How To Grow Ferns

How to Care for Ferns


It is a common thing to see ferns growing in the wild, some of these places include the rainforest and also woodlands. This tropical to sub-tropical beauty belongs to a family of nearly 12,000 species. I have used these garden materials on many interior plantscape projects to create beautiful garden designs.

If you have an interest in the growth and care of ferns then this may be the post for you. What I love about nature is nature has so much to offer so let’s connect with nature by giving nature a helping hand as we take a closer look at these amazing garden wonders that have caught not only the attention but the hearts of so many people.

Planting location

Look for an area that has partial shade or is well shaded. Ferns love these conditions.

Soil Type

Ferns love moist conditions, the soil should be a soil that not only holds moisture but a soil that drains well. The soil should be slightly neutral to acidic.

Water Method

Because ferns love moisture, ensure that the soil stays somewhat on the moist side. A great idea preferably is to add a 3-inch layer of mulch to retain water and to keep the soil temperature cool. A word of warning here although ferns love moisture do not overwater because waterlogged soil will encourage root rot

Fertilizing Methods

Though ferns do well without the help of fertilizers adding a slow-release fertilizer will help your ferns along the way.

Garden insect pest of fern plants

If you spot these garden pests hanging around your ferns it is time to take action or go into combat mode.

  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Scales
  • Mites
  • MealyBugs
  • Thrips
  • Aphids

Keep an eye out for Slugs and Snails which will seek to make a meal out of your ferns. The use of slug baits will bring these garden pests under control.

When growing ferns in pots and hanging baskets to keep snails away apply petroleum jelly or vaseline in a band just under the rim of your container or hanging basket.

Scales, Mites, Mealybugs, Thrips, and Aphids are insect pests that can do much damage. Because the leaves of ferns are delicate it is best to place your ferns under lukewarm running water to combat these issues or check with your garden center to see what chemicals are labeled for treating these garden insect pests when it comes to ferns.

Diseases of fern plants

Keep an eye out for these diseases to ensure that your ferns are healthy at all times

  • Graying
  • Bacterial Soft Spot
  • Pythium Root Rot
  • Rhizoctonia Blight


Graying is most common among Boston ferns with the leaves turning gray and slow plant growth. A lack of water encourages this disease. Ensure that your ferns are getting sufficient moisture to avoid this problem.

Bacterial Soft Spot

Bacterial soft spots show up as brown-blackish spots that spread. Your ferns may also have an odor that is unpleasant, unfortunately, at this point, the only resolution is to remove and destroy your fern.

Rhizoctonia Blight

The signs of Rhizoctonia blight are the plant’s foliage and roots developing dark lesions that spread rather quickly. Treating your ferns and the soil with a fungicide may offer some help or consider disposing of it.

Pythium Root Rot

Pythium root rot will cause your fern leaves to turn gray and wilt. The growth of your fern may also come to a halt. The fern’s roots will be stunted with a brown appearance. This disease is common with the Boston fern, the use of a fungicide which is labeled to treat this disease for Boston ferns will offer some help.

Where to install them

Here are a few places to install ferns

  • Ferns can be installed as a backdrop or can be used in the middle or align the front of a garden area
  • Ferns look great when used around  ponds
  • Can be installed along garden walking pathways
  • Looks great planted along a nature walk
  • Ferns can be installed along a driveway
  • These beauties can be installed in pots and the pots can be placed on your patio or porches
  • Place ferns in containers and place the containers on either side of your front door entrance.
  • Ferns can also be used in an interior plantscape garden.
  • Install ferns in hanging baskets

Container grown ferns

Ferns don’t have to be planted deeply because they are a custom to shallow rocky areas. Just take a walk in the woodlands and check their root system. When planting ferns in containers keep this in (don’t plant them deeply) mind. Using good garden soil that will hold moisture but will allow excess water to drain through is a must because as discussed earlier ferns love moist conditions they don’t like wet feet which can lead to root rot.

Gently press the soil around your ferns, ensure that the container has drain holes for water drainage. When watering your ferns ensure that the water makes contact with the soil and not the leaves, therefore, water at ground level. Overhead irrigation will wet the leaves or Foliage which can lead to the leaves turning yellow-blackish causing your ferns to look sickly.

When watering ferns allow the water to dry out between watering before watering again. Fertilize your ferns with a quick-release water-soluble fertilizer. Before applying read and follow the manufacturer’s label because the label is the law. It has also been suggested that applying 2 tbsp of Epsom salt to a gallon of water will help your ferns to keep their green color but use this method in moderation because salts can build up in the soil which can work against your ferns.

As mentioned earlier ferns love areas that are Partially shaded or have dapple lighting so with this in mind place your container in an area that has these conditions. Your ferns will love you for this and will show you they are thankful for maintaining that healthy green

Growing ferns indoors

Growing ferns indoors can both be fun and exciting as you bring nature on the inside, but as happy as you are about your ferns growing indoors you want your ferns to be happy also, therefore, providing them with the right environment is a must for them to perform at their best. Install ferns as you would when growing from containers.

Watering Methods

Remember to water from the soil level, overhead irrigation will cause the leaves to become a yellow-blackish color. The soil should be kept somewhat moist and not waterlogged it is good to allow the soil to dry out somewhat between watering before giving your fern plant another drink of water.

Fertilizing Methods

The use of a liquid feed fertilizer once a month is good, ensure that the fertilizer is half strength or diluted because you don’t want to cause the roots to be injured.


Ferns love partial shade or dappled light, therefore, it is best to provide the same lighting when growing indoors. Placing ferns near a window facing the north or eastern side of the room will help them to thrive. Direct sunlight or regular house bulbs will not do because these lights can cause plants to burn. As long as your ferns are getting that dappled or filtered sunlight they will do just fine. Providing grow lights will also be of great help.

Room Temperature

Proving a room temperature anywhere from 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for your ferns to survive.


To help your ferns along the way does not only acquire the required moisture but also providing the right humidity. A great way to provide humidity is to allow the pot to rest on trays of pebbles that are damp or the use of a humidifier will keep the humidity level just right. Another great idea is to mist the leaves with fine sprays of water, not course droppings.

Some fern species

Here are just a few of the many ferns species to consider.

  • Boston Ferns
  • Staghorn Ferns
  • Bird’s Nest Ferns
  • Ostrich Ferns
  • Asparagus Ferns
  • Royal Ferns
  • Wire Ferns
  • Silver Ferns
  • Eagle Ferns

The final word

Ferns are pretty amazing and with almost 12,000 species you have so many to choose from which I am sure you will be happy with. These garden beauties are worth the investment. I have worked with these plant materials over the years and have seen what they can do. Go ahead and give these garden beauties a try you will be so happy that you did.


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About the author

+ posts

Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.