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The Festive Holly Fern

The Holly fern is an easy-to-grow fern native to Asia.  Also known as the Japanese Holly fern, this lush houseplant is perfect for a cozy nook in your home. Chromium falcatum’s foliage has a glossy appearance unlike many other fern varieties. 

Holly Fern

Holly Fern Appearance

The Japanese Holly fern features long, serrated leaves that resemble holly. The fern grows to a mature size of 2 feet (0.5 meters) tall and 3 feet (0.9 meters) wide. The deep-green foliage remains evergreen outdoors in mild climates. As with most ferns, the plant produces no blooms.

Japanese Holly Fern Light Requirements

This fern has similar lighting needs as the Brake fern. Give your Holly fern a place with bright, indirect sunlight to keep its foliage looking lush and healthy. Medium-level light, such as in a sunny room away from the window, also works well. Avoid direct sunlight as it will scorch and brown the fronds.

Holly Fern Care: Watering Your Fern

Keep the fern’s soil moist but never soggy as waterlogged soil leads to root rot. Water your Japanese Holly fern when the surface of the soil feels dry. Water until the moisture runs through the pot’s drainage holes. Allow the excess water to drain, then dispose of the collected water.

Soil and Fertilizer Requirements

Soil and Fertilizer Requirements

For optimal Holly fern care, grow your fern in a well-draining, high-quality potting soil amended with organic matter. Add peat moss or compost to give the fern much-needed nutrients. Lay an inch of mulch on top of the soil to help retain moisture. Beginning in the spring, and continuing until early fall, feed your fern with a diluted, balanced fertilizer. Repeat the feeding once per month. As an alternative, use a fish emulsion to provide the needed fertilizer.

Temperature and Humidity Levels

The Holly fern is not cold tolerant, but will thrive in average household temperatures. Avoid temperatures below 60 F ( 15.5 C) as it will affect growth. The plant prefers high humidity to remain lush. As with the Foxtail fern, supplement low humidity by placing a tray filled with pebbles and water under the pot’s drip tray. Regular misting of the fronds will also help. 

Propagating Your Holly Fern

Division is the easiest method of propagating ferns. Water your plant deeply the day before division to reduce stress. Remove the plant from its pot and shake the excess soil from the root ball. Using a sharp knife, separate the fern into two or three plants.  Each new fern must have its own foliage and roots. Plant each into its own pot, filled with soil and peat moss. Water the plants thoroughly and place them in the appropriate lighting.

Propagation by spores is the second option for new Japanese Holly ferns. Use a piece of paper or small container and place it under mature fronds. Gently shake the fronds to release the spores. Fill potting containers with soil and peat, then sprinkle the spores onto the surface. Mist the soil and cover the top of the pot with plastic. Place the pot in a spot with a consistent temperature of between 65 to 70 F (18.3 to 21 C) and mist the spores regularly to keep them moist. Transfer the seedlings to their own pot once they reach two to three inches in height.

Common Pests and Diseases

Fungal spots, also known as rust, may appear on the underside of your Holly fern’s fronds. While some brown spotting on leaves is common among ferns, if the rusty flakes turn into bumps it is likely a fungal leaf infection. Trim away affected fronds and avoid getting water on the leaves, if possible. For severe cases, use a houseplant fungicide to treat the issue. Do a patch test on a small area of your fern first, to ensure there are no adverse effects.

Scale, which presents as small bumps on the underside of the fronds, is a common pest of ferns. For small infestations, prune affected leaves or remove them manually with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. For wider infestations, treat the fern with neem oil

The Holly fern makes a stunning addition to outdoor gardens and to indoor spaces. The fern’s glossy foliage differentiates it from other fern varieties, giving the plant a more exotic appearance. The fern is low-maintenance and complements most home decors. 

Holly Fern FAQ

When Should I Repot My Holly Fern?

Repot your fern in the early spring. Give your fern fresh soil amended with organic matter to encourage new growth.

Do I Need to Prune My Japanese Holly Fern?

Remove withered or dead fronds to enhance the plant’s appearance and redirect energy toward healthy growth.

Is the Holly Fern Considered Toxic?

No, the Holly fern is not considered to be toxic.

What Type of Pot Should I Grow My Holly Fern In?

Choose a plastic pot with drainage holes for optimal fern health. The plastic retains much-needed soil moisture and the drainage holes ensure the soil remains moist, but not soggy.

Can I Grow My Holly Fern Outdoors?

The Holly fern will do well as a garden plant in USDA zones 6 to 10.