Blue star fern | How to repot a Phlebodium aureum fern

The blue star fern care guide has long been one of the most popular on Houseplant Central. One question that keeps popping up about this plant is how to pot it. What kind of soil does it need? And what type of planter works best?

Although Phlebodium aureum is an epiphyte that needs a special soil type, it often comes planted in more standard potting soils. If you’d like your brand new fern to live a long and happy life, be sure to keep reading to find out what it needs to stay happy!

Choosing a pot for your blue star fern

As with most houseplants, it’s very important you don’t plant your Phlebodium aureum in a pot without a drainage hole. Excess water needs to be able to drain, or the plant might end up with root rot down the road.

There are several ways to go about this. You can choose a decorative pot with a drainage hole and place a saucer underneath it. Alternatively, you can plant the fern in a plastic nursery pot and place that inside a decorative overpot, which doesn’t need a drainage hole. When it’s watering time you can just take out the nursery pot to water and let the excess moisture drain in the sink.

Some like to plant their blue star ferns in a hanging planter. This is not a creeping plant that tends to hang down, but it does still look quite decorative in a hanging set-up.

Gold Foot Fern
Gold Foot Fern by macromary
A good example of this fern’s natural growth habit.

Blue star fern soil

The problem most houseplant lovers run into with their blue star fern is soil. As mentioned in the intro, blue star ferns are epiphytes. They have evolved to attach themselves to taller trees (often palm trees) using their strong aerial roots, as can be seen in the photo above.

In our home, this means it’s usually not a good idea to plant a blue star fern into a dense potting mix. I’ve seen them come in coco coir, peat, potting soil and much more, which more or less must mean that works. However, they never seem to thrive in these media like they do in something looser. I actually planted my own blue star wedged between large pieces of wood, basically mounting it on there like you would with epiphytic orchids.

In absence of the dried grapevine I used, you can use another loose medium like an orchid mix, which you would also use for Phalaenopsis orchids and other epiphytes. You might even be able to maintain the fern quite well mounted on a piece of driftwood or rock, maybe with some moss thrown in to keep the humidity up.

Blue star fern (Phlebodium aureum) frond | Full blue star fern repotting guide

Potting up your blue star fern

There is some discussion on whether new houseplants should be repotted right away or not. The general conclusion is that no, it’s better to wait a bit. The plant has gone through so much to end up in your home that it can use some recovery time before being disturbed profoundly yet again.

Because blue star ferns usually seem to do reasonably well in the potting mix they came in (with some exceptions), I’d personally go the same route with them and give them a few months to get things together before maybe repotting them in springtime.

  • Be sure to always be very careful with your blue star fern while repotting. Some potting mixes can become very hard and clump around the roots. If this is the case, resist the urge to forcibly free the roots: soak them in water instead to loosen the clumps without causing damage.
  • After repotting, water sparingly for a while as the plant’s roots will always take a hit and aren’t able to take up as much water as usual.
  • Lastly, keep in mind that even if you did everything right and improved your blue star fern’s environment by repotting it, it still won’t always be too pleased. Plants in general just don’t like to be disturbed and often respond by dropping foliage while they’re attempting to recover their root systems. Don’t panic or do anything drastic!
  • Keep an eye out for new growth in the heart of the plant as a sign that things will be okay.
Blue star fern and other (succulent) houseplants on windowsill.

Buying blue star fern

Blue star ferns are quickly gaining popularity among houseplant lovers. Not surprising: they really are quite a decorative species, especially after they’ve had some time to adjust to your home.

An advantage of its growing popularity is that the blue star fern should now be relatively easy to find. You can have a look at your local plant store or garden center, but there is also a growing number of online stores that stock the species. UK readers can head over to Amazon to get theirs!

If you have any more questions about growing or repotting blue star ferns, feel free to leave a comment below. Don’t hesitate to share your own experiences with this beautiful epiphytic fern!

Looking for some more fernspiration? You can find a list of 6 easy indoor ferns here to complete your collection.

24 thoughts on “Blue star fern | How to repot a Phlebodium aureum fern”

  1. I have had a blue star fern for 3 – 4 years and it was doing so well it had fully outgrown its pot. Since it was too big for its current location (but not wanting to move it because it was doing so well where it was), I divided it into 3 and potted all 3 into separate pots.
    When I was separating them I noticed that the rhizome had hit the side of the pot and had started to grow down into the soil. I potted that section up just as it was with the rhizome under the surface. That plant is doing okay (it hasn’t grown any new leaves yet, but it’s not losing any either), but I noticed that it doesn’t seem to be producing any new growth. That’s when I noticed the pot starting to tip to the side. The rhizome is only growing in one place: directly down into the bottom of the pot, and is now pushing the pot over.
    What should I do? I’m worried that the rhizome under the soil will start to rot and kill the plant. Should I take it out and cut off the subterranean part of the rhizome? Or should I just leave it as it is?

    • Hi! Nice to hear you’ve been having success with these ferns.

      That’s a weird one, plants really do what they want when they want it don’t they! I would personally not opt to remove the rhizome as I don’t think the chances of rot appearing are all that likely. Something is clearly going right, it’s just that it’s inconvenient. If you can keep the rhizome and make sure the pot doesn’t tip over at the same time, that’s the route I would take.

      Good luck, I hope it eventually sprouts some real leaves!


  3. Hiya I purchased a blue star fern from an outside stall about 3 weeks ago, some of the tips of the leaves are wilting and brown-grey ish in colour and there are a few yellow leaves on the underneath. I’ve read that it could just be adjusting to my house, I’ve placed it near a window to get as much light as possible and it is in a pot with drainage. I saw that it could benefit from being reported in an orchid soil, is this correct? I don’t want it to get worse so I’d appreciate any advise :). Thanks Rosie

    • Hello! Is that wilting of the tips or are they crisping up? In any case, yeah, if it’s only been three weeks then it is indeed a turbulent time for the plant and you won’t really be able to pinpoint what’s causing certain issues. As for the soil, yeah, they are epiphytes and they like their soil relatively loose. They grow on trees in nature. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, maybe you could repot in a month or two when spring is in full effect.

  4. Can you plant Blue Star Fern in the orchids pots that have open holes with orchids soil, would that be okay, I have one in potting soil and he is sruggling and I want to make him happy.

  5. My daughter bought me a beautiful blue Star Fern on sale. It looks great but is root bound and has a lot of outside roots hanging down the sides with leaves coming off these ?roots? How can I depot and put into a larger pot and deal with these side roots? The plant is really healthy looking right now, just very overgrown.

    • Sounds like a happy and healthy plant! Repotting might be a little hard, yeah, since you don’t want to end up burying the aerial roots. Do you think maybe you’d be able to get the plant into a bigger pot, bury the regular roots and then drape the aerial roots over the sides as they are now? They’re not very pliable but you might be able to. I have no experience with this specifically unfortunately but I’m sure there’s some way to do it 🙂

    • You can propagate by dividing at the base, ie. basically just cutting it in half where the roots are. That way both sides have a root system and will likely continue to grow just fine.

      If you want to grow it on a surface like wood, my personal go-to is just a little superglue! for watering, spray regularly or just dunk it in water.

  6. I just bought a blue star fern and I was reading up on care, it’s a little daunting! It came in a pretty dense soil and it VERY rootbound. I can’t loosen the roots from the soil without harming its delicate roots. Would just lightly teasing them and repotting it in a houseplant mix with added pearlite work? Or should I get orchid bark and add to the soil? I’m worried the roots wouldn’t venture through large pieces of bark. I love this plant so much and it’s my favorite. I want it to thrive! Thank you for your help!

    • Hey! Have you tried soaking the soil in water? That always worked for me with very rootbound succulents, although you’re never going to get everything out and that’s no problem. I’d just see what you can do and then place everything in a suitable soil. You could try a mixture of potting soil, perlite and orchid bark if you don’t t want something overly loose. 🙂

  7. As these ferns are epiphytic (like phalaenopsis orchids), do the roots need light as the orchids do, or is an opaque pot sufficient? I purchased one of these ferns today, and it was as dry as a bone, so I soaked it in a bucket of rain water (from my water butt) and then allowed it to really drain well. I have since put it into a decorative outer planter, but wondered if the roots benefit from some exposure to light…?

    • I have actually not experimented with this nor read about it. The tops of my blue star fern always received light since it was planted in an extremely loose medium. However, I’ve seen plenty of others that were being grown in an opaque pot do absolutely fine as well. By all means give it a try, but in any case I think the plant won’t suffer too much either way. 🙂

  8. I have had my blue star fern for a couple of years and it was doing great until I repotted it. I used an orchid mix pitting soil and it seemed fine at first but has slowly gone downhill and is losing leaves and not producing new ones. Any advice to heal this plant would be appreciated!

    • Hi,

      Sorry to hear you’re having trouble with the blue star fern! If it was in the other soil for years then I can imagine it throwing a hefty temper tantrum upon being moved. It’s very difficult to tell you what to do here without seeing the plant and the environment it’s in – have you had a look at the blue star fern caresheet to see if you’re still following all of its recommended care guidelines?

      Additionally, how long has it been since you repotted the plant? It can take a while for them to get back to their old state, especially during wintertime when they’re mostly dormant. Winter is not the best time to repot it, but I’d say there’s a good chance it might just start sprouting new leaves once spring rolls around (assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere).

  9. Thanks for the great information. I bought a Blue Star fern about six months ago and it has slowly but surely gone downhill since then. It was not producing many new leaves and the existing leaves were yellowing. It was clearly not happy and I suspected it needed to be repotted in new soil. I’m quite sure that is the problem as it is in a very generic and rather crummy soil which appears to be just peat moss and a bit of perlite.
    I will be potting it up in something like what you suggested and I’m confident it will be much happier, healthier and eventually much more attractive.


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