With their elegant fronds and lush green coloring, ferns are some of the most sought-after houseplants around. They're also some of the oldest plants on earth. They've been hip throughout history, too—from the fern fever of the Victorian era to the 1970s plant craze to today's houseplant boom.
There are thousands of varieties of ferns available for both indoor and outdoor gardens, and they’re all relatively easy to care for. In general, ferns prefer filtered or bright indirect light, warm temperatures, soil that's moist but not soggy, and lots of humidity. Here are just some of the ferns you can add to your houseplant collection.
When you think of a fern, the bushy, feathery Boston variety is probably what comes to mind. They’re pretty easygoing, preferring warm temperatures, bright indirect light, and standard soil or pure sphagnum moss as a potting medium. They’re vigorous growers, so it’s a good idea to divide your Boston fern each year in the springtime.
This dainty fern is beloved for its clouds of wispy leaves that turn from pink to green as they unfurl. However, it can be a challenge to give your maidenhair fern enough humidity. Group it together with other humidity-loving specimens and use a humidifying tray underneath the plant to increase moisture in the air. If that’s still not enough humidity, you can try grow small specimens in a closed terrarium.
The name of this plant is a little misleading, as it’s not actually a fern. But it is related to asparagus, with delicate, lacy leaves that resemble the mature stage of the familiar vegetable. The Sprenger’s asparagus fern, or foxtail fern, is particularly well-suited to hanging baskets thanks to its lush, arching branches. It’s a good idea to wear protective gloves while handling these ferns, as they can have thorny growths that can hurt your fingers.
Also known as kangaroo paw ferns, the fronds of these Australian natives are large and spreading—not unlike the feet of its namesake. Kangaroo ferns also grow from fuzzy rhizomes, which makes them easy to divide into multiple plants or propagate from rhizomes. Give them well-draining soil and plenty of warmth and humidity, and trim away dead fronds at the soil line as soon as you spot them.
These striking specimens make a beautiful piece of live decor for your space. Since they’re epiphytes that capture moisture and nutrients from the air rather than soil, grow them mounted on a plaque or piece of wood, or plant them in a pot of sphagnum moss. Staghorn ferns prefer bright, indirect light and a weekly soak in water.
Rabbit's Foot Fern
This cute and curious fern gets its name not from its thin, feathery fronds but from its rhizomes. These fuzzy growths, which extend out of the soil and drape over the edge of the pot, look like the paws of a woodland animal (similar varieties include deer's foot fern and squirrel's foot fern). This is due to their epiphytic growth habit in their natural jungle habitat.
With its elegant pinnate leaves, this specimen has the classic fern shape—but the excitement is in its colors, which range from bright green to gold to red all in one plant. Care is similar to the Boston fern: filtered light, high humidity, moist soil, and warm temperatures. Another fast grower, tricolor ferns should be divided and planted in fresh, well-draining potting soil each spring.
Unlike many ferns, the bird’s nest fern has fronds that are long, smooth, and lance-shaped. Bright, indirect light, such as in an east-facing or north-facing window, is best for this plant. The more light you give it, the more its leaves will crinkle and curl—so for straighter, smoother leaves, keep it a little further from your light source. Take care not to water the center of the plant’s rosette, which can rot the plant from the inside out.
With its compact size and fronds studded with soft, round leaves, this fern is great for smaller spaces. Like all the ferns on this list, the button fern is a great bathroom plant due to its love of humidity—just place it near a window out of direct sun (east-facing or north-facing is ideal) and the steam from your shower will make it happy.