23 Types Of Ferns To Grow Indoors or Outdoors in the Garden or Landscaping

What is a Fern?

Ferns are common types of houseplants that are used as either indoor and ornamental or garden plants.

Ferns grow in moist soil, swampy areas, bogs, peatlands, low light and humid areas.

The requirements are based on the types of ferns and their respective demands.

Most ferns reproduce via spores and spreading these in the air.

The fronds of ferns are appreciated for being unique in their design and color.

Ferns are evergreen, but the fronds remain a beautiful greenish color throughout.

People often fail to differentiate between mosses and ferns, but ferns are vascular plants and possess complex leave tissues.

Ferns are often used as medicine, food, biofertilizer, or ornamental plants [1].

Scientists also use them to see if the plants can restore contaminated land, i.e., remove pollutants.

Do Ferns Grow Indoors or Outdoors?

The answer is both. Ferns indoors increase the beauty of the house. The bright and greenish leaves are a pleasing sight.

Ferns don’t require intense sunlight, so one will be able to grow them indoors.

Some outdoor ferns, including Tasmanian cup fern, Japanese tassel fern, bird’s nest fern, Boston ferns, southern maidenhair fern, and carrot fern, are popular and are planted in shaded areas for the most part.

Also, insects or diseases don’t affect ferns.

The main thing you need to think about is the moisture content in the soil.

These plants need water to grow, but standing water can cause root rotting.

Related post: 12 Best Low Maintenance Evergreen Shrubs for Front of House

How to Care for Ferns

Watering

Almost all fern species prefer moist soil. If you place them in sunny areas, you will need to water them, as they dry out quickly.

Humidity plays an important role.

Ferns placed in humid areas require less watering since the water drying process is slower than in less humid areas.

The water requirement also depends on the soil type and growth stage.

As an aside, if you live in a less humid (i.e. dryer region) you should instead consider drought-resistant shrubs to plant in your landscaping.

Fertilizer

Ferns grow to full potential during the summer months. Therefore, you should fertilize them during the summer months.

You should use slow-release or liquid fertilizer. While using liquid fertilizer, make sure you dilute it. If not, concentrated liquid fertilizer can damage the root system.

During the winter season, the plants become dormant, so it is not needed to fertilize them in the cold.

Soil

These attractive plants prefer soils with high organic matter. Drainage should also be considered when preparing a potting mix for ferns.

You can mix peat moss, coco peat, or sphagnum with the soil to increase its moisture-holding capacity.

A container with a 1-2 inch depth will be best for growing indoor ferns due to the root systems being shallow.

One should also avoid clay soils due to the drainage system being poor.

Pollination

Fern species reproduce by creating spores formed in the cells of the ferns located beneath the fronds. Wind disperses the spores.

The plants, then, don’t produce flowers or seeds for pollination.

If you are looking for flowering shrubs, you should consider plants and perennial flowers that can take full sun, or perennials that will grow in the shade.

Potting and Repotting

Fern species need repotting once each couple of years. Before repotting, check the root system in the container.

If the root becomes too dense, and there is no more space for its growth, you must upsize and repot the fern into a new pot.

It is better to repot them during spring, and while repotting, you should use a mixture of peat moss and coco peat to prepare soils.

Also, when the plants become overcrowded, you should remove a few fronds and fresh roots.

Pruning

Ferns don’t need frequent pruning. New leaves come out from the central. You must remove the older and dead leaves to make the plants look more greenish.

New fronds appear mostly during the spring, while during winter, the leaves die.

Pests and diseases

Ferns are resistant and hardy, but some pest infestations include mites, nematodes, and bugs. Identification of such pests along with pruning the infected fronds will save the ferns from dying.

Also, you could prepare a mixture of 90% water and 10% rubbing alcohol and spray it on the fern to eradicate the pests.

Common diseases are – leaf tip burn, Rhizoctonia blight, and bacterial blight. A sterilized potting mixture could help you get rid of these diseases.

Temperature and Humidity

Fern species thrive best in a tropical climate with high humidity. When humidity is low, the tips of the fronds become brown.

You increase the humidity when you spray mist on them, which is a common practice.

Also, you could place the indoor ferns in the kitchen or bathroom since the humidity is higher in these places.

Ferns thrive the best when in temperatures of 60 to 70-degrees Fahrenheit.

Can you Propagate Ferns? 

Ferns are propagated from spores or rhizome cutting. If the spores land on the right location, germination commences, and new ferns will grow.

Also, you could cut a frond along with its attached rhizome for propagation.

Plant them in moist soil and in a humid area to get the best result from rhizome cuttings.

Types of Ferns

Indoor and outdoor ferns are the main types of ferns. We will mention the most popular ones here.

Most Popular Indoor Ferns

Boston fern

boston fern
  • Scientific name: Nephrolepis exaltata
  • Common name: Ladder fern, Boston fern
  • Plant height: Up to 3 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, and acidic soil pH
  • Native region: Polynesia, Africa, America

The beautiful and evergreen fern is kept as an indoor houseplant because it doesn’t require direct sunlight.

Boston ferns prefer humid and warm conditions, and extreme temperatures might inhibit growth.

To ensure growth, you should fertilize Boston ferns in the spring and water it whenever the soil dries out.

One could also remove the older fronds to make Boston fern look attractive and green.

Royal fern

royal fern types of ferns
  • Scientific name: Osmunda regalis
  • Common name: Royal fern
  • Height: Up to 3 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial sun
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, and acidic pH
  • Native region: Eurasia, North and South America

These plants love moistened soils and are rich in organic content.

Royal fern osmunda regalis is effective in regards to treating bone fractures [2].

In addition, direct sunlight is not needed being since these plants thrive well in partial sunlight.

The foliage of royal fern turns red-brown during the fall.

Holly fern

holly fern types of ferns
  • Scientific name: Cyrtomium falcatum
  • Common name: Japanese holly fern, House holly fern
  • Height: Up to 3 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial sun or full shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, acidic to neutral pH
  • Native region: Eastern Asia

This is a great indoor fern, and it grows well in containers. A lot of people grow them as houseplants because ferns grow even in full shade.

Hours of direct sunlight could burn its foliage. The evergreen fern, moreover, will remain green even during the winter season.

Staghorn ferns

types of ferns staghorn ferns
  • Genus name: Platycerium
  • Common name: Elkhorn fern, Staghorn fern
  • Height: Up to 4 feet
  • Sun exposure: Bright and indirect
  • Soil type: Damp, well-drained,
  • Native region: Africa, Australia, Asia, and South America

The fronds of staghorn ferns look similar to stag horns and produce spores.

Several types of Staghorn ferns exist, but Platycerium bifurcatum is convenient to grow among all of them.

These plants require medium to low sunlight and high humidity.

Irrigate the fern and mist it to increase the humidity level.

Over or underwatering might inhibit the growth of staghorn fern.

Related post: How to Care for Staghorn Ferns (Elkhorn Ferns) Guide

Rabbit’s foot fern

rabbit's foot fern
  • Scientific name: Davallia fenjeensis
  • Common name: Rabbit’s foot fern, hare’s foot fern
  • Height: Up to 1 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic pH
  • Native region: Oceania

The ferns resemble a rabbit’s foot and are known to be decorative plants. You should provide sufficient light (indirect sunlight) to ensure good growth.

Therefore, the ferns could be placed beside bathroom or kitchen windows in hanging baskets.

To keep the rhizomes moist, it is advised to water them when the soil dries out.

Fertilize these ferns during spring to accelerate growth.

Hart’s tongue fern

hart's tongue fern
  • Scientific name: Asplenium scolopendrium
  • Common name: Hart’s tongue fern
  • Height: Up to 1.5 feet
  • Sun exposure: Full or partial shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic pH
  • Native region: North America

These ferns are hardy and pest-free. The growers don’t need to worry about maintenance since the requirements are less than some indoor houseplants.

These ferns make the landscape even more attractive with their unique shape.

Also, water the soil with care to keep it moist but not soggy.

Maidenhair fern

types of ferns maidenhair fern
  • Genus name: Adiantum
  • Common name: Maidenhair fern
  • Height: 2-3 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial or full shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, neutral pH
  • Native region: North and America,

Maidenhair ferns could be of three types, including – southern maidenhair fern (Adiantum capillus-venerus), northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum aleuticum), and American maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum).

Though each is regarded as hardy fern, it is difficult to keep them healthy indoors since ferns need water and humid environments.

Pruning should also help maidenhair ferns grow into a more greenish color.

Bird’s nest fern

bird's nest fern
  • Scientific name: Asplenium nidus
  • Common name: Bird’s nest fern, Nest fern
  • Height: Up to 4 feet
  • Sun exposure: Full or partial shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, and acidic pH
  • Native region: Australia, Asia, Madagascar, Polynesia, Hawaii

These ferns are epiphytic, which means to grow on other trees’ surfaces. These ferns are low maintenance and are ideal houseplants.

Moisture, temperature, and humidity are three key requirements of nest ferns, and if one meets the water and humidity requirements, these plants will grow well.

Foxtail fern

foxtail fern
  • Scientific name: Asparagus Densiflorus
  • Common name: Asparagus fern, Foxtail fern
  • Height: Up to 2.5 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic pH
  • Native region: South Africa

These plants are pretty hardy ferns being since the bright green fronds remain attractive in the winter.

The needle-like leaves and the light green colors make the perennial fern species popular.

These plants require high humidity to thrive at full potential. One could also grow them in hanging baskets.

Related post: Growing Asparagus Foxtail Ferns (Asparagus Densiflorus) Care Guide

Japanese tassel fern

japanese tassel fern types of ferns
  • Scientific name: Polystichum polyblepharum
  • Common name: Japanese lace fern, Tassel fern
  • Height: Up to 3 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial sun
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, and slightly acidic, neutral, or slightly alkaline pH
  • Native region: South Korea, and Japan

A lot of people get confused about Japanese painted fern and tassel fern. Tassel ferns come with glossy and dark-green fronds.

If you grow them amass, the ferns will act as an amazing ground cover.

The evergreen ferns are simple to maintain, and the water needs are average.

Plants of similar nature grow best in fertile and well-drained soils.

Cinnamon ferns

cinnamon ferns
  • Scientific name: Osmunda cinnamomea
  • Common name: Cinnamon fern
  • Height: 4-5 feet
  • Sun exposure: Shade lover
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, acidic pH
  • Native region: North America, Europe, and Eastern Asia

The deciduous fern comes with pale green fronds. The erected and spiky sporangia make the structure even more impressive.

These ferns thrive best in slightly acidic, fertile, and shaded gardens, where moisture is present.

Cinnamon fern is resistant to both deer and rabbits, and unlike most ferns, will withstand the wet soil if placed in a sunny location.

Related post: How to Care for Cinnamon Ferns in Your Landscaping

Cretan brake fern

cretan brake fern
  • Scientific name: Pteris cretica
  • Common name: Ribbon fern, Cretan fern
  • Height: Up to 2.5 feet
  • Sun exposure: Shaded
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic pH
  • Native region: Africa, Asia, and Europe

The fern is best to grow indoors, but it requires high humidity and is hard to maintain.

During warmer months, the grower needs to place the containers near a window.

Also, pruning is important to maintain a good shape and to encourage plant growth.

Moreover, the cretan brake fern is shown antimicrobial activities against a certain number of bacteria [3].

Most Popular Outdoor Ferns

Lady fern

types of ferns lady fern
  • Scientific name: Athyrium filix-feminao
  • Common name: Lady fern
  • Height: 2-3 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial sun
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic pH
  • Native region: North America

The perennial fern species don’t require high maintenance. The fern species require a well-drained and moist place to grow.

Pests or fungal diseases don’t attack unless the environmental condition becomes extreme or unfavorable.

Too much water or intense light could inhibit growth.

Ostrich fern

ostrich fern types of ferns
  • Scientific name: Matteuccia struthiopteris
  • Common name: Ostrich fern, Shuttlecock fern
  • Height: 3-8 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil type: Moist, clay soil, slightly acidic pH
  • Native region: North America

The hardy Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) is an excellent ground cover for areas susceptible to soil erosion.

The beautiful fronds are similar to the feathers of ostrich birds. Ostrich ferns grow best in moist and fertile soils.

One might plant ferns in his garden and fertilize them during spring because it requires low maintenance.

Related post: How to Care for Ostrich Ferns (Shuttlecock Ferns)

Japanese painted fern

japanese painted fern types of ferns
  • Scientific name: Athyrium niponicum
  • Common name: Japanese painted fern
  • Height: 1-1.5 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial to full shade
  • Soil type: Evenly moist, well-drained, very acidic to slightly alkaline pH
  • Native region: Eastern Asia

Most ferns come with greenish fronds, but Japanese painted ferns are not like them. The outdoor fern is reputed for various colors in its leaves.

Japanese painted ferns are low-maintenance plants, but the grower must take care of the moisture level in the soil.

Too much moisture could cause root rot or fungal diseases.

Christmas fern

christmas fern
  • Scientific name: Polystichum acrostichoides
  • Common name: Christmas fern
  • Height: Up to 3 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial or full shade
  • Soil type: Moist and slightly dry, well-drained, acidic pH
  • Native region: North America

The hardy fern maintains its beautiful color during the winter season.

The characteristic makes it even more popular than outdoor fern plants.

If this outdoor fern is exposed to intense sunlight, the fronds will become pale.

The fern, moreover, could grow in dry soil without showing stress.

Western sword fern

types of ferns western sword fern
  • Scientific name: Polystichum munitum
  • Common name: Western sword fern
  • Height: Up to 6 feet
  • Sun exposure: Full or partial shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, acidic pH
  • Native region: North America, Ireland, Great Britain

Shade gardens are ideal places for western sword ferns to grow. They are reliable, robust, and hardy ferns with greenish and blade-like fronds and vigorous growth.

The ferns need high humidity and consistent moisture to thrive.

Related post: Grow And Care Guide for Western Sword Fern (Polystichum Munitum)

Autumn fern

autumn fern types of ferns
  • Scientific name: Dryopteris erythrosora
  • Common name: Autumn fern, Japanese shield fern
  • Height: Up to 2 feet
  • Sun exposure: Full shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, neutral pH
  • Native region: China, Japan, and the Philippines

The growth of the fern is a bit slow. The ferns don’t generate flowers or seeds and don’t thrive in intense sunlight.

Also, the fertilizer is not needed for growth, but you should apply a slow-release fertilizer in the spring.

Horsetail fern

types of ferns horsetail fern
  • Scientific name: Equisetum telmateia
  • Common name: Great horsetail, Northern giant horsetail
  • Height: 2-4 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial or full sun
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, neutral pH
  • Native region: Europe, Northwest Africa, Western Asia, Northern America

These beautiful ferns are tall grasses with heavy branches. These ferns are water tolerant and grow even in inundated conditions.

If you have a swampy garden, you can grow them.

The fern is also considered toxic to animals due to its chemical thiaminase.

Australian tree fern

australian tree fern
  • Scientific name: Dicksonia antarctica
  • Common name: Australian tree fern, Soft tree fern, man fern
  • Height: Up to 25 feet
  • Sun exposure: Full or partial shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, acidic to neutral pH
  • Native Region: Australia

The tree ferns are large in height and are not ideal indoor plants.

The ferns could still be a fascinating addition to your houseplants if you possess sufficient space in your house.

The tree trunks are fast-growing and will add an exotic appearance to your garden.

Furthermore, the fern uses a unique water acquisition strategy, which eliminates its need to compete for water [4].

Interrupted fern

interrupted fern types of ferns
  • Scientific name: Claytosmunda claytoniana
  • Common name: Interrupted fern
  • Height: Up to 3 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic pH
  • Native region: Eastern Asia, North America

The growth of the fern depends on the humidity level of the environment and the organic content of the soil.

Distinguishing cinnamon and the Interrupted fern is difficult being since both of these ferns are similar in appearance.

One should remember that interrupted ferns come with pointed fronds and contain sporangia amidst the leaves.

Marginal wood fern

types of ferns marginal wood fern
  • Scientific name: Dryopteris marginalis
  • Common name: Marginal shield fern, Marginal wood fern
  • Height: Up to 3 feet
  • Sun exposure: Partial or full shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, acidic pH
  • Native region: North America

These ferns are used as ornamental plants for gardens. The growth of wood fern dryopteris is not too aggressive, which makes it perfect for pruning.

Also, in snow, the bluish-green fronds produce a catchy scenario in contrast to the white blanket of snow. The fern is non-spreading and is used in rock gardens.

You, in addition, don’t need to stress about pest or disease problems, being since it is cold hardy.

Crested buckler fern

crested buckler fern
  • Scientific name: Dryopteris cristata
  • Common name: Crested wood fern, Crested buckler fern
  • Height: 2-3 feet
  • Sun exposure: Shade
  • Soil type: Moist, well-drained, slightly acidic pH
  • Native region: Asia, and North America

The wood fern dryopteris is known for its anti-microbial properties.

The root extracts of the fern are known to expel several intestinal parasites from mammals.

The fern is identifiable because of its crown and attractive fronds.

These plants will grow best when moisture is supplied in proper amounts.

FAQ

When should I mist my indoor ferns?

It is better to mist them during the early morning and afternoon when the evaporation rate is low.

Do indoor ferns require a lot of water?

Ferns require moist soil to thrive. Water them when you feel that the soil is dry.

What are the reasons for browned leaves’ tips?

Ferns require moist soil to thrive. Water them when you feel the soil is dry.

Are ferns easy to grow outside?

Ferns are easy to grow both inside and outside. Wherever you grow these plants, you must take care of them.

Are ferns toxic to humans?

Some ferns cause skin irritation. Also, some ferns are considered toxic to animals.

Conclusion

To sum it up, there are several types of ferns to grow indoors and outdoors. Since these plants require shady areas, growers don’t need to stress about sunlight.

The 23 ferns mentioned above are the most common indoor and outdoor ferns on the market.

References

[1] Mannan, M.M. Maridass, M. and Victor, B.A. 2008. Review on the Potential Uses of Ferns. Ethnobotanical Leaflets, 12: 281-285

[2] Molina, M. Reyes-Garcia, V. and Pardo-de-Santayana, M. 2009. Local Knowledge and Management of Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis L.) in Northern Spain: Implications for Biodiversity Conservation. American Fern Journal, 99(1): 45-55.

[3] Saleen et al. 2016. Phytochemical, Antimicrobial, and Antioxidant Activities of Pteris Cretica L. (Pteridaceae) Extracts. Acta poloniae pharmaceutica, 73(5): 1397-1403

[4] Hunt, M.A.; Davidson, N.J.; Unwin, G.L.; Close, D.C. Ecophysiology of the Soft Tree Fern, Dicksonia Antarctica Labill. Austral Ecology, 27(4): 360-368.

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