Ferns are some of the prettiest, most elegant houseplants out there, but they can be a bit finicky to grow. If you love the look of ferns but have trouble keeping them happy, it might be time to try growing a kangaroo paw fern. These lush plants are relatively adaptable and forgiving compared to other fern varieties.
This native of Australia and New Zealand is so named because its mature leaves resemble the shape of a kangaroo’s foot. These bright green, shiny-textured leaves on long, thin stems will grow thick and full with proper care and the right growing conditions.
- Botanical Name: Microsorum diversifolium
- Common Name: Kangaroo paw fern, kangaroo foot fern
- Plant Type: Epiphytic rhizomatous fern
- Mature Size: 12 inches tall and up to four feet wide
- Sun Exposure: Medium to bright indirect light
- Soil Type: Moist, well-draining potting mix
- Soil pH: 5.6 to 6.0
Kangaroo Paw Fern Care
It is best to keep your kangaroo paw fern’s soil moist, but not soggy. Feed your plant with standard houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength once per month during the spring and summer growing season. Avoid fertilizing and cut back on watering during fall and winter when the plant's growth goes dormant.
In the right conditions, kangaroo paw ferns can grow vigorously and spread their fronds widely. To keep it contained, it may need to be pruned back occasionally. You can also help control the plant’s size by keeping it in a smaller pot.
If you notice any brown, dry, or crispy leaves on your plant, trim them off at the base. If the leaves get dusty, you can wipe them down gently with a damp cloth or paper towel.
Kangaroo paw fern is slightly drought tolerant thanks to its rhizomes—the thick, fuzzy stems that grow beneath the soil.
Best Growing Conditions for Kangaroo Paw Fern
Keep your plant in a place that gets moderate to bright indirect light. When grown outdoors, the plant can be kept in partial shade. Take care to keep the plant out of direct sunlight, which can damage the leaves and kill your plant.
An ideal temperature range for kangaroo paw fern is between 60 and 70 degrees. Make sure to keep your plant in a place far from heaters, stoves, and the dry, blowing air of your ventilation system.
Kangaroo paw fern grows best in an environment with high to moderate humidity, which makes it an excellent bathroom plant. You can also add humidity around your plant by grouping it with other plants in a small room to create a microclimate with higher moisture or by running a humidifier nearby.
How to Propagate Kangaroo Paw Fern
Ferns propagate through spores, but a good-sized, mature specimen can be divided into multiple smaller plants. Here’s how to propagate your kangaroo paw fern by division.
What You’ll Need
- A healthy, mature plant
- Clean, sharp serrated knife
- Additional plant pots of appropriate size
- Fresh potting mix
- Gardening gloves (optional)
- Gently remove the mother plant from its pot. Using your hands, carefully loosen the soil around the plant’s fuzzy rhizomes.
- Examine the rhizomes and decide how many divisions you’d like to make. Each division should have several healthy rhizomes and leaves. You can divide a plant into two divisions or multiple divisions depending on the original plant’s size.
- Use the knife to cut cleanly through the rhizomes at the points where you’d like to divide the plant.
- Fill your containers halfway up with fresh potting mix. Plant one division per pot, filling in with soil up to the same level as the original plant.
- Water the divisions and keep them in a warm place with indirect light while they adjust to their new home. Keep the soil evenly moist, and avoid fertilizing the divisions until they’ve started putting out new growth.
Common Growing Problems
As ferns go, kangaroo paw fern is relatively adaptable and easy to grow. However, it’s good to keep an eye out for pests like insects and mealybugs, which can damage or kill your plant if left unchecked.
Sequester an infested plant away from your other plants, then wash the insects away with gentle soap and water. Discard the plant’s soil and repot it with fresh soil.
Potting and Repotting
The best time to repot your kangaroo paw fern is in springtime when the plant has begun actively growing. However, because these plants grow to fill the space they’re given, you’ll only need to repot every few years or when the roots have filled the pot.
When repotting, you can repot the plant into a container one size larger with fresh soil. For a plant that’s outgrowing its pot size, you may wish to divide the plant and pot the divisions up separately.