How to Grow and Care for your Fern

By: Debbie Neese
July 26, 2022
How to Grow and Care for your Fern
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Ferns have been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago, and they come in 20,000 different shapes and varieties. If you like Jurassic Park movies, you might also like collecting the various ferns! So if you want to be the Fern Connoisseur, here is some care advice we want to offer! 

Light for your Fern

Ferns can handle filtered light, preferably early morning light and afternoon shade. For instance, our Bird's Nest Fern has a pretty curl to the leaves that, if exposed to more indirect light, the curls will be more accentuated. Medium to bright, indirect light is best positioned away from the hottest time of the day. 


Water/Humidity for Ferns

Ferns like a perpetual spa treatment, so keep the humidity around them high by introducing a pebble tray to sit on and a humidifier close. Keep the humidity over 50-60% to keep their leaves from turning brown on the edges or getting crispy. Ensure the soil stays consistently moist by reading the moisture meter on your 4 in 1 plant meter to determine better what's happening beneath the soil's surface. Our mister comes in handy when inspecting your plants and giving them that extra TLC they love with a few spritzes for good measure. When watering, give your fern half a turn, so all sides get an even light distribution! 

Plant Food/Fertilizer for Ferns

In nature, ferns get their nutrients from decomposing organic matter. In turn, we can give them our favorite blend of organic food with Arbor Plant Food once a month for most of the ferns, except for our Boston Fern and Kimberely Queen, which doesn't need it but twice a year starting in March and July. 


Repotting your Fern

Here is a list of things to do when repotting your fern from Lively Root. 

  1. When receiving your fern, do not repot immediately but wait at least 6-12 months or if the roots are beginning to get crowded and growing through the drainage holes. Most prefer to be snug in their pot. 
  2. Repot in the spring, using a 2 inches bigger pot to give the roots room to spread.
  3. Use our handy dandy plant repotting mat to keep the mess in and all in one place. 
  4. Place a piece of screening at the bottom of the container over the drainage hole to secure the soil and allow it to drain. Use a rich, well-draining indoor potting mix amended with 25% compost to help with fertility. 
  5. Water your plant in the old pot before transferring and let it sit for an hour.
  6. Add soil to the bottom to elevate the root ball. Lift the plant and release the roots against the existing planter. Use a clean knife or garden trowel to wedge between the pot and the soil to loosen. 
  7. Inspect the root ball. Notice if there are any dead or rotting roots and trim them off with sterile pruners. Cut through the roots to alleviate continued encircling if the plant is rootbound. 
  8. Ensure the plant sits about 1 inch below the edge of the pot to avoid water spillage. Add more soil and backfill around the sides by tamping down. Fill up to the soil line but not over. 
  9. Water thoroughly, leaving the soil damp but not soggy. If settling occurs, add more soil. 
  10. Allow time for the water to drain from the grower pot before placing it into a planter. 

Cleaning and Pruning

When watering your fern, it's an excellent time to trim off any browning, yellowing, or discolored leaves. Cut the stem back to the base or trim off with sterile snips if minor damage occurs. Avoid trimming the fern's top, except for the dead, damaged, or diseased parts. Instead, shape it up by cutting the side leaves from the base. Clean any leftover crispy leaves that may have fallen into the soil and remove them. Add soil to the top if divots begin from watering erosion. 

Ferns love a good shower, so take it to your bathtub or shower area and fill your watering container with tepid water sitting for at least 24 hours to remove harmful chlorine and fluoride chemicals. Pour the water with a shower nozzle and knock off any dust or critters lurking in the fronds. Do this at least once per month. 



Accessories for your Ferns

If you've got a fern, does she have a plant pick? We are especially partial to 'Frond of You' since your fern's leaves are called 'fronds!' And ferns like to 'hang out' and make great additions for hanging baskets, so consider using our macrame plant hanger for a bit of indulgence and beauty to your space! And if your fern isn't hanging and doesn't have a dress, skirt, or pants to wear, cover her up with our favorite baskets for that earthy feel. Just remember, when watering, pull the grower pot out and let her drain thoroughly, and don't let your plant sit in water at the roots to avoid root rot. 

Common Issues with Ferns

Some ferns like Maidenhair ferns are a bit divaish. If the fronds tend to get crispy, keep the soil moist but not soggy, and add a humidifier close by to increase the air's humidity. Providing a tent around the plant can help hold in moisture like a cloche, glass enclosure, or terrarium with a lid. While moisture is vital, sogginess is not a good thing, so a balance must be maintained. If your fronds are browning and crispy, you can trim them all the way back and provide the light and humidity they need. Most of the time, the plant will revive itself, so don't throw out the roots yet! 

Ferns provide a lush, peaceful environment and can be found on any forest floor. Create your own forest floor in your green space to take you back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth!