Add a feel of the tropics to your winter home...
As the outside world settles into winter, it’s the perfect time to add fresh greenery to your indoor space. Graceful ferns can add a tropical feel to your home or office and can make wonderful low maintenance houseplants. There are about 12,000 fern species and they are among the most ancient of plants. All ferns prefer a good dose of humidity and consistent moisture to varying degrees, so choose a fern that will thrive in your specific environment.
Take a look at some of our favorites:
Button fern (Pellaea rotundifolia)
This cute little fern, a native to New Zealand, is an easy one to grow. It gets its name from the small round ‘buttons’ that grow along the thin, arching stems.
Light: Place in bright light or even a slightly shady spot, but not direct sunlight.
Fertilizer: Feed monthly with a 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer that is diluted by half.
Water: Water plant thoroughly and them allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again. If you see yellowing or wilted leaves, you are probably watering too often.
Humidity: Make sure to keep your Button fern is in a humid environment (ideally, in 50 percent humidity).
Soil: Choose a potting mix with a base of peat moss, some perlite and sand for drainage.
Size: Grows up to 1 foot tall. It likes to cascade over pots or sprout from hanging baskets.
Rabbit's Foot fern (Devallia fejeensis)
Although this fern is native to faraway Fiji, it's an easy one to please, even if your house is lacking in humidity. The lacy fronds create a mound of foliage that can grow up to 2 feet... hanging over the sides of containers. The furry roots are the reason behind its name. These light brown roots or rhizomes are covered with soft brown hairs that resemble a rabbit’s foot. These furry ‘feet’ aren’t just for show… they take up valuable moisture for the plant.
Light: Moderate to bright light, but keep it away from direct sun. Fluorescent 'grow' lights work, too.
Fertilizer: Feed on a monthly basis spring through fall with a balanced houseplant fertilizer—diluted by half. Let plant rest in winter.
Water: Keep the soil moist in spring through fall. But in winter, allow the top inch of soil to dry out between watering.
Humidity: Average humidity is ideal. To give the fern extra moisture, mist the leaves, as well as the furry roots. If the leaf tips turn brown, it needs more humidity. Place plant on a tray of wet pebbles.
Size: 18-inches tall
Bird’s Nest fern: (Asplenium nidus)
Bring the tropics to your home or office with this beautiful, easy care fern. It is slow growing but can still mature up to 2 to 3 feet tall indoors-- at its happiest. The Bird's Nest fern can tolerate less humidity than most ferns and won’t show signs of drought, even if you forget to water it on occasion. The broad & leathery, light green fronds unfurl from the center of the plant and create a vase- or nest-like shape.
Light: It does best in warm, moderately bright areas of the home, but tolerates some shade. Grows well in bright, north-facing windows.
Fertilizer: It isn’t a plant food hog. Feed 2-3 times in spring and summer with a balanced houseplant fertilizer at half strength.
Water: Keep soil uniformly moist...not soggy wet.
Humidity: It prefers high humidity, but it will be fine even if humidity isn’t ideal.
Soil: It grows best in a porous, well-drained, peaty potting mixture.
Size: Indoors, 3-5 ft. tall and wide and 2-3 ft. wide. Matures into a nicely shaped, specimen plant.
Tips: Don’t water the crown, it can rot easily. Try to keep the leaves dry to avoid bacterial problems. Not toxic to humans or pets.
Maidenhair fern (Adiantum)
The Maidenhair fern is beautiful but she’s a real diva! This fern is pretty finicky and she won’t give you a second chance. Meet her needs… exactly... and you’ll be rewarded with clouds of green and lacy, paper-thin foliage.
Light: A north window with indirect morning or afternoon sun. No drafts.
Water: Water plants regularly. The soil must be constantly moist but not sitting in water. Moist. Not soggy.
Humidity: Make sure you give this fern consistent, high humidity. The best place might be the bathroom near a shower or regular misting in another area. Place on a water-filled tray with pebbles or plant inside a terrarium for constant humidity.
Fertilize: Fertilize in growing seasons, spring and summer. Keep drier in winter months and use a well-draining potting soil.
Soil: Rich, high quality potting mix. Amend with 25% compost.
Tips: Plant Maidenhair ferns in plastic pots and place inside a cachepot. Every few days, water thoroughly in sink. Allow to drip-dry and place back in cachepot.
It helps to place this fern within groupings of plants to create a more humid environment.
Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum)
Where do they get their name? The large flat fronds resemble the forked antlers of a male deer or elk. Staghorn ferns are as uniquely beautiful as intimidating when grown as indoor plants. Their form is unusual because they are epiphytes with a need to grow on other plants or trees to survive. As tropical natives, staghorn ferns grow in the crooks of trees with their roots holding them in place. The roots anchor the plant so it can absorb water and nutrients through its leaves or fronds. Because of this, when you find them available for purchase, the plant is usually ready for hanging either, anchored to a board or wrapped lightly in burlap or moss.
Light: Bright, indirect light or diffused light is best, but no direct sun. A southern or eastern window is best but a north window will be okay.
Water: The 2-step watering process of Mist & Soak might be too complicated for some indoor gardeners: First, mist the entire plant with a fine spray. Then, dunk the fern in a sink or tub filled with room temperature water until its roots are saturated… about a minute. In cooler months, water the fern once every 2-3 weeks. In warmer months, water once per week. However, you’ll have to experiment, as it can take awhile to find the right combination. Under- and over-watering are the most common cause of this plant’s demise.
Fertilize: Staghorns grow robustly with fertilizer, especially younger ones. Feed monthly during spring and summer with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. During winter or dormancy, reduce fertilizing to every other month. Some people suggest feeding it banana peels.
Temperature: Ideal temperatures range from 50 degrees to 100 degrees.