Types of ferns | 6 easy indoor ferns!

Ferns are a favorite for many gardeners and houseplant lovers due to their interesting foliage shape and lush, green growth pattern. There are many different types of ferns to be found in plant stores and garden centers, all of which can really brighten up a room. Which one do you choose?!

Keep reading for a list of 6 types of ferns that are decorative and not too difficult to grow in your own home.

Blue star fern planted with ruffly Boston fern | 6 easy indoor ferns

Bird’s nest fern (Asplenium genus)

With their lack of feathery foliage, bird’s nest ferns don’t look much like what we’d usually imagine while thinking of ferns. However, this doesn’t make them any less interesting!

These types of ferns are named after the way new fronds grow: they emerge from the center of the plant and then grow outwards, making for a plant that somewhat resembles a bird’s nest.

Bird’s nest ferns are available in many different varieties: there are over 700 species in the genus. Most of them do well in indirect light.

Unlike most other ferns they are relatively tolerant to dry soil (though you should never let it dry out too much!) and don’t require very high humidity levels. This makes them a great choice for any fern lover that is unable to provide the humid air most ferns require.

Moisture needs Low (for a fern)
Lighting needs Low
Soil type Moisture retaining
Bird's nest fern (genus Asplenium)

Button fern (Pellaea rotundifolia)

Another option perfect for fern lovers not able to provide a lot of humidity or the moist soil most other fern species need (or at least appreciate). Button ferns actually prefer dryer conditions and don’t have to be kept on humidity trays or watered as frequently. In fact, too much moisture can quickly cause brown, dying fronds and eventually root rot and death.

This lower need for moisture makes button ferns one of the easiest fern types to grow. Provide well-draining soil and bright indirect light and allow the top of the soil to dry out a bit between waterings. Keep away from low-temperature areas and voilà! That’s all you need to keep your button fern happy and healthy.

You can buy a button fern online here.

Moisture needs Low (for a fern)
Lighting needs Medium
Soil type Moisture retaining + perlite
Button fern (Pellaea rotundifolia) houseplant.
© COULANGES on Shutterstock.

Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)

Rightfully near the top of this list, the Boston fern is a true classic when it comes to houseplants. Though like all ferns it does have some specific requirements, it’s not too difficult to care for and can eventually grow to quite an impressive size.

To keep your Boston fern(s) happy and healthy try find a spot that is humid and gets plenty of indirect light, such as a bathroom or kitchen window. If there are no humid places in your home, be sure to mist the plant regularly and/or place it on a humidity tray or near a humidifier. Keep the soil moist (but not wet!).

You can buy a Boston fern online here and you can find out more about Boston fern care in the Boston fern care guide.

Moisture needs High
Lighting needs Medium
Soil type Moisture retaining
Nephrolepis exaltata, a common houseplant also known as Boston fern.

Blue starn fern (Phlebodium aureum)

Sometimes confused with the more popular Microsorum diversifolium (kangaroo paw fern), blue star ferns are appreciated for their decorative blueish-green paw shaped fronds. Contrary to most ferns they don’t naturally grow in soil but are actually epiphytes that, in the wild, grow on other trees.

At home, try to mimic the blue star fern’s natural habitat by providing a moist environment with medium indirect lighting and a suitable soil type.

This fern does not appreciate being placed in normal potting soil, as it’s an epiphyte. This means it naturally grows on trees and rocks. Go for a well-draining, loose epiphyte soil like orchid bark to imitate its natural means of growing.

A full blue star fern caresheet can be found on Houseplant Central here.

Moisture needs Medium
Lighting needs Medium
Soil type Loose
Blue star fern (Phlebodium aureum), a popular indoor fern.

Holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum)

Named after their resemblance to the real holly plant, holly ferns have decorative shiny fronds. They are appreciated for their relatively easy care. Moist soil and a humid environment are preferable but these ferns can handle dryer periods a little better than most of their cousins.

If you’re worried your home isn’t humid enough to grow this fern, consider using a humidifier. This, combined with the tactic of placing multiple plants close together, can be a real help.

Holly ferns can also withstand a little more sun and lower temperatures, which makes them perfect for anyone looking for a fern to brighten up their home but weary of the other, more demanding types.

Moisture needs Medium
Lighting needs Medium
Soil type Moisture retaining
Holly fern houseplant in a black container.
© Gonzalo on Adobe Stock.

Brake fern (Pteris sp.)

Brake fern fronds are similar in looks to those of the blue star fern, with thin stalks and broad leaves, but there is one difference: the color. While blue star ferns are (unsurprisingly) blueish, brake ferns found in garden stores often feature lovely variegation in the form of dark green coloration on the outside of the leaves and a creamy light green color on the inner parts.

Like most other ferns, brake ferns require high humidity levels and moist soil (though a little drying out will not immediately result in death). This means using a humidity tray and misting regularly are good ideas. As expected, bright, indirect lighting is ideal to keep this fern happy.

Low temperatures are not appreciated, so if you want to grow this fern species outside for part of the year be sure to move it back indoors in time.

You can buy Pteris ensiformis, one of the various brake ferns in the genus Pteris, online here.

Did you know? There are around 280 species of brake fern out there.

Moisture needs Medium
Lighting needs Medium
Soil type Moisture retaining
Brake fern on light colored wooden table with metal watering can in the background.
© by COULANGES on Shutterstock.

Bonus: Maidenhair fern (Adiantum sp.)

If you’ve already got some experience growing ferns and don’t get nervous taking on a more fussy plant, maidenhair ferns from the Adiantum genus might be a nice addition to your collection. These beautiful delicate ferns are quick to punish the grower for any watering mistakes but their lacy fronds make it worth a shot.

Like other ferns, the maidenhair fern does fine in medium lighting and doesn’t need (or want) direct sun. The problem is not really in the lighting but in the species’ moisture needs: if you don’t keep it evenly moist at all times it’ll quickly start dropping fronds.

Humidity is also important to keep your maidenhair fern happy, so you might want to grow this one in a humid bathroom or even run a humidifier. A nice moisture-retaining soil medium is ideal, though remember that you don’t want things to get soggy either.

You can find everything you need to know about this lovely lacy fern in the full maidenhair fern care guide.

Moisture needs High
Lighting needs Medium
Soil type Moisture retaining
Shallow focus photo of a maidenhair fern (Adiantum) with bokeh and blurry background.

If you have any more questions about caring for these easy ferns or if you want to share your experiences with one of the types of ferns on this list, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!


Marijke Puts
About Marijke Puts
Marijke Puts has Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Science and is from The Netherlands. She has a certified master gardener and loves everything about houseplants and gardening.