Growing Ferns Indoors

Image by PlayfulLibrarian

By Heather Rhoades

Ferns are pretty easy to grow. However, drafts, dry air and temperature extremes won’t help. Ferns that are pampered and protected from things like dry air and temperature extremes will reward you with lush green fronds all year round, beautifying your indoor garden more than you could imagine. Let’s learn more about growing ferns indoors.

Tips for Growing Ferns Indoors

There are a lot of species of tropical and subtropical ferns, but there are also a lot of ferns that are native to more temperate climates. These ferns would be well suited to cooler parts of the house but won’t survive in rooms that are too well heated. Tropical ferns survive best in homes with central heating. Below are recommend indoor conditions for optimal fern growth:


All ferns love moisture and should be given humid conditions. In living rooms and family rooms, you would have to stand their pots on trays of damp pebbles or clay granules. Ferns also love being misted at regular intervals with tepid, soft water unless the humidity of the whole room is kept high through the use of a humidifier.


You also need to provide the right compost. Most ferns are forest or woodland plants and have tender, delicate roots adapted to the light forest soil, which is rich in leaf mould and decayed vegetable matter. The right compost has to be free draining so that the roots never get waterlogged. A compost that contains peat or a fibrous peat substitute containing plenty of sand is best. The compost should never be allowed to dry out. This might mean you have to water the plant a little every single day in a warm, dry atmosphere.



Although most ferns grow in moist shady places like forest floors, this does not mean that they need no light. Their normal situation in the wild is dappled light and, if the light level in the home is too low, you will see poor growth and yellowing fronds. You will want to give your ferns a position near a window that gets morning or late afternoon sun. You should definitely keep the ferns away from strong sunlight, especially during the summer. Direct sunlight will make them lose their leaves or turn their fronds yellow.

You can keep your ferns in dim light as long as you give them regular breaks in bright light. They can be given artificial light, but this should be from a special gardening bulb or a fluorescent strip. Ordinary light bulbs generate too much heat.


An individual fern’s place of origin and adaptability is what will determine how high or low of a temperature the fern needs. Most ferns don’t like cold. Those ferns from tropical regions truly appreciate 60-70 F (15-21 C.). Those from more temperate regions enjoy temperatures between 50-60 F. (10-16 C).


Feed your ferns in the summertime every two to four weeks with a liquid fertilizer. You don’t want to mix it full strength because you can damage the root system. Just a few drops of fertilizer can be added to the water occasionally for misting. Don’t feed your ferns in the winter because they rest in the winter. In order to keep the air around your ferns moist, mist them often.


You can repot your ferns in the springtime, but only if their roots are filling the pot. Otherwise, you should only scrape off the top layer of compost and replace it with fresh compost. Cut off any damaged fronds to encourage new growth.

When you repot your ferns, you can split them up and make two out of one. You can also grow new ferns from the powdery spores produced in little capsules. These capsules are visible as rows of rusty brown patches on the underside of the fronds. These will grow into a green film into which the fern will grow.

Indoor Fern Companions

Bromeliads are plants similar to the pineapple with a rosette of firm fleshy leaves. Some have a larger piece in the center or have plants with less form that wander without roots in the pot. The roots of a bromeliad are used simply for anchoring it to a support. They are not used for gathering nourishment. They make striking potted plants and also adapt well to hanging baskets.

There are also tillandsias. These grow well in pots and are great for hanging baskets because they have arching foliage and take their nourishment directly from their environment or air. They require very little water.

Keep in mind that bromeliads are tropical. They require warmer temperatures of 60-70 F. (15-21 C.) and some moisture. The tillandsias don’t require near as much moisture and you can actually grow them in shells, rocks and such.

Ferns, tillandsias and bromeliads are just as easy to grow as the palms. You just need to be sure you pay attention to each of their needs. They are really low maintenance as far as plants go.

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