Fern House Plant


The fern is from the division Pteridophyta, as they do not produce seeds. Their life cycle is different from other flowering plants. Ferns have been around since the Mesozoic era and are one of the longest living organisms on earth today. There are more than 240 genera of ferns and they vary in size from small to large trees that grow 30 feet tall. The most common ferns are the varieties used as houseplants.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of a fern is different from that of a flowering plant. The life cycle is comprised of two generations. The sporophyte generation is the fern that is commonly grown as a houseplant. The other generation is the gametophyte which is smaller and looks somewhat like moss. The two generations depend on each other to reproduce. The sporophyte generation creates tiny brown spores on the leaves which ultimately become the embryo of the plant. If they fall into warm, moist soil, they will grow into the gametophyte generation of sperm and egg producing plants. If an egg and sperm come together, a new sporophyte generation is created.

Ferns as Houseplants

Ferns are typically grown as indoor houseplants. There are some varieties that grow in woodland habitats with high humidity and can grow almost anywhere outdoors. The Nephrolepis exalta or Boston Fern became a popular houseplant as far back at the 19th century. Ferns are easy to care for and mostly problem free.

Soil and Water

Indoor ferns grow best in potting soils similar to their natural habitats. This can be created in a pot with all peat moss or 3 parts peat moss and 1 part sand. The container must have good drainage, as ferns should not sit in standing water. Ferns prefer consistency with watering, keeping the soil evenly moist and not too wet. Overwatering can cause the root rot and other fungal diseases. On the other side, too little water can cause wilting. Humidity is important, as ferns come from habitats with high humidity. There are several options available to keep enough moisture in the air or surrounding the plant to keep it healthy. Humidifiers will work or double pot the plant with a second container full of sphagnum moss to keep in the moisture.

Light and Temperature

Ferns grow best in temperatures between is between 65 and 75 degrees F during the day and no more than 10 degrees F cooler at night. Indoor ferns need as much indirect light as possible. Artificial light can be used as to supplement if natural light is not enough. A north-facing window is the best spot, except during winter. When the sun is low, an east window is better for the plants to receive adequate light.


Ferns do need some fertilizing. Liquid houseplant fertilizers are typically provide enough nutrients. Ferns can also acquire some needed nutrients from the break down of sphagnum peat moss. Ferns cannot endure over-fertilization and will show signs of leaf scorch if you fertilize too much.

Keywords: Ferns as houseplants, Care of Ferns, Life Cycle Fern

About this Author

Sheri Engstrom has been writing for 15 years. She is currently a gardening writer for Demand Studios. Engstrom completed the master gardener program at the University of Minnesota Extension service. She is published in their book "The Best Plants for 30 Tough Sites." She is also the online education examiner Minneapolis for Examiner.com.