Can All Outdoor Ferns Grow Indoors?

Ferns add an aura of serenity to any room they are placed in. Their lush green foliage offsets flowering plants well, while their varied textures add to the overall appeal of your décor. While we all adore ferns and want them as indoor houseplants, can outdoor ferns be kept indoors?

Almost all outdoor ferns can grow indoors if you create an environment that mimics their natural habitat. Outdoor ferns that are kept indoors need shady, moist, and humid conditions to thrive. Ferns are not well built for the cold, so you can bring them indoors during the winter.

Growing outdoor ferns inside isn’t challenging if you provide optimum temperature and humidity conditions, maintain soil moisture, and plant them in soil that resembles the forest floors they grow on. In this article, I will explain how you can grow outdoor ferns indoors and list which varieties do best as houseplants.

What Ferns Are Easy To Grow Indoors?

Ferns that are easy to grow indoors include those that originate in the world’s tropical regions. Ferns with tough, leathery foliage thrive well in dry, indoor environments with low light. On the other hand, ferns with delicate, feathery foliage grow well in terrariums and greenhouses.

The following ferns are best suited to grow indoors because they can tolerate slightly low levels of humidity:

  1. Bird’s Nest Fern
  2. Boston Fern
  3. Asparagus Fern
  4. Maidenhair Fern
  5. Golden Polypody
  6. Rabbit’s Foot Fern
  7. Cretan Brake Fern
  8. Japanese Painted Fern
  9. Australian Tree Fern
  10. Holly Fern

The lush, verdant appeal of ferns can quickly liven up any room, and you can grow ferns inside or bring them indoors during winter to help them survive the season before taking them out again during spring.

While most ferns originate in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, some temperate species do well in cooler environments

If you own temperate ferns and live in a region with mild, frost-free winters, you can choose not to bring them indoors during winter. They will survive the winter season and come back in spring with new foliage. 

How To Keep Outdoor Ferns Alive Indoors

While most ferns can be brought indoors, you need to mimic specific conditions to ensure they stay alive and thrive inside your house. 

You can keep outdoor ferns alive by creating a warm and humid environment for them. Start by using a free-draining soil mix, and ensure that the soil is evenly moist but not soggy. Fertilize your ferns with a diluted liquid fertilizer only when the plant is actively growing.

Here are a few tips on keeping ferns alive indoors.

Provide The Right Level of Humidity

All ferns thrive in moist, humid conditions and you can create a humid, moisture-laden environment for your indoor ferns with the following tips:

  • Place your ferns in humid spaces. You can place them near your kitchen or a bathroom you use regularly.
  • Create humidity with a humidifier. It’s typically drier and less humid indoors than outdoors and a humidifier can help with this. 
  • Use a terrarium. A terrarium naturally retains humidity due its setup.
  • Place the pot on a tray of damp pebbles. You can also use clay granules or river rocks instead of pebbles. Pour water on top of the pebbles, but do not cover them as your fern shouldn’t sit on the water. 
  • Lightly mist the ferns. Ferns love it when they are misted regularly. Avoid daily misting though, because the leaves may not have adequate time to dry out and wet leaves tend to breed mold and fungus.
  • Place the fern away from drafts. Place your indoor ferns away from vents and fans that let in or create drafts and dry out the plants.

Place the Fern in a Container That Preserves Moisture

You can preserve the moisture in soil by using two containers. You’ll need a terracotta planter, a decorative container larger than the terracotta one, and sheet moss. 

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Plant your fern in the terracotta planter. 
  2. Place the terracotta planter inside the larger decorative container.
  3. Moisten the sheet moss thoroughly.
  4. Place the sheet moss in the space between the two containers.
  5. Cover the top of the container with damp sheet moss to prevent the soil and moss between the containers from drying out.

A terracotta pot has a porous structure that lets the roots breathe. It also retains moisture that the fern roots can readily absorb.

Create Optimum Lighting Conditions

In the wild, ferns grow in shaded areas, such as woodlands and under the canopy of trees in tropical rainforests. However, ferns still need ample light to grow properly.

Ferns thrive in indirect light and they’re used to receiving dappled or filtered sunlight in their natural habitats.

The following tips will help you create such lighting conditions inside your home:

  • Place your ferns where they will be protected from the sun’s direct rays, especially during the summer months.
  • Provide your plants with morning sun and shade them from the afternoon sun. 
  • Place the plant where it receives indirect sunlight from a north- or east-facing window.  
  • If you keep your ferns near a sunny south or west-facing window, ensure that they are away from the window, or there is a sheer curtain to temper the sun’s rays.
  • If you keep your ferns in dim light, ensure that you occasionally move them to a spot where they receive bright light. 
  • You can grow ferns under artificial light, but you must use a growing lamp or a fluorescent light strip.
  • Do not use light bulbs that produce intense heat to grow your ferns.
  • Look out for brown fronds and dying leaves that indicate your fern is receiving too strong light. 

It’s best to ensure that you provide the right mix of light and shade to your ferns. They will exhibit stunted growth if you place them in dim light while their leaves will burn if you keep them under direct sunlight.

Ensure the Temperature Is Just Right

The temperature needs of a fern depend on its place of origin, and most ferns are not cold-hardy species. However, temperate ferns can withstand cooler temperatures than their tropical cousins.

As such, it’s best to keep the following pointers in mind:

  • Tropical ferns grow well in temperatures between 60 °F (15.5 °C) and 70 °F (21.1 °C).
  • Tropical ferns thrive in warm temperatures and adapt well to homes with central heating.
  • Temperate ferns are better suited to temperatures between 50 °F (10 °C) and 60 °F (15.5 °C).
  • Keep your ferns away from radiators that heat the ambient air and dry out the plant. 
  • Keep your ferns away from cold drafts. 

Use the Right Soil and Compost

Ferns usually grow on forest or woodland floors covered with leaf litter. The soil is light, fluffy, porous, and rich in decayed organic matter.

Keep the following tips in mind when creating a soil mix for your indoor ferns:

  • Choose free-draining potting soil. Ferns have delicate roots that rot quickly if the plant sits in waterlogged soil. You can go for peat-based mixes or ones that contain fibrous peat substitutes like coco peat.
  • Mix compost with the soil to enrich it. Compost adds nutrients and enhances the water-retention capacity of the soil. This ensures the soil is not soggy and remains consistently moist.
  • Add compost to the soil after every growing season. If you do not wish to repot your fern, simply scrape off the top layer of the soil and add new compost. 

Maintain a Regular Watering Schedule

Ferns need moist soil to grow, but they can’t stand being waterlogged. Here we’ve provided some tips to help you keep the soil moist without causing waterlogging:

  • Ensure that the container has drainage holes at the bottom. 
  • Use a free-draining soil mix.
  • Direct the stream of water to the center of the plant. 
  • Water deeply and thoroughly till it runs out of the bottom of the planter.
  • Use warm water at room temperature.
  • Do not let the soil dry out in between watering.
  • Ensure the soil is evenly moist.
  • Do not let water accumulate in the saucer underneath the container.
  • Use a watering can with a long spout to water bushy fern plants.
  • Preserve moisture in the soil by mulching it.
  • Look out for brown and dying foliage that can indicate under-watering.

Feed the Ferns

Indoor ferns reward you with lush foliage if you fertilize them periodically. Here are some tips to help you set up a feeding routine:

  • Fertilize your ferns during summer when they are actively growing. 
  • Do not feed your ferns during winter when they are going through a period of dormancy.
  • Feed your ferns every two to four weeks.
  • Feed your ferns a liquid fertilizer diluted to half its strength because more concentrated solutions can damage the delicate root systems of the plant. 
  • Add a few drops of fertilizer to the water you use for misting the leaves. 
  • Look out for brown tips on the leaves that can indicate over-fertilization.

Repot When the Roots Fill the Pot

It’s best to repot your ferns during spring, but only if their roots fill out the entire container. While repotting, you can even split the original plant to create more plants.

When repotting, use containers that are only slightly larger than the plant’s root ball. There should be no more than an inch of space between the roots of the plant and the sides of the container.

Final Words

Not all of us are blessed with sprawling backyards on which we can cram plants and create a veritable Eden. Some of us live in regions where the winters are brutal and devoid of all greenery. 
Knowing how to grow outdoor ferns indoors lets you bring a slice of verdant nature inside your home. It also helps that ferns are not fussy plants and thrive and multiply with just a little tender loving care.  

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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