COLUMN: Learn to grow ferns indoors


Ferns are becoming a very popular addition to the home and office.

These plants are popular for their graceful foliage as well as their ability to grow in low light conditions. Many different varieties do well indoors; it can be difficult to pick just one!

Ferns vary in size from as small as six inches tall to as large as a five-foot ball in a hanging basket. The smaller varieties make excellent terrarium plants as well.

Ferns are loved for their graceful, finely cut leaves which are called fronds.

Different varieties of ferns can have finely cut fronds and fronds that are leathery, shiny and/or toothed. Staghorn fern foliage, for example, resembles moose antlers and are very unusual looking. Some ferns are grown for their stems that creep along the soil surface that resemble animal feet!


Ferns have a reputation of being finicky plants. That’s not true. They just need the right conditions to thrive.

Different varieties have different needs and it’s important to match those to the location in the home and/or office setting.

Ferns with tough, leathery foliage will adapt more to typical household conditions then the feathery, delicate types. The delicate varieties need extra humidity. Grown in a terrarium or placed in bathroom is an ideal location for them; or grown in a placement with increase humidity around the plants. You can consider misting the ferns regularly and/or set fern pots on top of a tray of pebbles and water.

Ferns prefer indirect light. A north-facing window is best. Never put ferns directly in the sun that comes from a south or west facing window. Direct sunlight will damage foliage.

Ferns like it to be around 60 to 70 degrees. They like to be kept moist. Never let them dry out and do not let them sit in standing water.

You can fertilize the plants once a month at one half the recommended strength using a houseplant fertilizer. Don’t fertilize over the winter from October to April.


Not too many insects bother ferns. Scale or mites might be an issue, especially if you bring ferns indoors after spending the season outside. Insecticide sprays can damage ferns; therefore, it’s best to use a brisk spray of water to control insects.

Brown fronds or leaves falling off is a sign that the humidity is too low. Remove the brown foliage and increase the humidity.

Given this plant’s beauty, it’s no wonder they were so popular during the Victorian era.

Today they look great in hanging baskets, alone in a plant stand, in a dish garden, and/or inside a terrarium.

Consider participating in the master gardener volunteer training in 2022! Come and visit the Extension Parker F. Scripture Botanical Gardens an educational component of the Oneida County Master Gardener Volunteer. For more information call us or visit, phone 315-736-3394, Ext 100. Be sure to like us on Facebook ( and check out our YouTube channel by hitting the icon at the bottom of our web page


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