Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Care for Mother Fern Plants

Mother fern (Asplenium viviparum), is a graceful tropical fern with lacy fronds that resemble carrot tops. Although mother fern can be grown outdoors in warm, humid climates, the plant is especially popular as a houseplant, and will add a lush, green, woodsy feel to the indoor environment. The mother fern, appropriately named because of the small plantlets that develop along the fronds, isn't especially fussy, and will grow happily with proper levels of light and water.

Place the mother fern plant in moderate light location, such as a window facing east, or 3 to 4 feet from a south or west window. You can also place the mother fern near a window where light is filtered by a sheer curtain.

Water the mother fern with room temperature water when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch, watering deeply until water drains through the hole in the bottom of the pot. Don't water again until the soil feels dry.

Allow several inches between the mother fern and other plants, walls, or anything that will prevent air circulation. Avoid hanging the mother fern too near a ceiling, as the drier, warmer air can damage the plant and cause the fronds to turn brown.

Fertilize the mother fern monthly with fish emulsion, or with a liquid fertilizer for houseplants that has been diluted to half strength. Always fertilize sparingly, as the mother fern has low fertilizer needs and can be damaged by too much fertilizer. Don't fertilize the mother plant during the winter months.

Keep the mother fern's foliage clean and free of dust. Dust can prevent adequate air circulation and invite pests. Hold the fern over a sink, shower or tub, and rinse the foliage with a gentle spray.

Transplant the mother fern when it begins to outgrow its pot, indicated by the appearance of tiny white roots through the drainage hole, or a general slowdown in growth. Move the fern to a container one size larger. The container should have a drainage hole in the bottom, and should be filled with a peat-based commercial potting mix.


To propagate a new mother fern, remove a plantlet from a mature plant. Place the plantlet in a small container filled with peat-based commercial potting mix that has been moistened ahead of time. Place the container in a plastic bag, and put the container in bright, but indirect light. The plantlet will soon take root.

Garden Guides