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10 Types of Ferns to Keep Indoors

You may not think of ferns as indoor plants, yet there are a few types of ferns that are happy to share your indoor living spaces with you.

The challenges of growing ferns indoors rise mostly from their need for high humidity and moisture. However, there are a few ferns that can adapt to indoor growing, especially if you’re willing to pay attention to their needs.

Below, I’ll discuss 10 types of ferns that would make great candidates for a houseplant:

Maidenhair Fern

Although notoriously difficult to care for, the maidenhair fern is also one of the most beautiful ferns to grace your indoor spaces.

With delicate and small, hand-shaped fronds, this fern variety is elegant and gracious. And a bit of a diva in the plant care department.

It requires consistently moist soil that’s slightly alkaline and rich in organic compost. You need to keep the soil moist without overwatering, and you should never allow the soil to completely dry out.

Direct light is a hard pass for this plant. It does best in partial shade but do make sure that light reaches the plant evenly to avoid uneven growth.

Staghorn Fern

Staghorn ferns are epiphytes, meaning they need a host plant to grow on, and in their natural habitat that’s usually made up of other trees or larger plants.

This fern got its name after its odd, antler shaped fronds. Because of their shapes, they lend themselves to interesting displays, such as mounted on wood or wooden boards.

When watering, you need to submerge their roots in water for 10-20 minutes. Once the root ball is saturated with water, you can drip-dry them, and only then hang them back to their display.

Like other ferns, this too enjoys frequent watering and humidity. When grown indoors, it requires bright indirect light, while outdoors it grows best in partial shade.

Bird’s Nest Fern

Another fern that grows epiphytically on other plants, the bird’s nest fern grows elongated and narrow fronds around a central rosette. The fronds are light green with dark central veins.

Unlike most other ferns, this one can take a bit of neglect in the watering department, but it still enjoys moisture and humidity the most.

When watering, be careful not to pour water directly into the rosette, because that can lead to rotting. Water the soil around the plant for best results.

This type of fern grows best in partial shade to full shade, so direct light should be avoided to prevent sun damage to the leaves.

Choose a peat based potting mix to ensure a loose, well-draining soil that will not compact or hold too much water, creating root rot issues.

Lemon Button Fern

With dark green arching stems, dotted with rounded leaflets in a golden-green color, the Lemon Button Fern is not only a cute fern, it also smells a bit citrusy.

It can be grown even by beginners if they can manage the plant’s humidity expectations. It needs both humidity and consistent watering, but it can be more forgiving of both unlike its more pretentious relatives.

A loose, peaty mix is going to help a lot to keep the soil from getting compacted and allow proper drainage.

The good news is that the lemon button fern can adapt to living in bright indirect light but also in lower light conditions as well.

Asparagus Fern

A fern that will grow beautifully indoors if given enough humidity and light, the asparagus fern is actually a beginner-friendly fern and a good plant to start with if you don’t have experience with growing ferns.

This type of fern grows compact and bushy, forming a nice shape that looks well-put together. The ‘leaves’ of the fern aren’t actually leaves, they’re tiny branchlets called ‘cladophylls’.

As the fern matures and if it’s happy with its environment, it produces tiny flowers that add even more to the beauty of the asparagus fern.

Dappled light is best for this fern. Avoid direct light as it will damage the tiny branchlets. Because the plant thrives in humidity, it needs constantly moist soil and almost daily misting.

Rabbit’s Foot Fern

An excellent choice for a hanging basket, this fern produces furry rhizomes that spill over at the edge of the pot, hence the name ‘Rabbit’s foot’.

With gauze or lace-like leaflets that grow upright, this fern type can make a good houseplant if you can keep it in a humid environment and maintain the potting mix constantly moist.

Bright indirect light works best for this fern. Don’t keep it in direct light because the delicate leaves will scorch.

If the air is dry indoors, misting or placing the plant over a humidity tray will help keep it in better shape. Prevent the soil from drying out and mist occasionally.

Holly Fern

The holly fern produces stiff, dark green fronds with coarse margins and it’s more resilient compared to the other ferns in this list in that it can withstand dry air and slightly colder temperatures.

As for its light requirements, it’s not a sun-loving plant, in fact it will adapt wonderfully to low light conditions.

It’s an evergreen plant in mild climates, and although it doesn’t tolerate harsh winters, it will survive in USDA zones 6-10. Therefore, this fern can be kept both indoors and out, depending on your preferences.

When watering, water deeply, then allow to drain. Avoid planting in soil that tends to get soggy, choose loose, fast-draining mixes.

Crocodile Fern

With a leaf pattern that looks like the scales on a crocodile, the Crocodile is an exotic-looking fern that enjoys its fair share of humidity and moisture.

It needs regular watering to keep it happy and thriving, but it also needs a potting mix that helps drainage and doesn’t get soggy when watered regularly.

The Crocodile fern performs best in indirect light or even in low light. It’s not tolerant of full sun, so avoid keeping it near a window with a southern exposure.

Kangaroo Paw Fern

Indoors, the Kangaroo fern is grown as a tabletop plant, even though it has a somewhat wild growth pattern, featuring differently shaped and sized fronds.

The color of the fronds is a light or lime green with a deep colored vein running down the middle of the frond.

Outdoors, it can grow in USDA zones 9-11, in other zones it should be kept as an indoor fern.

The care recommendations I discussed for the other ferns apply here too: Keep in indirect light, water regularly, provide humidity, and a well-draining potting mix.

Boston Fern

As the most common fern you’ll find indoors, the Boston fern is a true classic of its class. It’s signature sword-shaped frills on long fronds are instantly recognizable.

This fern can grow 2-3 feet tall and wide, making it suitable for a variety of spaces including as a tabletop fern, hanging basket fern, or even in a regular pot.

To help it grow more densely, position it in a bright location, where it can receive bright, indirect light.

This plant enjoys mild temperatures and isn’t tolerant of extreme heat or extreme cold. It needs moist soil that isn’t allowed to dry out. It has high humidity requirements as most ferns do.

Tips to Grow Ferns Indoors

Ferns aren’t your typical ‘set it and forget it’ type of houseplant, so if you want to successfully grow these indoors, there are a few things you need to get right first:

– Ferns need lots of humidity

If you don’t have a humidifier, place your ferns over a tray of pebbles filled with water or mist regularly. Keep away from furnaces, heating vents, ACs and other sources of heat or cold.

– Don’t allow their potting mix to dry out

These plants require constantly moist soil and they’ll quickly dry if their soil is allowed to dry out. To prevent fungal issues and rotting issues, always plant in a peaty mix that drains fast.

– Provide indirect light only

Direct light will increase evaporation and make it difficult to maintain enough moisture to keep these plants happy. Not to mention that direct sun will burn the delicate fronds of these ferns. Indirect to low light is where these plants feel the happiest.

– Ferns prefer slightly cooler temperatures

Ferns don’t do well in high temperatures, which decrease humidity, making it difficult for them to survive.

Therefore, maintain temperatures around 70 F to keep these ferns looking their best. Some ferns are more cold-resistant than others, but none are frost-resistant.

Wrap-Up

Not your typical houseplants, some ferns can be grown indoors if you can manage their humidity expectations and if you water them regularly so that their potting mix stays moist, but not soggy.

It’s debatable whether it’s best to just overwater these plants instead of letting the potting mix dry, but in my experience it’s best if you don’t overwater.

You can avoid some of the pitfalls of overwatering by choosing a potting mix that will retain moisture but won’t get oversaturated with water. Potting mixes for tropical plants will work for these ferns too.

Updated: July 5, 2021

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