not get soaked in the process.

Getting Watering Right - Watering indoor ferns may be the greatest challenge, at least at first. The soil needs to be kept moist, or at least not allowed to dry out. At the same time, if the roots stand in water for any length of time, they'll rot, and the plant will die. One way to keep the moisture constant and at the required level is to water occasionally, though not heavily, and in the interim mist the plants with water on a daily basis. Using a potting medium that has excellent water retention capabilities will also be a great help in achieving the proper moisture balance.

Fertilizing - Ferns in general do not require an excessive amount of fertilizer. Once or twice a year may suffice, and fertilizing during the summer months when the days are longer and the plant is actively growing is the best approach.

Tropical Ferns - Tropical ferns will normally need brighter light, and require higher humidity than ferns native to the more temperate zones. There are some species however that prefer a lower level of light, so when purchasing tropical ferns it pays to know what a particular species requires in the way of light, so you'll know where best to locate the plant in your home or office. Although most tropical ferns like a very bright light, they still should not be placed in direct sunlight. An ideal location for many of these ferns would be adjacent to a south facing window, where they almost, but not quite, get direct sunlight.