When summer vacation is over and the skies grow increasingly clouded, we spend more and more time indoors. Our houseplant needs shift from intense light and heat to lower light, softness and tranquility.
Enter the ferns with their often delicate, always beautiful foliage which provides the perfect backdrop to a long session of gazing out the window at the trickling rain and brilliantly colored trees.
Indoor ferns thrive in lower light situations. North or east facing windows are best, west or south facing areas can scald leaves. Most ferns should be kept consistently moist though not soggy and shouldn’t sit in excess water. Watering needs will vary depending on numerous factors so check the soil regularly to prevent over-drying or over-watering.
It is helpful to increase humidity around the ferns as much as possible. A simple way to do this is to place them in a well-lit bathroom or kitchen.
Also helpful is misting the foliage regularly with tepid water, placing the ferns on a pebble or humidity tray or placing their main pot within another slightly larger pot and filling the gap between with moist moss. Of course a humidifier would be beneficial as well.
Some fantastic ferns you may find at our stores include the following:
Adiantum species (Maidenhair Ferns): Very delicate visually and constitutionally. Require perhaps the highest humidity levels of all the indoor ferns and will not tolerate drying out or too much sun.
Asplenium species (Bird’s Nest and Mother Ferns): The Bird’s Nest is a leathery, wide leaved species while the Mother Fern is feathery and produces many plantlets on mature fronds. Both are in the easy-to-grow category.
Davallia (Rabbit/ Squirrel Foot Fern): Not especially difficult and can even handle some drying out between watering. Features a cool furry rhizome that creeps along the surface of the soil and crawls over the edge of the pot!
Nephrolepis exaltata (Boston Fern): Undoubtedly the most recognizable and classic of all the indoor ferns, requires misting and constant moisture. Can get quite large and they look great in a hanging basket.
Pellaea rotundifolia (Button Fern): Maybe the easiest to grow as it actually prefers dryer air and is fine with the soil drying slightly between watering. Has cute roundish leaflets and stays pretty small.
Pteris cretica (Table/ Brake Fern): Varieties range beautifully in shape and size and feature many lovely variegations and unusual leaf shapes some of which look like little deer antlers. Most all of them are quite easy to grow.
Water: Generally need to be kept consistently moist but not overly soggy. They need less water in the winter.
Soil: Well-draining yet moisture retentive is best. Choose one with a good amount of peat moss and add a dash of pumice to cut the sog factor.
Light: A north facing window is great as is slightly back from an east facing window. If the window faces west or south, the fern will have to be quite a ways away from the window to avoid intensely hot direct sun.
Ideal Temperature: About 60-75 degrees, ideally with a 10 degree drop at night.
Humidity: Pretty much as high as you can get it. See text for tips.
Maintenance: Cut off any brown fronds as they will not regreen. Repot when roots fill the pot and perform the potting in the spring. Fertilize with high nitrogen or all-purpose fertilizer diluted to half-strength once a month April through September.
Pests and Diseases: Ferns are not especially prone to pests or disease though scale, mealybug and spider mite infestations are possible.
If caught early enough, infestations often start on just a small number of fronds which can easily be removed. If infestations are great, be sure to check pesticide labels as ferns are sensitive to many chemicals. High humidity will help in preventing mite attacks.