How to Plant a Fern


During the Victorian era, every respectable parlor was adorned with at least one graceful fern. Their lacy fronds evoke romantic images of soft, dim hollows and leafy grottoes. Ferns make wonderful houseplants because most species are well adapted to the low light conditions found indoors. Many ferns can remain happily in the same pot for long periods of time, and they make lovely hanging baskets. A seemingly endless variety of ferns are available at garden centers and nurseries, and most are hardy and long-lived when given proper care. A little attention at planting time will get your new fern off to a good start.

Step 1

Lay several sheets of newspaper on a flat work surface. Remove your fern from its pot by gently inverting the pot with one hand over the top of the plant. Tap the rim of the pot lightly on a hard surface, such as the edge of a table, if the root ball does not fall out easily.

Step 2

Fill a one-gallon pot half full with a mixture of three parts fine peat moss and one part coarse sand. The medium must retain moisture but be well-drained for the optimal health of your fern. Place the root ball of your fern into the pot, and then fill in the voids with more of the peat and sand mixture, so that the top of the root ball will be level with the new soil surface. Gently firm the soil with your hands.

Step 3

Fill the pot with water and allow it to drain completely from the bottom of the pot, and then fill the pot with water once more. Keep the soil constantly moist, but do not leave the pot standing in water, or the fern's roots may be damaged.

Step 4

Provide humidity for your fern by misting the foliage with water from a spray bottle every day in the early morning hours.

Step 5

Feed your fern once a month during the growing season, with a balanced liquid plant food diluted to half the recommended strength. Mix a batch of fertilizer in a five-gallon bucket or large tub and submerge the pot and foliage of your entire fern in the tub for a few seconds, until bubbles stop coming out of the pot. Then lift the fern and place it in the sink to drain.

Step 6

Place your fern in a warm place out of drafts that receives good filtered light, but no direct sun. Give plants that do not receive plenty of natural light supplemental artificial light by placing them under fluorescent or other artificial lights for best growth.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid over-fertilizing ferns because this can cause the leaves to be scorched and may also damage the roots. Water your ferns with filtered water if your tap water is mineralized or heavily chlorinated to prevent salt buildup or leaf burn. Avoid using pesticides or insecticides on fern fronds, because they can be easily injured by chemicals. Try taking your plants outdoors and hosing them off with a strong spray of water to get rid of insect pests instead of using chemicals.

Things You'll Need

  • Old newspaper
  • Peat moss
  • Coarse sand
  • 1 gallon pot
  • Spray bottle
  • Liquid plant food
  • 5 gallon bucket


  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Environmental Horticulture--Ferns
Keywords: fern culture, plant ferns, fern care

About this Author

Malia Marin is a landscape designer and freelance writer, specializing in sustainable design, native landscapes and environmental education. She holds a Masters in landscape architecture, and her professional experience includes designing parks, trails and residential landscapes. Marin has written numerous articles, over the past ten years, about landscape design for local newspapers.