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Basic Tips For Watering Ferns

Watering is one of the most important elements of care when growing ferns indoors. Getting things right when it comes to watering ferns can help you make sure that your houseplant ferns continue to grow and thrive for years to come. 

How Much Water Do Ferns Need?

Ferns vary in their water needs but those that are commonly grown as houseplants in temperate climates usually require moist yet relatively free-draining conditions. 

Plants in pots, ferns included, typically need more water than those growing in the ground, and will have a tendency to dry out more quickly. 

It is important, as well as watering ferns correctly, to make sure that they are grown in suitable containers and growing medium. 

Containers should retain sufficient moisture, while also letting excess water drain away. The growing medium for most houseplant ferns should also retain moisture but be free-draining. 

Most ferns won’t like to be waterlogged but they will need the growing medium to be consistently moist so that the roots can take up the water they need. 

How much water ferns will need more precisely will depend on a range of factors, including:

  • the type and specific fern variety that is grown. 
  • light levels
  • temperatures
  • & humidity. 
  • The size of the plant
  • & the plant’s stage of growth/ age. 

Clues as to how much water a particular fern will need can be found by looking at its native, natural environment. Does it grow in boggy conditions, or a drier site? Is it terrestrial, semi-aquatic, or an epiphyte like the bird’s nest fern, for example? Some ferns will need to be watered a lot more, and a lot more frequently than others. 

In sunnier, brighter conditions, ferns will need more water. In more shaded conditions, they will tend to need less. 

Where temperatures are higher, ferns will tend to use and lose more water, so more will usually need to be provided. And where humidity is low, plants will dry out more quickly. 

Most ferns will thrive in a humid room in a home, such as a bathroom, or perhaps near a kitchen sink. And when humidity is low they will need misting or other strategies to increase humidity as well as water provided at the roots. 

How much water ferns need also differs as they grow and age, and as their root systems become more established. 

Learning how to recognize when more water is required for ferns is one of the most important elements of their care

How Often to Water a Fern Indoors 

Ferns growing indoors will usually need to be watered around once a week or so throughout the growing season. Though remember, this will vary depending on the plant itself and the environmental conditions. 

Ferns will usually need more water in summer and much less during the winter months. 

The key is to monitor the growing medium and to make sure that it is never allowed to dry out entirely. You also need to make sure that the soil does not become waterlogged as most ferns grown as houseplants don’t like overly soggy conditions. 

Usually, ferns should be watered when the top of the growing medium in their pots or containers feels dry to the touch. Checking the soil and being guided by the plant itself is better than watering on a strict schedule without using your powers of observation. 

Signs that a Fern Needs Watering

If the top of the growing medium is dry and the pot or container feels light, your fern needs watering. 

As well as monitoring the growing medium, you should also keep a close eye on the fern itself. Wilting leaves and fronds turning brown at the tips can be signs that your plant is not getting enough water. Leaves may look shriveled and growth may be slow and poor.  

Overwatered Fern Symptoms

If a fern’s pot or other container feels heavy and the growing medium looks saturated, you may have overwatered or the drainage may be insufficient. Sometimes, you may see green or grey algal or mossy growth over the top of the growing medium in a pot if conditions are too soggy and wet.

Another sign that a fern has been overwatered, or that waterlogging has taken place is when a fern has yellowing leaves that are wilting and dropping off. Waterlogging or over-watering can damage the roots. It can lead to root rot and increase the prevalence of other fungal issues. 

Repotting a fern may save it if waterlogging has occurred. So remain vigilant and look out for the signs of overwatering to nip any potential problems in the bud. 

How to Water Ferns Correctly

To water ferns correctly:

  • Be observant – water when the top of the growing medium feels dry. Aim to keep the growing medium moist but avoid waterlogging. Don’t let the medium dry out entirely. 
  • Keep an eye on the plant and look out for signs of under or over-watering. 
  • Water in the morning where possible and ideally not too late in the day. 
  • Direct water to the base of the plant, where it is needed, and try to avoid wetting the foliage excessively. 
  • But mist plants where humidity is low to help prevent the fern fronds from drying out. 

These tips should help you to avoid some of the most common pitfalls of growing ferns indoors and help you to grow healthy and happy ferns inside your home. Remember, different ferns will have somewhat different needs but these general guidelines should help you avoid going too far wrong.