Growing Ferns As Houseplants: 9 Types Of Ferns To Grow Indoors

Indoor Small Potted Fern Plants
(Image credit: Liudmila Chernetska)

Fern houseplants lend a lush, tropical feel to an indoor space. They set off flowering plants nicely, add texture, and have interesting foliage. Here are some beautiful varieties well-suited to indoor growing. 

How to Grow Ferns Indoors

Before choosing among the many types of ferns for your next houseplant, it’s important to understand what they need to thrive inside. Most ferns grown as houseplants come from the tropics, so they like indirect light, warmth, and humidity. 

All ferns should grow in containers with good drainage. When watering a fern indoors, know the variety’s specific needs. Most ferns like moist soil, but some, like the Boston fern, do best when the top of the soil just dries out before the next watering. 

Tropical ferns need humidity, which can be a problem inside in the winter. Use a mister or a pebble tray to create a more humid environment around your ferns. Ferns don’t need full sunlight, so place your plants near a north or east window. 

Top Fern Houseplant Varieties

These are some types of ferns ideal for growing indoors: 

  1. Boston. Boston fern is a classic houseplant with pretty feathered fronds. You can find several cultivars that vary in size, have more interesting textures, and that are either upright or trailing. 
  2. Bird’s nest. This unique fern grows reliably indoors. Bird’s nest fern doesn’t have the feathery fronds of most ferns. The fronds are long, wide, and have wavy edges. 
  3. Rabbit’s foot. The fuzzy, brown rhizomes give rabbit’s foot fern its name. They grow over the edge of the container and the fronds are delicate and lacy. To get the best view of both, use a hanging container. 
  4. Mother. Share this one with friends. The name mother fern comes from the fact that it grows small “babies” on the larger fronds. You can pick them to propagate a new plant. 
  5. Staghorn. This unique fern is an epiphyte, so it requires an appropriate medium, like a mixture of peat and sphagnum moss. Staghorn fern requires a lot of humidity, but with the right conditions will grow slowly into a large plant. This is advanced-level fern growing, so you may want to try easier types first. 
  6. Cretan brake. Place this fern in a warm spot, near a radiator, for instance. It also needs a lot of humidity. Cretan brake fern will reward you with pretty, variegated fronds. 
  7. Button. Choose a button fern for small spaces. It only grows about 12 to 18 inches (31-46 cm.) and has round, button-like leaves. 
  8. Holly. The holly fern may not be easy to find, but it is unique among ferns for preferring drier, cooler conditions. This makes it an ideal houseplant if you can get it. 
  9. Asparagus. While not a true fern, asparagus fern does resemble one with its feathery leaves. If you have a bright, sunny window, asparagus fern will take it. 
Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.