How Often Should You Water Ferns in a Hanging Basket?

Ferns are lush green plants often grown indoors and sometimes in hanging containers. However, growing plants in a hanging basket comes with a specific set of challenges. One of the first things you need to think about is how – and how often – to water your ferns.

You should water ferns in hanging baskets at least thrice a week. Ferns are water-loving plants that can’t tolerate dry soil for long periods of time. Hanging baskets also lose water faster than traditional pots, increasing water requirements even further.

In this article, I’ll discuss how often you need to water Ferns in a hanging basket, point out the symptoms of underwatering and overwatering, and highlight some best practices to follow while watering your ferns. 

Watering Ferns in a Hanging Basket

Ferns typically have more than the average water requirement of most plants. The numerous varieties available have considerable differences, but they all require that you keep them hydrated around the clock.

The need for water is further increased when you place a fern in a hanging pot because the soil tends to lose moisture more quickly than regular soil.

There are two primary reasons for this:

  • Hanging baskets are able to hold less soil than regular pots. The soil holds and supplies water to the fern plant, so lesser soil translates to a lower supply of water. 
  • Hanging baskets are more exposed to the elements. A greater portion of their surface area is in contact with the air, so they lose water more quickly through evaporation. And if it’s a windy day, leaving your hanging basket outdoors will almost certainly cause the soil to dry out.

All things considered, you’ll need to water your ferns at least thrice a week, and perhaps more often. Factors such as temperature, humidity, and the type of soil you use will also affect how often you need to water your plant

  • Temperature: The higher the temperature, the faster your fern (and the soil around it) will lose water to evaporation/transpiration. This means you’ll have to water your plant more frequently on the hot summer days, especially if you’re growing your fern outdoors. 
  • Humidity: Humidity is essentially a measure of how much water vapor is in the air. Higher humidity slows down water loss, which means you have to water your plant less frequently. Ferns love high-humidity environments because it helps them make the most out of the water they obtain naturally. 
  • Soil: Different types of soil have variances in their ability to retain moisture. Clayey soil, for example, is excellent at retaining moisture while sandy soil isn’t. Ideally, you’d grow your ferns in organic, nutrient-rich, moisture-retentive soil that can drain excess water. While it may seem like a lot, most pre-made potting mixes come with these attributes. 

No matter what soil you use, watering must be done at least thrice a week. And if you’re living in a hot, dry, or windy area, without access to the best soil, you may have to compensate by watering your ferns more frequently.

How can you tell when it’s time to water your plants? Well, the important thing to remember is to add water before the soil dries out completely.

With most other household plants you might wait till the soil dries out completely and then water them generously. However, when it comes to ferns, you never want to let the soil dry out entirely.

Ferns can’t tolerate dry soil and need to remain moist and hydrated constantly. To find out whether or not it’s time to water your fern, stick your finger about an inch deep into the soil and pinch. There are three things you might notice.

  • The soil is well-watered. If the soil releases water upon being pinched, it’s still well hydrated and doesn’t need to be watered yet. Wait for another day or two before checking again.
  • The soil is moist. If the soil doesn’t release any water upon being pinched, but you can still feel that it’s moist you can add some water to the plant. It’s safe to wait for the soil to dry out some more, but it’s best to water your fern at this stage so it stays hydrated. 
  • The soil is dry. If the soil is near dryness or completely dry, water your plant immediately. Ferns cannot survive when they’re dehydrated and they’re sure to suffer and die if they’re left dry for too long.

Be generous with the amount of water you supply. As long as you have soil that can drain water reasonably well, you’re not at risk of overwatering. Continue watering the plant until the soil is fully wet, but stop before the water starts to stagnate.

Finally, it’s crucial to remember that ferns prefer to go dormant briefly during the winters. While they’re dormant, their metabolism slows down and they require less water than usual. 

Water loss from the plant body and soil also slows down because of reduced temperatures. 

Thanks to these factors you can get away with watering your plant once a week or even once in two weeks during the winter.

Speaking of reduced temperatures, you should consider bringing your hanging baskets indoors during the winter months. Damage due to sub-zero temperatures (frost) is a major threat to ferns. 

How To Prevent Hanging Baskets From Drying Out

Watering a plant thrice a week or more can feel like a chore. Fortunately, there are ways you can prevent the soil in your hanging basket from drying out so quickly. 

  • Protect your hanging basket against the wind. As we discussed earlier, hanging baskets lose water faster than normal pots because of exposure to the wind. You can consider taking them down from a height or bringing them indoors on a windy day to prevent the soil from drying out. 
  • Provide filtered light or partial shade. Not only will shade improve water retention, but it will also protect your ferns from being damaged by intense sun rays.
  • Use larger baskets. The amount of soil in the basket determines how much water it can hold. As such, using a larger basket will give you more grace time between waterings. A bigger basket will also be able to accommodate a larger fern. However, ensure you always use a basket with a drainage hole.
  • Use better soil. The type of soil you use greatly affects how often you’ll have to water your plant. Use light, porous soil as this will retain plenty of moisture while draining excess water. 
  • Hang your basket in a humid room. Humidity directly affects how fast your ferns and the soil lose water to evaporation, so it’s best to improve humidity conditions to retain water. Ferns love humidity levels above 70%, and placing them in a room with a humidifier would be ideal. However, putting your fern in the bathroom works just as well. 

Humidity is an important consideration when growing ferns. A humidity level below 30% is suboptimal and can slow down growth, causing damage to the leaves. A quick and practical way to compensate for the lack of humidity is to mist your ferns daily. 

Misting can increase the odds of your fern contracting a fungal infection, so be careful with how often you mist your plants. However, ferns aren’t easy targets for the fungi, so it’s still a good idea to mist your plants once in a while.


Underwatering is a common issue with ferns as these plants have such high water requirements. However, you’re unlikely to run into this problem as long as you don’t let the soil dry out.

Here we’ve listed a few symptoms of underwatering to help you identify whether your fern is suffering from a lack of water.

  • Slow or stunted growth
  • Elongated, leggy stems
  • Dry, brown, or crisp leaves 
  • Dry soil

If you see one or more of these symptoms and notice that you haven’t paid particular attention to your watering routine, chances are your fern is suffering from a lack of water. To confirm this, you can test the soil to check its moisture content as previously mentioned.

However, even if you notice any symptoms, no need to panic. Most of the damage is easily reversible if you notice it soon enough; all you have to do is get back to a regular watering routine.


Overwatering is less common in ferns considering how thirsty these plants are, but it’s still something you should watch out for. 

Overwatering typically happens when the soil is more retentive than usual rather than an excess supply of water. When you use porous, well-draining soil, excess water typically drains out so you don’t have to worry about overwatering.

The telltale signs of overwatering are:

  • Dying plant
  • Stagnant water/waterlogged soil
  • Saturated/watery leaves
  • Decoloration
  • Black, soggy roots

You may notice that the signs of overwatering and underwatering have a lot in common. So the best way to distinguish between the two is to check the soil and gauge the moisture level.

A key differentiator between the two is the presence of root rot, which happens only when a plant is overwatered. Waterlogged soils will deprive your roots of oxygen, causing them to turn black, die, and then rot.

Unlike underwatering, which may be resolved in some cases by watering the plant, root rot cannot be reversed. This is the primary reason why stagnant water is such a big concern when managing plants.

Should You Use Tap Water?

Now let’s look at a common concern most gardeners have – the use of tap water vs clean water from a store. In most situations, tap water is a viable way to keep your garden hydrated. However, I would advise against using tap water for your ferns. 

Most tap water is typically chlorinated for disinfection, and fern roots don’t respond well to chlorine. Fortunately, removing chlorine from tap water is a relatively straightforward process. You can simply leave out some tap water in an open container overnight to reduce the amount of chlorine in it (the chemical dissipates into the air).

Alternatively, you can bring tap water to a boil for a few minutes to eliminate the chlorine.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, you should water ferns in a hanging basket at least thrice a week during the summer. Ideally, you want to water your plant at a frequency that keeps the soil from drying out completely. So check the soil and water your plant accordingly.

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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