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How to Plant Fern Plants

By Jenny Harrington ; Updated September 21, 2017
There is a variety of fern for almost any climate.

Ferns are a versatile group of plants. Tropical ferns thrive in indoor, low-light conditions as a houseplant while more hardy varieties add greenery to the shaded areas of the yard. Indoors, ferns are usually evergreen. Outdoors most shed their fronds when temperatures drop but in areas with mild winters they also may be evergreen. There are also evergreen varieties, such as the Christmas fern, that never go completely dormant. Planting ferns, either outside or inside, adds lush greenery to your environs.

Outdoor Planting

Prepare an area that receives partial to full shade. Lay a 2 to 4 inch layer of composted pine bark over the garden bed and till it in to an 8 inch depth to add nutrients and organic matter to the bed.

Dig the planting hole as deep as the nursery pot and twice as wide. If you are planting more than one fern, follow the spacing requirements on the plant label for the particular fern variety.

Set the fern in the planting hole so it is at the same depth it was in its nursery pot, ensuring the crown of the plant, where the fronds emerge from the roots, is right at soil level. Refill the hole around the plant with soil and lightly firm it with your hands.

Water the fern thoroughly after planting so the soil is evenly moist to a 6-inch depth. Lay a 2-inch layer of mulch around the fern to preserve soil moisture.

Indoor Planting

Fill a planter with a well-draining, moist potting mixture. If available, use a soilless, peat-based potting mixture as these offer the organic matter and drainage ferns require.

Plant the fern rhizome, or roots, so it is approximately 1 inch beneath the soil surface if you are planting a dormant root division. Plant nursery-grown ferns in the pot at the same depth they were in their nursery pot.

Water the fern immediately after planting. Water until the excess water drains from the bottom drainage holes to ensure the soil is evenly moist throughout.


Things You Will Need

  • Compost
  • Trowel
  • Mulch
  • Planter
  • Potting mix


  • Potted ferns thrive in bathrooms where conditions are humid and where there is little direct sun.


  • Ferns are very sensitive to pesticide, which can permanently damage them. Slugs are the primary pest that affects ferns, so treat these with slug bait traps or by sprinkling diatomaceous earth around infected plants.

About the Author


Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.