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The beginners guide to caring for a fern plant

Garden advice
The beginners guide to caring for a fern plant
All Green
All Green
February 6, 2023
minute read

All the basics you need to know about fern care

Visually versatile and relatively low maintenance, tropical ferns make a wonderful addition for cozy gardens and calming rooms. Though they are typically thought of as tropical plants, ferns thrive in the challenging Australian climate — though they do need a bit of help now and then.

All Green’s quick and simple fern care guide will teach you the basic knowledge you need to help your ferns grow strong and healthy. And, since there are so many beautiful fern species to choose from, we’ll even make a few recommendations so you can pick up your first fern today!

Check out the huge range of ferns we sell at All Green online. Alternatively, come into our store in person and meet with our frond-ly team.

How to care for indoor ferns

If you’ve ever wanted indoor plants, then an indoor fern is the perfect flora to start with. They’re just so simple to maintain, and if you set them in the right spot, it’ll feel like they’re taking care of themselves.

Follow these simple tips, and you’ll soon see your new ferns thriving indoors!

Indoor ferns need indirect sunlight

Ferns have adapted to survive off of the dappled light that reaches the forest floor. Most ferns are far too sensitive to handle hours of direct sunlight, so try to place your indoor ferns a few feet away from your windows. On that note, try to keep any nearby windows closed since ferns like a bit of humidity, and you don’t want a crisp breeze to dry up all of their moisture.

Green thumb tip: Place your indoor ferns near south or north-facing windows to ensure they don’t get direct sunlight. The rising and setting sun will brightly light east and west-facing windows.

Indoor ferns prefer moist soil

Moist, yes, but never soaked. The best way to check if your indoor fern needs watering is to dig the tip of your finger 1cm deep into its potting soil — if the soil is dry, give it a light and even watering. Remember that this drying out is necessary, as constantly moist soil can cause root infections.

You can prevent your fern roots from drowning by planting them in well-draining soil.

Green thumb tip: Before potting your fern, place some small and medium-sized pebbles at the pot's base, then add the soil and plant on top. The pebbles will allows excess water to drain out of the potting soil.

Indoor ferns love humid air

Ferns absolutely adore humidity — but since it’s not a factor that affects our lives, most people don’t realise just how dry their indoor air is. But if you notice your fern fronds starting to brown at the edges, you’ll know they’re not getting the humidity they need.

There are a couple of different ways to raise the humidity around your potted fern. The easiest way is to buy yourself an air humidifier. If you’ve several plants in your home, your humidifier will pay itself off in no time. Or, you could simply spray your ferns with a mister every few hours — two to three times a day should be fine, depending on the heat.

Ferns prefer a humidity level of 30-50%. Whatever method you choose, we recommend you pick up a humidity meter to ensure your air is always at the right level.

Green thumb tip: If your humidity refuses to sit at the right level, check how close your ferns are to an AC or ducted vent. It’s a simple mistake and an easy one to fix.

Give your indoor ferns a regular cleaning

No matter how spotless you like to keep your home, every indoor space is littered with dust. Leave your ferns alone, and you’ll notice that the fern fronds have a light dusting on them even after a day or two. That layer can inhibit their ability to photosynthesise, so be sure to give the fronds a quick wipe-down every other day.

You’ll also do well to prune off any dead or dying fronds by snipping them at the base. This’ll encourage new and healthy growth.

3 great indoor ferns for beginners

  1. Staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum)
  2. Maidenhair fern (Adiantum tenerum; Adiantum pedatum; Adiantum capillusveneris)
  3. Asparagus fern (Asparagus setaceus)

How to care for outdoor ferns

Though ferns are famously low maintenance, things get a little trickier if you want to plant them outdoors. You no longer have total control over the sun exposure and humidity levels, so you’d better get used to co-parenting your little green baby with Mother Nature.

The first step, and by far the most important one, is choosing a fern that has adapted to your climate. The only way to do that is with tailored advice — fortunately, you’re already speaking to the experts. Give us a call, and we’ll help you figure out the best outdoor ferns for your climate.

Once that’s sorted, here are the basics on how to care for ferns outside.

Outdoor ferns need nutrient-dense soil

Ferns love to eat. Plant your outdoor ferns in freshly fertilised soil so that their roots have all the nutrients they need to grow thick and healthy. As with their indoor cousins, outdoor ferns don’t enjoy sitting in soaked soil, so remember to aerate your soil thoroughly, which you can do with a few light prods of a garden fork.

Green thumb tip: You don’t want nearby plants to pull all of the nutrients away from your new fern. Try to keep grass away from the fern’s base, since grass can give stiff competition for nutrients. Once you’ve chosen your preferred fern, call our team, and we’ll recommend some outdoor plants that would play well with your flora.

Find a nice shady spot for your outdoor fern

As we’ve mentioned, ferns prefer dappled, indirect sunlight. Finding a spot in your garden that receives little to no direct sunlight might not be so easy, depending on what you’ve already got growing.

Consider placing your ferns underneath shady trees, or next to the walls of your house. For smaller, ground-covering ferns, you could place them around and in between any planters and shrubs in your garden.

Keep your outdoor ferns well watered

Australia’s climate is… challenging, to say the least. Thundering storms, blistering heat, freezing cold — all within 24 hours, depending on where you live. 

You’ll need to keep a close eye on your weather to make sure your ferns are getting all the water they need. Aussie summers can get quite dry and rapidly evaporate any moisture in the air and soil, so be sure to give your outdoor ferns extra love and attention during the hotter months.

A slow-drip watering system can effectively keep your fern’s soil moist without overwatering them.

Give your outdoor ferns regular pruning

As with basically every other plant in your garden, a bit of pruning can do wonders for your fern. Cutting away dead or dying fronds frees up nutritional resources for healthy leaves and keeps your fern looking its best.

Pruning is also a great opportunity to spend some time outdoors with your plants. Not only does it give you a bit of mind-clearing peace, but it also gives you a chance to monitor your ferns' health.

3 great outdoor ferns for beginners

  1. Foxtail fern (Asparagus aethiopicus)
  2. Lacy ground fern (Dennstaedtia davallioides)
  3. Holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum)

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