Phlebodium aureum, commonly known as blue star fern, is an interesting fern with elongated fronds and a pleasant green-blue color. Its ability to tolerate lower-light conditions and relatively easy care make it a great choice for beginning and more experienced fern lovers alike!
Keep reading for everything you need to know about blue star fern care.
|Name(s) (common, scientific)||Blue star fern, hare foot fern, golden polypody, Phlebodium aureum|
|Recommended lighting||Indirect light|
|Soil type||Epiphyte soil|
Blue star fern care
As with all houseplants, the best way to figure out how to care for your blue star fern is to have a look at the way it naturally grows.
Phlebodium aureum is mostly found in tropical forests in South-America, although its natural range also extends into North America. Here, it doesn’t grow in the soil like most other plants. Instead, it sports a creeping rhizome that allows it to grow on trees in a non-parasitic way. This allows it to reach higher than many plants that grow on the ground, right into the canopies.
The aforementioned makes this plant an epiphyte. If we’re going to try and grow this species indoors it’s a good idea to keep this natural growth pattern in mind, as it’s going to determine much of the way we should care for the plant.
Blue star fern light, temperature & humidity
Because the blue star fern naturally grows attached to trees and other plants in forests where a lot of light is blocked out by the tree canopies, it doesn’t require a lot of light, although it does appreciate it.
Anything short of direct scorching sun should work well. This is one of the many characteristics that sets this species apart from other ferns, which really don’t tend to deal well with any sun.
When it comes to temperature, blue star ferns aren’t too demanding. Room temperature should usually be fine. During wintertime, take care not to let things get too chilly.
Frost is definitely a no-go, so take the plant indoors if you live in a cooler climate and like to grow your plants outdoors during the summer months.
As Phlebodium aureum grows in (semi-)tropical forest areas, it likes plenty of moisture. This makes it a great plant for locations with relatively high humidity, such as north-facing bathrooms or kitchens.
No nice and humid spot to offer your plant? Running a humidifier or placing your blue star fern in a group of other plants can be helpful.
Planting blue star fern
As discussed above, the blue star fern is actually an epiphyte and not terrestrial like many other ferns. This means potting soil is definitely not the best medium to plant it in and you should be looking for something looser. Because these ferns like a moist environment but don’t appreciate waterlogged soil at all, a well-draining medium should be used.
I opted for large and smaller pieces of crushed wood to plant my blue star fern in. If you don’t have any wood available you can also use a loose orchid mix like this one, as orchids are also epiphytic.
Tip: Not sure how to mix soil for your blue star fern? The article on repotting a blue star fern can be found here and contains everything you need to know.
You should be using a pot or container with a drainage hole for your blue star fern to prevent standing water, as this plant doesn’t respond well to its roots being soaked. This can be a standing pot; if you prefer your fern a bit higher up, you can also consider a hanging planter.
Like many other epiphytes, such as the Phalaenopsis orchid, blue star ferns don’t have to be repotted all that often. You can repot yours during Springtime if it seems to be getting too large for its pot.
Definitely repot with some fresh soil if you find your fern’s leaves are yellowing after being in the same pot for a long time! Its roots might be lacking the space they need.
Watering blue star fern
Because blue star ferns naturally occur in tropical areas, they need a humid environment and constantly moist soil. However, they will still suffer if water is allowed to stand in the pot for too long. Remember, moist doesn’t mean wet!
- As with most plants, there is no set watering schedule that will work for all blue star ferns. How much you should water always depends on various factors like light, season and potting.
- Once a week is a good place to start. Just water a little more during the growing season and a little less when the fern is not growing during the cool winter months.
- Keep a close eye on the soil to make sure it’s neither soaked nor dry.
Note: Blue star ferns don’t seem to appreciate water being poured directly into the heart (rhizome) of the plant. Watering from the sides might be a better idea and can help prevent root rot from endangering your fern.
Feeding blue star fern
Blue star ferns don’t require a lot of additional fertilizer, although you can add some diluted regular plant fertilizer during the growing season.
Be careful not to overfeed, as this can damage the plant!
Propagating blue star fern
Like other fern species, blue star ferns aren’t commonly grown from scratch. A mature plant does produce spores (brown dots on the undersides of the leaves), but growing new ferns from those would be a huge hassle compared to normal propagation.
If you’d like to multiply your Phlebodium aureum, the easiest way to do so is if you were going to repot it anyway. Take the fern out of its planter and have a look at what you’ve got. Sometimes, pieces break away by themselves at this point! You can pot those up as you would normally.
If the root ball doesn’t fall apart by itself, you can separate it using a sharp, clean knife. Just make sure each section has at least a few healthy fronds and roots and you should be golden. Just pop the cuttings in normal blue star fern soil and keep caring for them as usual.
Buying blue star fern
You should be able to find this fern in the houseplant section of some garden centers and stores. Another good place to look if you can’t seem to find the species is your local pet store: this is a relatively popular terrarium plant. As such, you might encounter it in the terrarium section.
Be sure to keep in mind that there are multiple varieties available, as the plant has been selectively cultivated for different leaf shapes and hues. The ‘blue star’ variety with its rounded, paw-shaped foliage is only one of them. ‘Regular’ Phlebodium aureum ferns have thinner leaves that more closely resemble other ferns, but care is the same. This also goes for the three other ferns in the tiny Phlebodium genus.
You can buy Phlebodium pseudoaureum, which has very similar care requirements, online on Amazon.
Is the blue star fern toxic to cats and dogs?
Nope! Phlebodium aureum, like many related fern species, is not toxic. This makes it a great option if you’re worried your pets might take a bite out of your plant.
Problems with Phlebodium aureum
Although there are definitely ferns out there that are more challenging to grow (maidenhair fern, anyone?), there is still always the possibility you’ll run into issues with your blue star fern.
Let’s have a look at the most common ailments that might affect your fern and what you can do about it.
- Brown tips on blue star fern leaves: could you be underwatering? Additionally, could the air in your home be on the dry side? You can check using a cheap humidity meter.
These ferns do like some humidity, so a humidifier might prove helpful. Don’t water on a schedule but learn to recognize when your houseplants are dry.
- Yellow leaves on blue star fern: this can have many causes. Is it possible you might be applying too much fertilizer? This fern only needs very light feeding. Overwatering as well as underwatering are also prime causes of yellowing leaves, as is a build-up of salts from tap water (which can be fixed by flushing out the soil).
- Blue star fern losing leaves: did you just buy, move or repot the plant, by any chance? It might need some time to adjust. Cold exposure can also cause rapid leaf death.
- Blue star fern leaves dying in the crown of the plant: as mentioned before, this species is sensitive to crown rot. Be sure to water from the sides! You might need to check the roots for rot if this is happening to your blue star fern.
- Pests on blue star fern: if your blue star just seems overall ‘blah’ (browning, leaf spots, leaf death, leaf curl), grab your magnifying glass. Pests like spider mites, thrips or fungus gnats could be gnawing away at the plant. You can wage war on them using a neem oil spray, a water and dish soap mixture or a houseplant pesticide.
Tip: Unfortunately, leaves that are already damaged won’t recover. After fixing the issue, you’ll just have to be patient and wait until new foliage has grown in on your blue star fern.
If you have any more questions about blue star fern care or want to share your own experiences with this lovely blue-green fern, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
Tip: If you love ferns, don’t forget to have a look at the list of easy ferns as well to find more species to add to your collection.