Ferns are timeless plants that have graced our homes long before houseplants became a trend. Their lush foliage and delicate appearance bring a touch of nature to any interior. Although they look delicate, with the right care they can thrive inside our homes.
Although we usually talk about “indoor ferns”, there are actually several types of ferns suitable for indoor cultivation. What makes ferns so special is their diversity of shape, size and texture. They have a naturally architectural appearance, with fronds (leaves) that often unfold in a spiral pattern, giving the plant a sense of movement and dynamism.
Some of the most popular indoor ferns
- Nephrolepis exaltata (Boston Fern)- This is one of the best-known indoor ferns, with its long, arching fronds.
Optimum use: Ideal for hanging baskets or placed on a shelf to allow fronds to fall naturally.
- Asplenium nidus (Bird’s nest fern) – Recognizable by its large, shiny, tongue-like fronds. They form a rosette resembling a nest, hence the name. Best use: As this fern forms a dense rosette, it is best placed on a coffee table, sideboard or pedestal, where its unique shape can be fully appreciated.
- Adiantum (Venus Hair Fern) – This is a delicate fern with fine, feather-like fronds and stems that resemble fine black threads. It is often considered one of the most graceful indoor ferns.
Best use: Ideal for a side table or windowsill, where its delicate beauty can be admired up close.
- Blechnum gibbum (Silver fern) – Shiny, silvery-green fronds. Over time, it can develop a small trunk, resembling a small palm tree.
Best use: Suitable for ground pots or large table pots, as it can become quite large over time.
By incorporating these different ferns into your interior space, you can play with different textures and heights, adding an extra dimension to your plant collection.
Origin of the fern
Ferns have existed since prehistoric times, long before the appearance of flowering plants. They are found naturally in a wide variety of habitats around the world, from tropical rainforests to arid zones.
How do I care for an indoor fern?
Although they share many care characteristics, different types of fern may have specific needs depending on the species. However, the following tips apply to a wide range of indoor ferns.
Being understory plants, ferns generally prefer subdued light. Too much direct sunlight can burn their delicate fronds.
💧 Watering and maintenance
Ferns like consistency. It is important to keep the soil evenly moist, but never soggy. Humidity is also crucial for these beauties, so consider using a humidity tray or humidifier.
Ferns generally prefer cooler temperatures, especially at night. A range of 15°C to 21°C is ideal.
🦟 Diseases, pests and parasites
Ferns can be susceptible to certain pests, such as mealybugs and red spiders. An excessively dry environment can increase these risks.
🗑 Potting and multiplication
Repotting: Ferns generally have shallow roots, so you won’t need to repot them often.
Multiplication: You can divide a mature fern during repotting or propagate from spores, although the latter method is more complex.
Some specific needs
- Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is fairly tolerant of different light levels, but prefers partial shade to indirect light. It also likes humidity, so misting regularly or using a humidifier can be beneficial.
- The tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica) needs indirect but bright light. This fern also appreciates good humidity. If the air is too dry, its fronds can turn brown.
- The very delicate capillary (Adiantum spp.) prefers a humid environment. It is more sensitive to excess water, so you need to be particularly careful with watering.
- Stag-horn fern (Platycerium spp.): this epiphytic fern has slightly different needs. It doesn’t need to be watered as often, as it draws much of its moisture and nutrients from the air.
- Mother fern (Asplenium nidus) loves humidity, so regular watering is essential. It also prefers indirect light.
As you can see, for best results, it’s a good idea to seek out species-specific information and observe how your fern reacts to your care.
Common problems to avoid
Despite their apparent robustness, ferns can be prone to various problems when grown indoors. Here are some of the common challenges you may encounter and how to overcome them:
Yellowing or brown leaves
- Often due to irregular watering or excessively dry air.
- Solution: Make sure you water regularly without letting the soil dry out completely. You can also increase humidity by placing a humidifier nearby or using a tray of moist pebbles under the pot.
- Generally caused by excess water, leading to root rot.
- Solution: Let the soil dry slightly between waterings and make sure your pot has good drainage.
- These stains may be the result of a fungal infection caused by excessive humidity.
- Solution: Reduce watering frequency and avoid wetting foliage. If necessary, apply a fungicide suitable for ferns.
Aphids and mealybugs
- These small insects feed on plant sap, weakening the fern.
- Solution: Inspect ferns regularly for pests. In the event of infestation, isolate the plant and treat it with a suitable insecticide or soapy water solution.
Discoloration of fronds
- Too much direct sunlight can fade the fern’s color.
- Solution: Move the fern to an area where it will receive indirect light.
Slow or atrophied growth
- May be due to a lack of essential nutrients.
- Solution: Fertilize with a balanced fern fertilizer during the growing season.