9 Types of Ferns to Add to Your Houseplant Collection

A-frame bathroom with ferns and plants surrounding jacuzzi tub

 Lisa Moyneur/Unsplash

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, along with 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 and indirect light, warm temperatures, soil that's moist but not soggy, and lots of humidity.

Read on to learn about the best types of ferns for your houseplant collection, and how to keep them thriving in your space.

Meet the Expert

Alexandra Jones is a certified Master Gardener in Philadelphia. As an indoor and outdoor gardener, Jones is an author in topics covering gardening, climate, urban farming, and sustainability.

01 of 15

Boston Fern

boston fern hanging in white and orange living room with other potted plants and chair

@salateando

 

  • Botanical Name: Nephrolepis exaltata
  • Sun Exposure: Indirect light
  • Soil Type: Loamy, well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 5.0 to 5.5

When you think of a fern, the bushy, feathery Boston variety is probably what comes to mind. Boston ferns are 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 propagate your Boston fern each year in the springtime.

02 of 15

Maidenhair Fern

sun shining on maidenhair fern and other houseplants on wood floor against white wall

 @mypeacefulmoment

  • Botanical Name: Adiantum
  • Sun Exposure: Indirect light.
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 7.0 to 8.0

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, try growing small specimens in a closed terrarium or in your bathroom.

03 of 15

Asparagus Fern

light green asparagus fern and green and white alocasia in pots on wooden stools in front of gray background

 komargallery/Getty Images

  • Botanical Name: Asparagus aethiopicus
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 6.5 to 6.8

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 may have thorny growths that can hurt your fingers. 

04 of 15

Kangaroo Fern

dark green kangaroo fern in blue pot on black and white tablecloth in front of yellow couch

 @unplanned_plarenthood

  • Botanical Name: Microsorum pustulatum
  • Sun Exposure: Indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 5.6 to 6.0

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 directly 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. 

05 of 15

Staghorn Fern

two staghorn ferns mounted on wood boards on white wall

Allison Cherry/Getty Images

 

  • Botanical Name: Platycerium
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Epiphytic
  • Soil pH: 6.1 to 6.5 (Water pH)

These striking specimens make a beautiful piece of live decor for your space. Since staghorn ferns are 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. Similar to other epiphytes like air plants, staghorn ferns prefer bright, indirect light and a weekly soak in water. 

06 of 15

Rabbit's Foot Fern

rabbits foot fern in pot in the sun against wooden wall

@lost_in_thejungle

 

  • Botanical Name: Phlebodium aureum
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Standard potting soil, sand, and peat moss mix
  • Soil pH: 6.5 to 7.5

This cute and curious fern gets its name not from its thin, feathery fronds, but from its rhizomes. Its 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.

07 of 15

Tricolor Fern

red and green tricolor fern held up by arm with light skin tone in front of white background

@plantannaplant

 

  • Botanical Name: Pteris aspericaulis 'Tricolor'
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 5.0 to 7.0

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 and 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 a pot with fresh, well-draining potting soil each spring. 

08 of 15

Bird's Nest Fern

bird's nest fern with wavy green leaves in white planter on gray counter

OlgaMiltsova/Getty Images

 

  • Botanical Name: Asplenium nidus
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 5.0 to 5.5

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 cause it to rot from the inside out. 

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09 of 15

Button Fern

closeup of button fern with small green leaves being held up by light skinned hand against white background

@plantkina

  • Botanical Name: Pellaea rotundifolia
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 5.0 to 6.0

With its compact size and fronds studded with soft, round leaves, this fern is great for smaller spaces. Like many other 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 the direct sunlight (east-facing or north-facing is ideal) and the steam from your shower will keep it healthy.

10 of 15

Crocodile Fern

GETTY IMAGES/RORYGEZ FRESH

GETTY IMAGES/RORYGEZ FRESH

  • Botanical Name: Microsorum musifolium
  • Sun Exposure: Indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 6.0 to 8.5

This fern earns its name for the way its leaves resemble a crocodile's skin. Crocodile ferns can easily grow large indoors—up to around five feet tall—and require just a few simple care steps to thrive. Keep your crocodile fern in an area with bright, indirect light to replicate its natural habitat of growing underneath tropical trees. Use a standard potting soil to plant this fern, and plan to water it regularly to keep its soil moist.

11 of 15

Autumn Fern

GETTY IMAGES/ANDREAS JAKEL

GETTY IMAGES/ANDREAS JAKEL

  • Botanical Name: Dryopteris erythrosora
  • Sun Exposure: Indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 5.5 to 7.0

The autumn fern is also known as the Japanese red shield fern or copper fern. Unlike other species whose leaves turn in the fall, this evergreen species actually sprouts new fronds in its characteristic copper color. Plant your fern indoors in a location with dim, indirect light, as this breed naturally grows in shady areas. If you're looking for a larger plant to fill that empty corner in your home, the autumn fern can grow to a spread of about two feet in width and height with its lush, leafy foliage.

12 of 15

Lady Fern

GETTY IMAGES/KENNETH_KEIFER

GETTY IMAGES/KENNETH_KEIFER

  • Botanical Name: Athyrium filix-femina
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 4.5 to 6.5

While you'll want to keep the soil moist as often as possible, the lady fern is a great species to grow indoors if you travel often: This plant can thrive in dry conditions, and keeps its signature green color in different sun exposures. Its fine, detailed leaves grow on stems that can range in colors from green to red. Like other ferns, the lady fern prefers a shaded area or dappled sun to stay lush, and can be planted in a standard potting soil with sufficient drainage to prevent root rot.

13 of 15

Japanese Painted Fern

GETTY IMAGES/KIMMAC

GETTY IMAGES/KIMMAC

  • Botanical Name: Athyrium niponicum
  • Sun Exposure: Indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 4.5 to 6.5

A type of lady fern, the Japanese painted fern adds a pop of silvery, shimmering color to the species. With blue tones in its leaves, this plant is known for its luminescent look and arching growth. While the Japanese painted fern is popular in outdoor gardens, it's also a great candidate for potting indoors thanks to its easy care steps. After planting this fern in a well-draining soil, place it in a dark location in your home to ensure its leaves aren't burned by sunlight. In the summer growing season, you'll notice that your fern's leaves start to turn green—but their signature color will be back in the fall.

14 of 15

Cinnamon Fern

GETTY IMAGES/GEOSTOCK

GETTY IMAGES/GEOSTOCK

  • Botanical Name: Osmunda cinnamomea
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Standard potting soil
  • Soil pH: 4.5 to 7.5

It's not hard to see how this species got its name: The cinnamon fern, which grows two types of foliage, has central fronds resembling the spice surrounded by a bed of green leaves. Native to beachy, swamp-like climates, this plant needs plenty of regular watering to stay healthy. Depending on how moist the soil is, you can place this plant indoors closer to direct sunlight than other types of ferns. Plan to water your cinnamon fern at least once per week, and more often if it's displayed near an east-or west-facing window.

15 of 15

Silver Lace Fern

GETTY IMAGES/EKAPOL

GETTY IMAGES/EKAPOL

  • Botanical Name: Pteris ensiformis
  • Sun Exposure: Indirect light
  • Soil Type: Well-draining potting soil
  • Soil pH: 5.6 to 7.0

With a distinct shape to its leaves, the silver lace fern is unique among other similar species. Its rounded, narrow fronds typically grow with a silver color along the inside and green borders on each leaf. This variegated fern can bring a sleek, clean look to your space or complement the other greenery in your indoor garden. Since these plants love humidity, your silver lace fern will thrive in the bathroom or set atop a humidifying tray. You'll need to water this plant several times per week to keep its leaves healthy, and a standard potting soil is sufficient for its roots to grow.

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