Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Care for a Fern Plant

Ferns grow well outdoors or inside in pots and containers. The lush green foliage is distinctive with the many small leaves on each frond, or stem. Shade loving plants, ferns grow abundantly in the deeply shadowed areas of your garden that other plants shun. Ferns grow well in a variety of conditions and climates—there is a variety of fern available for most any garden. Proper care of your ferns ensures they will be healthy for years to come.

Plant ferns in well drained soil or in pots with plenty of drainage holes. Raise garden beds 3 inches by working coarse bark into the soil. The higher beds and the bark improve drainage.

Plant the fern shallow in the soil, with the crown of the plant flush with the soil surface. Remove leaves and other garden debris from around the base of the fern regularly.

Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. Use an organic mulch or gravel to retain moisture levels and keep weeds at bay. Water from the base of the plant and avoid getting the fronds wet.

Watch the fronds for signs of rot such as browning, yellowing or dying off. Apply a fungicide at the first sign of trouble, and lower the moisture level in the soil with less watering.

Remove dead fronds from the plant in the spring, gently snipping them from the base of the plant. This encourages new growth and helps to avoid rot.

Fern Plant Care For Transplant

Spring is the time to transplant or move outdoor ferns from one area in the garden to another area. The task requires digging up the entire root ball and placing it on a tarp or in a wheelbarrow for transport to the new location. Check the growing requirements for the fern. Handling the fern by the root ball, place it upright in the hole. Dividing and transplanting ferns is an important part of their proper care. Diminishing growth in a fern's center around the crown or stunted fond growth is an indication that it's time to divide and transplant. Container-grown ferns need to be divided and repotted periodically because they outgrow their pots. Water ferns right after moving them, and water them again whenever the top of their soil feels dry to your touch.


Divide ferns in the spring and plant the division in pots or other areas of the garden.

Create a shade garden with several different varieties of fern.

Garden Guides