House Plant Parenting

How do I care for ferns indoors?

In this video

We get a lot of questions about ferns, most of them asking about brown leaves. There can be a few different reasons why fern leaves go brown. Most of them are nothing to worry about and are easily fixed. 

Let’s start with the most common. If you’re seeing brown leaves at the bottom of your fern but the top is green, that’s totally normal and means your plant is doing well. For nearly all ferns, new growth comes from the centre. As new growth comes in, the older leaves at the bottom will die off. You can just snip off any brown ones at the base. 

If you’re seeing brown leaves all over, your fern may not be getting enough moisture. They like their soil to be lightly moist, but not soggy, so check them regularly and water them if the soil ever feels dry. Use the finger dip test: if you put a finger in and it comes out dry, they need a drink. If you feel moisture, they’re ok for now and you can check again in a few days. 

Humidity is really important for ferns. If the air is too dry they’ll go crispy. If your fern is looking brown all over, try misting it more and see if it improves over the next few weeks. Even better, put it in the bathroom so it can enjoy the steam from your shower. 

It’s also good to remember that ferns are used to living in the shade of bigger trees. They’re not made to sit in direct sunlight. If yours is right next to a window, it might be drying out in the sun. Move it somewhere less bright. Like all houseplants, keep them away from hot radiators and drafty cold windows too.

The last thing to remember is most ferns are sensitive to touch, especially Venus our maidenhair fern. Their leaves look strokable, but the more you touch them the more they bruise, which will make them turn brown. Try to just admire them from a distance.