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Hanging Fern

How to take care of a Fern indoors

Ferns are beautiful plants with a lot of textures, shapes, and sizes. There are a lot of different ferns, each with their own characteristics. Luckily, most ferns are quite similar when it comes to taking care of them.

In this plant care guide, we're going to look at how to take care of your type of Fern. These are the topics we're going to look at in this plant care guide:

  1. Watering your Fern
  2. Sunlight for your Fern
    1. Sunlight exposure for your Fern in the winter
  3. Temperature for your Fern
  4. The perfect soil for your Fern
  5. Fertilizing your Fern
    1. Fertilizing your Fern in the winter
  6. Is your Fern toxic for pets?

Let's dive right in to explore everything there is to know about your Fern to help it thrive and make your house feel like a forest.

Watering your Fern

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Fern in bathroom

Watering is the most important part of taking care of your Fern. Your Fern loves to be in a moist environment. Your Fern loves to be in soil that's moist all the time and doesn't do well if the soil is dry for too long.

Some ferns, like the Boston Fern, should be watered when the soil is dry to the touch. Other ferns, like the Maidenhair Fern or the Button Fern like to be in soil that's always moist.

When you water your Fern, water it starts to drip out of the bottom of the pot. Let the pot drip for about 5-10 minutes, so your plant won't sit in a puddle of water.

If you notice that your plant is dropping leaves, you've either under- or overwatered it. You'll know if you've underwatered it if you haven't watered your plant in at least a week. If you've watered your Fern in the past 1-4 days, you might have overwatered your plant. You can help your plant by correcting your watering schedule.

Sunlight for your Fern

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Fern in dark spot

The second most important thing for your plant is sunlight exposure. When you place your Fern in a spot that has the perfect sunlight exposure for your plant, you'll see your plant become happier and healthier.

Your Fern grows best in a spot that has indirect sunlight exposure. Indirect sunlight means that your plant doesn't get any direct sunlight on its leaves through a window. Direct sunlight will leave burn marks on your plant or make its environment too warm for it to be happy.

The perfect place for your Fern is a spot in the middle of a room with a south or west facing window where it doesn't get any direct sunlight. You can also put your ferns in a room with a northern or eastern-facing window, as this light is weaker.

If you have an Asparagus Fern, pay attention: Your plant isn't actually a fern and needs bright, direct sunlight to be happy.

You can read more about the type of sunlight each direction gives you in "Does the sunlight direction matter for your houseplant?".

Sunlight exposure for your Fern in the winter

In the winter, the sun isn't as strong and lower in the sky during the day. This means that there is less sunlight coming in through the windows and your house is darker during the day.

This means that you should move your Fern closer to windows to give it some extra sunlight exposure. During the growing season this sunlight is often too harsh, but it's fine during the winter.

Temperature for your Fern

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A Fern is a perennial, which means it's quite a tough plant. Ferns prefer colder temperatures. During the day it shouldn't be warmer than 22 degrees celsius (72 F) and during the night it should ideally stay below 16 degrees Celsius (60 F). The temperature in an average house is actually slightly too warm for a Fern, so it's a good idea to find a colder spot in your house for this plant. Because your Fern likes colder areas, it's important to keep it away from radiators and direct sunlight. These heat sources dry your Fern out too much too quickly and will slowly, sometimes not so slowly, kill your Fern.

The perfect soil for your Fern

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Fern in light soil

You've already learned so much about taking care of your Fern! Let's look at the best type of soil to help your Fern be happy and healthy.

Earlier in this plant care guide, we've discovered that your Fern loves to be in a moist environment, so we'll need soil that can retain moisture for many days. You can mix your own potting soil by getting general indoor potting soil, and adding peatmoss and some sand to it. This will help to retain more moisture, but also provides drainage and keeps the soil light.

When your plant loves moisture and needs to be in moist soil all the time, most types of soil will compact over time. This compacted soil will prevent the excess water from draining away as easily and will also block oxygen from reaching your Fern's roots.

Fertilizing your Fern

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A Fern is a group of plants, and each group in this family has slightly different fertilizing requirements. However, all Ferns that can grow indoors are quite similar when it comes to fertilizing.

When you purchase a brand-new bag of soil from the plant shop, it's most likely filled with fertilizer for the first 100 days. So when you repot your Fern or just bought your Fern, you won't have to feed your plant for the first 100 days. After these 100 days you will have to fertilize your houseplant to keep it strong and healthy.

You Fern is a fast-growing plant and needs a lot of nutrients to grow like this. You can help your Fern thrive by fertilizing it with liquid fertilizer once per month.

You can read more about which fertilizer is best in "What is the best type of fertilizer for houseplants?".

Fertilizing your Fern in the winter

In the winter, when your Fern is asleep and it's not growing (as quickly), you shouldn't fertilize your plant. Your Fern won't use the fertilizer and it'll stay behind in the pot. This will make the soil salty and that will make it a tough place for your plant to grow.

On average, you shouldn't fertilize your Fern between the end of September and the beginning of March. In March, when spring starts and it's getting warmer, you can start to fertilize your Fern again.

Is your Fern toxic for pets?

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Asparagus fern lifted from the ground

Some plants are toxic for your pets and people and should be kept away from pets and small children. You might ask yourself if your Fern is toxic to your pets and small children.

The Fern is a group of plants that on average aren't very toxic to pets and people, but there are a few Ferns that are toxic. The popular Asparagus Fern (emerald feather, emerald fern, sprengeri fern, plumosa fern, or lace fern) is toxic to your cats and dogs. When your pet eats this plant, it can start to vomit, have diarrhea, and get abdominal pain. If you pet has eaten the Asparagus Fern, make sure to call your veterinarian immediately.

Popular ferns like the Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exalta bostoniensis) is non-toxic to cats and dogs.


In this plant care guide, we've looked at how to take care of your Fern. We've looked at how you can water your Fern, the perfect sunlight exposure for your Fern, the best soil for your Fern, how to best fertilize your Fern, and whether your Fern is toxic for your pets and kids.

Ferns are a great way to make your house feel more like a forest, add some texture to your house with the complex leaves, and serve as a great piece of decoration. If you have pets, make sure to check if your specific Fern is toxic or not and take measures to protect both your pets and your Fern.

Thank you for reading this post! I hope it helps you to keep your plants healthy and beautiful! If you're looking for more guides on specific plants, you can always request a plant guide or donate a plant in order to get a guide for the plant you have trouble with.

Tags: fern, water, moisture-loving, humidity

Posted on: Dec 25, 2021 Last updated on: Apr 8, 2022

Other common names for this plant

  • Emerald feather
  • Emerald fern
  • Sprengeri fern
  • Plumosa fern
  • Lace fern
  • Nephrolepis exalta bostoniensis

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