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Caring for Your Ferns: How to Keep Ferns Happy and Healthy

Ferns have been around for millions of years and have been a popular addition to gardens and households for centuries. Not only are they beautiful and easily manageable, they provide numerous benefits to the environment they live in. But, with the wrong environment and care, your ferns can suffer. Find out what you need to do to keep your ferns healthy and happy!

Tips for Properly Caring for Ferns

To keep your ferns looking lush and full, proper irrigation is essential. Watering your ferns regularly will provide them with the moisture they need to thrive. However, it’s important to not over-water them as this can cause root rot. Additionally, appropriate sunlight and fertilizer are also necessary for containerized ferns to flourish.

Ferns prefer bright, indirect light and a few hours of morning sun or gentle light through the cover of trees is ideal. During the hot summer months, direct sunlight should be avoided as it can burn a fern’s fronds.

Additionally, fertilizing your ferns every two to four weeks during the growing season will help keep them healthy.

As the temperatures begin to drop in the fall, it is best to bring your potted ferns indoors before the first frost. To clean the foliage, hose down each plant and look closely for insects that are hiding in the foliage.

Perennial ferns in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 to 11 may be left outside throughout the year if temperatures do not drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, but must be brought indoors if frost threatens.

If properly cared for, indoor ferns can last for many years – even decades. A family in Virginia claims to have maintained their Boston fern for 114 years. With re-potting and propagation, single plants can be regenerated again and again, making advanced ages possible.

Beyond their longevity, ferns make a variety of contributions to the environment they live in. Shelter, shade, erosion protection, chemical sequestration, and microhabitats that serve other species are some of the things they provide.

Caring for Bird’s Nest Ferns

For bird’s nest ferns, special care must be taken to ensure they remain healthy. Mist the fronds with a water bottle every few days to provide the plant with plenty of humidity. Additionally, adding a layer of mulch on top of the soil will help retain moisture and feed your fern with a water-soluble fertilizer every other week during its growing season. Repotting in larger pots with new soil should be done at least every couple of years.By following these steps and providing your bird’s nest ferns with appropriate sunlight and temperatures, you can help them flourish for many years.

However, when it comes to taking care of brown leaves at the bottom of your fern, knowing what to do can be tricky. If you see brown leaves at the base but the top is green, that’s normal and means your plant is doing well. New growth comes from the centre for nearly all ferns and older leaves at the bottom will die off as new growth emerges. You can remove any brown ones that have died off with a pair of pruning shears or by hand.

Keeping Birds Away from Your Ferns with Falconry

In addition to proper care, there are a few other steps you can take to keep your ferns safe and thriving. One of the most common issues gardeners face is birds hanging around their plants. To stop this from happening, there are a few deterrents that can be used. Predator statues such as lifelike scarecrows, owls, coyotes, snakes, and cats that can be moved regularly will scare the birds away. Additionally, shiny objects like old CDs or foil pans and silver reflective tape help deter them from landing nearby. You can also hang balls in the garden or trees that look like eyes to birds or use flashing lights for extra prevention.

However, for the most effective bird scarer, falconry is the best option. Unlike shop-bought deterrents that don’t have enough effectiveness to scare away smaller birds, falconry produces a response of fear from these birds that will keep them away for a longer period of time.

Tips for Caring for Hanging Ferns

For those with hanging ferns, there are some additional steps that must be taken to ensure their health and longevity. Ferns in hanging baskets need more frequent watering during the summer months as they tend to dry out quickly. During the winter, be careful not to overwater. Feed a fern in a hanging container every month in spring and summer with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer mixed to half strength. When planting ferns in baskets or containers, it is important to use well-draining soil – this will help prevent root rot and keep your plants healthy. Additionally, hang your basket at least two feet off the ground so that it can get adequate air circulation – this will also help prevent root rot. Lastly, make sure you choose an appropriate size container for your plant – too small of a pot can restrict its growth while too large of one may cause over-watering issues due to increased soil volume and slower drying time.

When it comes time to save hanging ferns for next year, the best practice is to allow them to dry out before bringing them indoors. A cool location such as a basement or garage is ideal, but make sure the plant is kept out of direct sunlight. Watering should be done sparingly – once a month should suffice – as the plant will be inactive during this period.

Some experts recommend trimming the long-hanging fronds before bringing ferns indoors, but this is not a required step. As long as the temperature does not drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, your ferns should overwinter beautifully.

However, if the temperatures drop below 28-32 degrees Fahrenheit and your fern is sticking out from under the roof overhang, you should remove it and put it under the overhang to prevent frost from falling on the porch.

Mid to late fall is the time when temperatures begin to drop, so plants should be covered or brought indoors when heavy frost or freeze is anticipated. Even a light frost can be handled by Ferns, but not a hard frost or freeze.

If you see brown leaves all over your fern, it may not be getting enough water. They like their soil to be lightly moist, but not soggy, so check them regularly and water them if the soil feels dry. The finger dip test is a great way to indicate whether or not they need a drink – if the finger comes out dry, they need a drink.

Lastly, it is never advisable to fertilize a fern or any other plant that is too dry – this can burn the roots.


Ferns are a great addition to any garden, especially those with a moist and shady environment. They prefer bright, indirect light and need regular irrigation without excessive water. It is important to monitor the soil moisture, mist the fronds and fertilize plants regularly. When temperatures start to drop in the late fall, bring the ferns indoors or cover them if a hard frost or freeze is anticipated. With proper care and maintenance, ferns can last for many years, even decades.