Ferns to Know and Grow

Latin Name: Nephrolepis exaltata bostoniensis

Boston ferns are among the easiest of all ferns to grow. They grow best in a north-facing window in a cool room.


  • Bright to medium light
  • Plentiful water
  • High humidity
  • 60° to 65° indoor temperature
  • Fertilize during growing season
  • Can summer out-of-doors

Other cultivars:

Compacta -- 18" fronds
Fluffy Ruffles -- double-edged 12“ fronds
Verona-- lacy with triple, filmy 12" fronds
Dallas -- a miniature


Rabbit's Foot Fern and Squirrel's Foot Fern

Latin Name:
Davallia fejeesis — Rabbit's Foot Fern  
Davallia trichomanoides — Squirrel's Foot Fern

This fern puts out unusual rhizomes that crawl along the top of the soil and even outside the plant's container. Because the rhizomes have a furry texture, Davallia ls commonly called Rabbit's Foot or Squirrel's Foot Fern. It is best grown in hanging baskets.


  • Medium light
  • Average temperature
  •  Easy to grow



Asparagus Fern

Latin Name:
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’--Asparagus Fern
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Myen'­­-- Foxtail Fern
Asparagus steaceus liliaceae — Plumosa Fern

Asparagus ferns are not true ferns because they reproduce from seed, not spores. They really are related to the vegetable asparagus though!


  • Bright indirect light
  • Abundant water during growing season
  • Less water in winter
  • Minimum winter temperature is 44°
  • Fertilize bi-monthly during growing season

Bird's Nest Fern and Mother Fern

The Asplenium group of ferns offers considerable diversity.

Asplenium bulbiferum - Commonly called Mother Fern or Hen and Chickens Fern. This has graceful,  finely cut fronds, sometimes reaching four feet in length. Unlike most ferns, it produces plantlets along its fronds that can be removed and planted — hence the plant's common name.

Asplenium nidus-Commonly called Bird's Nest Fern. This variety produces showy fronds to four feet long and 8" wide, growing upright in a cluster, completely undivided or cut.


  • Medium light
  • Average temperature
  • Easy to grow

Staghorn Fern

Latin Name:  Platycerium bifurcatum

Staghorn or Elkhorn Fern is an epiphyte: it attaches to the side of a tree, sustaining itself on leaf mold and moisture that gathers around its roots. Gardeners grow Staghorn Fern on a slab of bark, on the stem of a tree fern, or occasionally in a hanging basket or on a tree.


  • Bright, even direct light if not too intense
  • Keep on the dry side. Water only when plant's bark or moss feels dry.
  • 60° to 70° temperature
  • 2 to 3 times a year, sink roots into fertilizer solution



Brake Fern or Table Fern

Latin Name: Pteris cretica, Pteris cretica ’AIbolineata‘ --white bands, also called Ribbon Fern

The Pteris ferns are mostly small ferns of subtropical or tropical origin, best suited to dish gardens or small pots


  • Bright, indirect light
  • Moist, but not soggy conditions
  • Average temperatures



Button Fern

Latin Name: Pellaea rotundifolia

In nature, Pellaeas, or cliff-brake ferns, mostly grow on rocks. Of the few species grown indoors, by far the most popular is P. rotundifolia, the Button Fern. Propagate by division.


  • Medium light
  • Additional humidity— keep constantly moist.
  • Temperatures on the cool side
  • In soil-less mix, feed with half strength fertilizer every two weeks, spring to fall.
  • If potted in soil, feed once a month

Maidenhair Fern

Latin Name:
Adiantum capillus-veneris--Venus Maidenhair
Adiantum raddianum--Delta Maidenhair

The Adiantum, or Maidenhair Fern, is among the most delicate and beautiful of all ferns. Most are native to the tropics, although a few are native to the United States. Extremely thin and wiry, the stems are usually dark brown or black. Foliage is very thin textured and delicate; fronds are finely cut and most leaflets are fan shaped.


  • Semi-shaded location
  • Never allow soil to dry out!
  • Needs extra humidity

Hare's Foot Fern and Knight's Fern

Latin Name:
Polypodium aureum--Hare's Foot
Polypodium aureum Mandanianum--Lettuce Fern
Polypodium subauriculatum 'Knightiae’—Knight’s Fern

The Polypodium ferns include Hare's Foot Fern, a large fern with flat fronds 3 to 5 feet long. Another version, sometimes called Lettuce Fern, has fronds with frilled and wavy edges. Knight's Fern, also with frilled edges, looks something like a glorified Boston fern.  All make good hanging basket displays.


  • Semi-shaded conditions
  • Very moist soil
  • Average temperatures

Rainbow and Peacock Ferns, (clubmosses and spikemosses)

Latin Name: Selaginella wiIdenovii--Peacock Fern
Selaginella uncinata-- Rainbow Fern
Selaginella kraussiana--Krause's clubmoss

The Selaginella "Ferns", sometime called spikemoss or clubmoss, are moss-like plants that reproduce from spores, not seeds.


  • Warmth and high humidity
  • Really only suited to greenhouses or terrariums
  • Medium to low light
  • Keep soil constantly moist
  • Feed once or twice a year


There are also a number of ferns that are perennial in our area and are suitable for outdoor landscaping and container use. Holly fern, Christmas fern, and autumn fern are evergreen in our area, making them useful In the winter landscape or winter containers.


Image Credits:
Boston fern By Mokkie (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Rabbit's foot fern by Forest & Kim Starr [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Asparagus fern by Yinan Chen (www.goodfreephotos.com (gallery, image)) [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Mother fern By brewbooks [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Bird's nest fern by Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Staghorn fern by Tequila CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), via Wikimedia Commons
Brake fern by Jerzy Opioła (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Button fern by Stickpen (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Maidenhair fern by Tigerente (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Hare's foot fern by and (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man). Location credit to the Chanticleer Garden. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Krause's clubmoss by Jerzy Opioła ({Own}) [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons