Ferns make the perfect houseplant and have been popular for many years. Among the group of large ferns, we are all most familiar with Nephrolepis (the Macho Fern). Ferns are very versatile and promote a healthy micro-climate in our homes by purifying the surrounding air and promoting humidity too. As these houseplant ferns originated in (sub) tropical regions, they do like it to be very humid. This makes them ideal for in the bathroom. As a fern also dislikes direct sunlight, these leafy plants will also thrive in a darkish corner.

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Watering ferns

We are often asked 'how much water should be give the fern?' The kinds we use as a houseplant mostly originated in tropical rainforests so like their soil to be moist. This means you need to water them regularly but from below, keeping that soil just slightly moist. Never allow the pot to stand in a layer of water as this could actually rot the roots, killing the plant. Feed your fern weekly with plant food for leafy plants and use a plant spray on it regularly. One containing water at room temperature.
Ferns are herb like plants that grow their roots from a rhizome. The leaves are often very serrated and feathery but there are also varieties like the Phledobium and the Platycerium with flat leaves. Different varieties have different coloured foliage too, varying from silvery grey to dark green. Some ferns develop thick buds in the centre of the plant that gradually unroll into fully grown leaves.

Caring for ferns

  • Keep the soil slightly moist at all times - water regularly from below.
  • Keep the plant out of direct sunlight.
  • Ambient temperature should be between 10 and 20 degrees.
  • Snip off any withered foliage - this gives room to new leaves.
  • Feed your fern weekly with liquid plant food to keep it looking healthy.
  • Spray weekly with water to keep dust off and keep it looking good.
  • Pot up in March if and when it gets too big for its current pot.
If your fern is not looking its best or has brown leaves, check the following list for possible reasons:
  • Too much water - ferns like their soil fairly moist but too much water can cause root rot and drown the plant.
  • Tap water can have too much lime in it which will not be appreciated. Water that's too cold will also not be tolerated.
  • Don't feed it too much as this can create too much salt to build up in the plant's soil.
  • The plant has a fungus.
Using ferns with plants with contrasting foliage
Ferns don't have colourful flowers but the lovely shape of their foliage is huge compensation for that. If you combine the feathery leaves of fern(s) with other shaped leaves from various other plants, both types will look even better. A nice contrasting plant to have in the home is perhaps a Dieffenbachia. The big spotted, green leaves really contrast rather nicely with ferns in size, shape and texture. Another ones could be say Clusia, Sansevieria, Monstera (cheese plant), or Calathea. You could also try flowering houseplants like Anthurium and Orchid - their shape and colour goes perfect with ferns.