How to Grow and Care For Ferns

A fern is a beautiful way to brighten up any room in your home. When cared for properly, they offer a splash of healthy color and provide a comforting feel.

Ferns can also be planted outdoors as part of yard landscaping. While a fern can add a lot to its surroundings, it is a good idea to learn how to properly care for them. You will want to maintain the beauty that drew you to them in the first place. You will want to know the right type of soil and water needed, as well as where exactly the fern should be placed for the best use of light.

Potted Fern

Potted Fern

In nature, ferns thrive on forest floors with plenty of shade. The light they receive comes through higher trees, not directly hitting the fern. In a home, the fern should be placed during the summer months with northerly exposure to indirect or filtered light.

From November to March, the fern should be placed to receive an eastern sun. This will prevent scalding of the fronds. Ferns can grow in temperatures ranging from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A temperature drop at night of 5 to 10 degrees won’t hurt it.

The roots of the fern grow very close to the soil surface so they should be planted in shallow pots, even outdoors. Most should be only 4 to 6 inches deep. The soil should contain a hearty amount of humus. A good soil mixture for growth is 2 parts peat moss, 1 part loamy garden soil, and 1 part perlite. These elements can be found in many of the soil packages sold at garden stores.  Make sure the soil is kept well drained so the roots get the oxygen they need.

Over watering or under watering a fern can cause the leaves to yellow. Over watering actually prevents the necessary oxygen from reaching the roots and can cause them to rot. Healthy roots are a light brown color. A dark brown or black root system may be unrecoverable. If under watered, place the pot itself into a tub of water until bubbles are no longer seen at the surface, then allow it to drain. It is best to have a set watering schedule that will keep the soil healthy for growth.

If the fern grows too large for its pot, it is time to divide it up. Ferns can stand a little abuse, and if it has been potted for some time, it may require a few good tugs to loosen it. Once free, simply cut the roots by half or in quarters and replant. Keep a humid atmosphere by spaying the fronds for the first couple of weeks after dividing the plants. It may also be necessary to groom your fern if the top is getting too large. Simply cut any yellowed fronds. Ferns can add so much to a room and with routine maintenance can last for many years. Once you learn what your fern needs to be happy, it is very easy to keep up with.

Written by Catrina Rudd, Copyright 2009 all rights reserved and may not be republished in any form.


  1. Linda Schaeffer
    Feb 7, 2009

    I have been having problems with my fern turning yelowish, I never realized I was giving it too much water. Reading this may have saved my fern! Thanks so much

  2. Jackie
    Jun 1, 2009

    I don’t have much luck with ferns, every single time i buy one, within months it starts dying on me. Same with Bonsai’s. I water them say every three days and i even put them outside for some sun on occasions. I feed now and then with miracle grow.

  3. Fran
    Jul 26, 2009

    I have never had much luck with ferns. It seems that no matter how careful I am they always wind up dried out and they lose their fronds and die on me. After reading this I am now thinking about trying a fern once more.

  4. Kristina
    Dec 2, 2009

    I have tons of luck with ferns and it is all luck! I have repotted them once already and they are huge again. i have them sitting outside on my front porch. I don’t really have a strict watering schedule just whenever I think about it and I use miracle grow once every 2-3 months.

  5. CoCo
    Apr 24, 2010

    I have never been able to keep one of these alive, but I absolutely love them. Every time I’ve had one within a month the leaves start falling off and there’s nothing left but stems. I’m either messing up with the watering, or not putting them in the right light. I know where one is that is hanging under a carport and it’s as big as the hood of a car. Not sure what she does with it during the winter months.

  6. Darleen
    Jan 9, 2012

    My fern is shedding profusely and I’m not sure what the problem might be. I know that I need to repot it and I keep it watered on a regular basis. Any suggestions?

  7. stacey griffin
    Aug 21, 2012

    What kind of food do I give them.

  8. Marion Sanders
    Oct 4, 2012

    I have an electric fern which keeps dying. Have tried by putting on porch facing east, no good. Tried putting it inside in shade, no good. Could it be pot which has no drainage holes or soil which is just potting mix? Have sprayed it every 2 nd day and watered it as needed. Help!!

  9. Rose
    Dec 22, 2012

    Are there any ferns that are harmful to pets if they eat them?

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