Indoor fern care requires some thought as to placement and basic needs. But it is often easier than you might imagine to keep ferns alive indoors. These fascinating and ancient plants have been around for around 360 million years and they are adaptable plants that often thrive where others cannot.
Can You Grow Ferns Indoors?
Ferns are often a good choice for shady spots in a garden and many can be just as good a choice for indoor cultivation.
Different types of ferns need different care and not all are ideally suited to indoor cultivation as fern houseplants. But many can be grown indoors and these indoor ferns can be almost as easy to grow as an artificial fern, and much more pleasing.
Like other living plants, ferns can improve air quality inside your home and enhance your living space. Choosing to grow real ferns rather than artificial ferns is a far more sustainable and eco-friendly choice.
When learning how to care for ferns indoors, you need to think about:
- Which fern or ferns to grow.
- Fern light needs.
- The temperatures a fern requires.
- Fern humidity needs.
- The container and growing medium ferns need to thrive.
- Fern watering needs.
- What to feed ferns growing indoors.
Choosing Ferns to Grow Indoors
Some types of fern are easier to grow than others. Many ferns commonly grown as houseplants are easy to care for and don’t require much work. Others are somewhat fussier.
Sometimes, the ferns grown indoors can also be grown outside in your garden. But often, ferns grown as houseplants are from warmer climates, and can only be grown indoors in a temperate climate zone. These tender ferns are among the most popular houseplants in temperate climes.
Some ferns that are popular as houseplants include:
- Bird’s nest fern.
- Boston fern.
- Button fern.
- Maidenhair fern.
- Staghorn fern.
Though there are also plenty of other types of ferns to choose from. Ferns can vary dramatically in their foliage, general appearance, and size, so you can introduce plenty of variety into your indoor garden.
Fern Light Requirements
Most ferns in their natural environment grow in the dappled light below trees in a woodland or forest. When growing ferns as houseplants, our goal is to create conditions indoors that provide a similar amount of light.
Ferns will need less light than some other houseplants or edible crops grown indoors. But they will still need bright but filtered light when growing indoors.
Ferns will do best in a room with some natural light, but one with north or east-facing windows (in the northern hemisphere) will be fine.
It is important to avoid placing ferns where they are exposed to hot midday sun – especially in summer. Equally, you should not place them in rooms without any natural light at all unless you have grow lights to sustain them.
Fern Temperature Requirements
The temperatures a fern requires depend on which specific fern you are growing and where it originates. Of course, if you are growing tropical ferns indoors then these will require temperatures to be higher than a temperate climate fern.
Some, such as birds nest ferns, for example, need temperatures of between around 15 and 26 degrees Celsius and cannot cope with temperatures below around 10 degrees Celsius at any time.
Boston ferns and some other houseplant ferns are much hardier and can cope with temperatures down to below minus 20 C.. However, these are also best kept above freezing and will grow best at temperatures between 15 and 21 degrees C..
Fern Humidity Needs
All common houseplant ferns also require relatively humid conditions. This means that ferns can often be a good choice for a bathroom with natural light, where frequent baths or showers are taken. Ferns might also do well positioned near a frequently used kitchen sink.
To keep up humidity, wherever you place your fern, misting regularly is a good idea. You can also place your ferns in pots on top of saucers filled with pebbles and water.
Choosing Containers and Growing Medium for Indoor Ferns
Most ferns like moist and poorly drained or moist but well-drained conditions. The specific variety of fern you are growing and where it lives in the wild will determine which conditions it requires.
Bear the needs of the specific fern in mind when choosing your container and filling your pots. Think about whether the fern lives in boggy conditions or a more free-draining soil, and prepare pots and growing medium that allow you to give the fern in question those conditions.
Of course, as you choose a container, you should also consider how large the fern you have chosen is expected to grow.
Watering ferns correctly also means considering the specific variety you are growing. Most ferns grown as houseplants will require consistently moist conditions – but some like or tolerate waterlogging while others definitely won’t enjoy permanently soggy roots.
With most ferns, watering consistently will be important. Make sure that you do not allow the growing medium in which the ferns are placed to dry out. But also, with many ferns, make sure that excess water can drain away.
What to Feed Ferns
Like ferns in a forest or woodland, most ferns grown indoors will obtain most of the nutrients they need from the medium (soil) in which they grow.
Making sure that your ferns are placed in a moderately nutrient-rich potting mix, therefore, with a high proportion of organic matter, should keep them healthy.
If growth seems poor, or ferns are showing signs of nutrient deficiency, then you can use a weak, organic liquid plant feed such as compost tea to give them a boost, and can often feed when watering every few weeks through the growing season.
There are other elements of care specific to different types of ferns. But the items listed above are the key considerations when growing ferns indoors.