With their lush coloring and elegant fronds, types of house ferns are some of the most popular and sought-after houseplants on the market. They’re also some of the oldest plants on the planet. They’ve been prominent throughout history too, from the Victorian area’s fern fever to the 1970s craze, along with today’s popularity.
There are thousands of types of house ferns available for both outdoor and indoor spaces, and they’re all generally easy to take care of and keep happy. Generally speaking, ferns prefer indirect and filtered light, soil that is moist but not waterlogged, warmer temperatures, and a higher humidity level.
Read on to learn about the 17 types of house ferns you can add to your houseplant collection, and how to keep them thriving for years at a time.
Meanings and Symbolism of Indoor Ferns
During the Victorian era, ferns became so popular that a name was coined for it, Pteridomania. This is the act of using or gathering ferns to use them in decorative art, like textiles or pottery. Ferns also have a place in folklore.
In the Slavic traditions, anyone who sees a rare fern flower will be the recipient of riches and happiness for life. Finnish folklore says that anyone who holds the fenr’s seed on Midsummer night will be able to seek out hidden treasure while moving invisibly. In the United States, ferns are supposed to have magical properties to ward off even spirits if you throw them onto burning coals or in the fireplace.
17 Popular Types of House Ferns
Below, you’ll find 17 popular types of house ferns that will thrive in a huge range of indoor spaces. You’ll get basic care instructions along with the name to help keep your chosen type of house fern happy and growing.
1. Asparagus Fern
Also called Asparagus aethiopicus, the name for this plant is slightly misleading. It’s not technically a fern. Instead, it’s related to asparagus, and it has lacy, delicate leaves that look like the mature stage of the vegetable. It’s a very popular plant to put in hanging baskets due to the arching, lush branches it produces. You should wear protective gloves when you handle this fern as it can produce thorny growths that can prick your fingers.
For the best results with this type of house fern, you’ll grow it in a spot that gets indirect but bright sunlight. It likes a well-draining potting soil that you keep damp but not soaked, and the pH levels should stay between 6.5 and 6.8.
2. Bird’s Nest Fern
The botanical name for this type of indoor fern is Asplenium nidus, and it has smooth, long fronds that are lance shaped. This sets it apart from many other ferns on the list. Putting it in indirect but bright light in a north or east-facing window is best for healthy growth. The more light you give it, the more the foliage will curl and crinkle, so if you want smoother, straighter leaves, keep it slightly further away from the light source. You want to ensure that you don’t water the center of your plant rosette as it can cause it to rot from the inside out.
Along with being careful when you water, you’ll want to have your bird’s nest fern in a potting soil that drains very well and doesn’t retain a lot of moisture. The pH levels should stay between 5.0 and 5.5 for optimal growth.
3. Blue Star Fern
Blue Star Ferns, or Phlebodium aureum, has a reputation for producing large fronds. It’s a very hardy type of house fern that makes a fantastic houseplant. Since it’s technically an epiphytic fern, it doesn’t require nearly as much moisture as other types. In turn, this makes it a more tolerant houseplant than other species on the list. It requires low to medium lighting to thrive, and it does best with a temperature range of 50 to 80-degrees Fahrenheit. You should only water the plant when the soil is dry to the touch to avoid overloading it.
4. Bracken Fern
Bracken ferns grow in most subtropical and temperate climates throughout a large portion of the world. You may hear this plant referred to as bracken, and they’re long-lasting, resilient plants with highly divided, big leaves. You can find them all across the world except in Antarctica. Also, Bracken ferns are one type of house fern that enjoys indoor conditions, and they usually grow much faster indoors than they would outside.
They do require soil that is moisture filled but has good drainage. Also, they like being put in well-lit areas to help encourage rapid growth. You do want to keep them out of any direct sunlight as it can burn their sensitive fronds and cause them to die back. If the leaves start to turn brown or yellow, move them further back from the light.
5. Cotton Candy Boston Fern
Most Boston ferns all make excellent houseplants because they’re really not too picky about anything but getting regular watering with some indirect, bright lighting. They’re a cat-safe plant that offer a very coarse texture on the fronds that can get quite big as they mature. Some varieties will stay small, but it offers feathery, extra-find fronds. The botanical name is Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Cotton Candy.’ It will top out at a foot tall and wide under the best growth conditions.
6. Dallas Fern
Dallas ferns are also known by the botanical name of Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Dallas’, and they’re a much smaller relative to the Boston fern. They’re a very low-maintenance, lively, and beautiful plant to care for, and they produce lush green foliage. They’re great beginner-friendly plants that prefer to be in indirect but bright sunlight. It does best when you put it in a temperature range of 60 to 75-degrees Fahrenheit. You want to water this type of house fern sparingly to help maintain a soil that is moist but not soggy.
7. Fiddlehead Fern
Originating in Northern and Central Europe, North America, and Northern Asia, this type of house fern is the only species in the Matteuccialt genus. It’s a very exotic-looking plant that has a light green color with strap-like leaves. The fronds make a very dramatic statement in any office or home environment when you set it on a table, and they are grown for the unusual look they bring. The fantastic “fiddleheads” they produce on the top of the plant make a fun conversation piece that adds interest to your decor. When the ferns mature, they will grow into a crown shape.
8. Foxtail Fern
Asparagus declinatus, or Foxtail ferns are a type of house fern that belongs to the Asparagus genus, so this means that they’re not technically ferns. They have thick, beautiful, and curly foliage that looks like a fox’s tail, and this is where the common name comes from.
They’re slightly more difficult to grow, and they enjoy being in indirect but bright light, and lightly shaded areas work well. Keep them in a temperature below 75-degrees Fahrenheit, and it requires regular watering. Water it at least once a week, and don’t let anything below the top two inches or so of soil dry out.
9. Frosty Fern
Frosty ferns are called Selaginella, and this is the only vascular plant genus in the Selaginellaceae family. They offer a frost coloring, as the name suggests, and they have scale-shaped leaves. They are a wintery, pretty addition to your indoor space, and they do well in terrariums because they love humidity. This is another type of house fern that requires more involved care, and they like bright but indirect light. They thrive in temperatures between 60 and 80-degrees Fahrenheit, and you should water it enough to keep the soil consistently moist.
10. Japanese Painted Fern
As a type of lady fern, Athyrium niponicum adds a nice shimmering, silvery color to your home. It has blue tones on the foliage too, and it has a reputation for offering a luminescent look and an arching growth habit. While it’s a very popular plant to have in your outdoor garden, it’s very easy to care for inside. After you plant it in a well-draining soil, put it in a darker location in your home to ensure the leaves won’t get burned by the bright sunlight. During the summer growing season, you’ll notice that the leaves start to turn green, but the signature hues will come back in the fall.
You should place them in indirect light that is on the shadier side, and make sure the potting soil drains very well between watering sessions. The pH levels should range from 4.5 to 6.5 to keep the fern happy.
11. Kangaroo Fern
Known as Microsorum pustulatum, the Kangaroo fern is an Australian native that produces spreading, large, and fuzzy fronds. Also, this type of house fern grows from fuzzy rhizomes, and this makes them very easy to divide into multiple plants or propagate directly from the rhizomes. Give them a well-draining soil with plenty of warmth and humidity to make them thrive, and they love indirect light. Trim away dead fronds at the soil level as soon as you see them, and make sure the pH levels are between 5.6 to 6.0.
12. Kimberly Queen Fern
Nephrolepis obliterata, or the Kimberly Queen fern is an Australian native. This plant is a lot more sensitive and difficult to care for than the hardy Boston ferns, and this makes it a type of house fern for more experienced growers. However, you’ll get fronds with a very pretty texture that lends a nice feel to your bedroom. It likes indirect but bright light, and it’ll thrive in 60 to 75-degree temperatures. It’s very sensitive to both over and underwatering, so you want to water it when the soil feels dry to the touch.
13. Lemon Button Fern
This is a very cute type of house fern known by the botanical name of Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Lemon Button’. It offers tiny rounded, greenish-gold leaflets that lend a button-like appearance. It’s a very unfussy plant that gives you a very lush look with your decorating style. It likes bright to medium light with higher humidity levels, and it’ll get between three and four feet tall and wide. So, it’ll need more room to grow.
14. Tricolor Fern
Offering pinnate, elegant leaves, Pteris aspericaulis ‘Tricolor’ is a specimen that offers the classic fern shape. However, the main draw of this type of house fern is the colors as they range from red to bright gold, all on a single plant. They need indirect but bright light with a well-draining potting soil and a pH range of 5.0 to 7.0 to be happy. Care is very similar to the hardy Boston fern, and it likes higher humidity levels. It’s a very fast-growing plant, and you should divide them and plant them in a pot with well-draining, fresh soil each spring to maintain a steady growth.
15. Rabbit’s Foot Fern
This curious and cute type of house fern got the name not from the feathery, thin fronds, but from the fuzzy rhizomes. It also goes by Phlebodium aureum, and it produces fuzzy growths that extend out of the soil and drape over the edge of the container. It looks very similar to a woodland animal’s paws, and it has an epiphytic growth habit when it’s in the natural jungle habitat. It likes standard potting soil with peat moss and sand mixed in, and the pH should range from 6.5 to 7.5. Place it in a bright but indirect light for the best growth.
16. Sensitive Fern
Originating in Eastern North American and Eastern Asia, this type of house fern is also called the bead fern. It’s a deciduous, tall perennial fern that has medium to large growth and a rough texture to it. It does very well planted in moist soil that you keep continuously wet, and it produces apple-green, lush fronds. You can cultivate Onoclea sensibilis in several different conditions, and full to partial shade can be the most effective.
It grows very well in moist soil, but it’ll thrive in full sun if you keep the soil wet. It’ll spread vegetatively through underground rhizomes, and this makes it very easy to propagate and place around your home or garden.
17. Silver Lace Fern
The final type of house fern on the list is known by the botanical name of Pteris ensiformis, and it offers very distinctly-shaped leaves that make the silver lace fern very unique among other species. It produces narrow, rounded fronds that have a silvery coloring with green borders on each leaf.
Since these ferns adore humidity, it’ll thrive if you put it in your bathroom on top of a humidifying tray. You’ll place it in indirect light in well-drained potting soil, and you’ll have to water it a few times a week to keep the foliage healthy. Also, the container should be large enough to let the root system grow.
Conditions for Growing Various Types of House Ferns
Below, you’ll find quick tips to help you get happy and healthy types of house ferns. There are many kinds available, but we’re offering broad-spectrum tips to help you succeed. The biggest tips include:
- Air Circulation – Make sure your type of house fern has decent space to get good air circulation. This is especially important if you group your houseplants together to raise the humidity around them or put them in your bathroom.
- Humidity Levels – Many ferns come from the tropics, and the humidity usually measures 70% or more. Your average home is a lot drier, especially during the winter when the heat is on. If the tips of the fronds die or turn brown, this is an indicator that it’s too dry. You can increase the relative humidity by putting your fern in a tray of saucer with a little water on some pebbles. Misting is another option, and you’ll need room temperature water to mist your fern.
- Lighting – Most ferns are happy with indirect light from a north-facing window. During the summer, they like filtered light from an eastern exposure. You should avoid windows that fast south or west as they can get far too hot.
- Pest Management – If mites, mealybugs, or other pests appear on your ferns, knock them off the plant by spraying them with water in the shower or sink. Make sure the water is room temperature.
What to do Before You Plant Indoor Ferns
Before you plant your new type of house fern, there are a few things you have to do. They include:
- Have a pot that retains moisture on-hand to repot it. If the fern comes in a plastic container, you may not have to repot it right away.
- Ensure that you have the correct tools and soil to care for your fern before you bring it home. Common tools include well-draining soil that is fern-specific, a moisture-retaining tray and pot, watering can, sharp shears, and fertilizer tailored to your fern.
Here are some essential tips to follow before planting your new fern.
- Have a moisture-retaining pot on hand for repotting. However, if your fern comes in a plastic container, repotting may not be necessary.
- Ensure that you have the correct tools and soil to care for your fern before bringing it home. We’ll list these in detail below.
- Pick out the best spot for your new fern, whether you’ll be setting it by a window or putting it in a hanging planter.
There are a few things you want to do before you attempt to repot your fern to help ensure it thrives.
How to Plant Indoor Ferns
This plant requires a lot of moisture to thrive. With this being said, you’ll want to plant your ferns in a pot that has a moisture-retaining material like plastic. The best pto size will depend on the size of your fern. If the roots are overcrowded, you can divide your fern to give it more room to grow. Only use a pot that is slightly bigger than your new fern when you repot them.
Best Soil Mix for Types of House Ferns
Since house ferns like moisture but need constant drainage, it’s essential that you use a fern-specific potting soil. You can buy commercial soil mixes for ferns or mix in a rich compost with some peat moss and sand.
Types of House Fern Care
Now, we’ll give you a few tips to maximize the care of your fern to ensure it thrives. They include:
- Most ferns are shade plants, but each fern’s care requirements vary. You want to research your specific fern type to learn the lighting needs it requires.
- Since ferns are tropical plants, they require a high level of moisture. Make sure the soil stays moist without being too wet or soggy.
- If your fern overcrowds the pot, you’ll need to repot it. This is a great chance to divide your plant and make more lush plants to decorate your home.
Pruning Tips for House Ferns
A nice time to prune your house fern is before the growing season starts in the spring. Here are a few tips to follow to do it right:
- Since ferns have a lot of foliage, you might want to remove it outside to avoid making a mess when you prune it.
- Get a sharp pair of pruning scissors or shears to trim away any dead foliage. This will help make room for more healthy growth.
- As dead foliage and fronds appear, trim them off to preserve your plant’s energy levels.
- Trim around your fern’s edges if you want to add shape to the plant.
House Fern Propagation Tips
You can’t propagate any type of house fern using the foliage. However, you still have a few choices to help propagate your plant, and the following pointers can help:
- Division is the most common way to go about fern propagation. If your fern has creeping rhizomes, you can divide it while making sure the segments are three to four inches long and have at least one bud. You want to gently separate and cut the roots to establish smaller, new plants.
- Replant your divided ferns in separate pots in similar growing conditions to their previous ones.
- If your mature fern forms several crows, you can separate and repot them to form individual plants.
How and When to Repot Types of House Ferns
You can repot your ferns each year to keep up with the growth. You’ll only need to get a container that is one size larger than the previous one to accommodate the plant when you repot it. A few more tips to help you be successful include:
- First, pick out a pot that retains moisture that is one size larger than the plant’s current one. Make sure the pot gives your plant an inch of additional space around your fern.
- Gently pull your fern from the current pot, making sure you keep the root ball intact.
- Add soil to the new container and put the fern in its new home.
House Ferns Disease and Pest Considerations
Various types of house ferns are prone to having issues with pests and diseases, so you want to look out for:
- Blight and frond lobing
Common Indoor Fern Problems and Treatment
The main problems with types of house ferns come from the water and lighting needs. This tropical plant requires plenty of moisture, and it doesn’t do well when you place them in direct sunlight. A few other things to keep in mind include:
- Make sure that you don’t water into the plant’s rosettes or overwater it as this can lead to rot.
- As logn as you keep the best growth conditions possible for your specific type of house fern, you’ll have no issues keeping it thriving and happy.
- The leaves will start to burn if you over fertilize the tips.
Ferns are a must-have as you can use them to easily expand your houseplant collection. They add color and texture to your environment, and most of them have a very low-maintenance nature that is great for beginner gardeners. You can take a look at our roundup of 17 great types of house fern plants and figure out which ones will match your growing environment the best.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.