Growing Ferns In Pots

If you are looking to add texture and lush green foliage to your landscape area, then a fern is the way to go. With thousands of varieties to choose from, you can find a fern that will thrive in your growing zone.

This low-maintenance plant grows great in a pot, decorative container, or in a hanging basket. Ferns grow best when planted alone in a container and can add a tropical or woodland look to your area. Gardeners love ferns for porches, patois, balconies, or as a focal point in a tall wire stand.  


Ferns prefer a shaded area and consistently moist soil conditions. Potted ferns will dry out a lot faster in a container versus those planted in the ground. Proper watering is the key to keeping your fern happy and healthy. Too much or too little watering can have adverse effects when it comes to a fern. 

Planting Ferns in Pots

Spring is the best time to plant a fern in an outdoor container as this plant likes temperatures  between 70 and 80 degrees. Choose a cool shady location with moist soil if possible. Avoid an area that will get direct sunlight. Selecting the perfect size of container is important. A container too big or too small can affect the ability to maintain the proper soil moisture that this plant needs.


Choose a container that is at least 6 inches deep. It is best to leave 1-2 inches around the outside edge of the container so the plant has space to grow. Avoid clay pots as they draw heat and dry out the soil a lot faster. We recommend our plastic resin containers.

Hanging planters have the same size requirements and need to have good drainage as well.


Best Soil For Ferns in Pots

In their natural environment, ferns are found in shady woodland areas with sandy, rocky soil. This type of area offers a lot of organic matter from moss and dead leaves. It is always best to try and mimic the plant’s natural needs. Be sure that the potting soil you choose drains well and has good organic matter such as sand or peat moss.

It is also a good idea to add gravel or pebbles to the bottom of the container before planting. This helps with drainage and will also hold some moisture in the roots on the hottest of days. 


Caring For Ferns in Planters

Ferns can grow great as a houseplant as long as you give them the same indoor growing conditions as they would get outdoors. This means providing a moist humid environment will moist soil. Place the container in a sunny southern facing window. Water to keep the soil moist but not soggy. It is best to water at the soil level to avoid  getting the fronds wet. Mist the fronds as needed to create a humid atmosphere for the plant. 

Watering Ferns in Pots

Aside from well-draining quality soil, proper watering of your fern is very important. Too much as well as too little watering can affect the health of the plant. Even though ferns like shady, wet, and humid areas, they do not like to be soggy. Be sure that you allow the soil to dry out in between each watering.

Depending on the fern you purchase and the area you live in, watering can be anywhere from daily to once a week. It is best to base the watering by how the soil feels. When the soil feels dry or the entire container is easy to lift, then it is time to water the plant. If the fern begins shedding, that is the first sign of under or over watering. 

Fertilizing Ferns in Pots

Because ferns growing in containers require more watering than in the ground ferns, nutrients in the soil are washed out a lot faster. During the peak growing season, ferns should be fed monthly. Use a water soluble 20-10-20 or 15-5-15 fertilizer. During the winter season, fertilize once every 2-3 months. Do not fertilize at all if the plant is dormant. 

Winter Care For Ferns in Pots

A fern is one of the easiest plants to overwinter as long as you prepare it before a hard freeze sets in. Give your fern a good prune, cutting off several inches of outside fronds. Leave the center of the plant alone. Allow the plant to dry out before bringing it indoors. Choose a cool location such as a basement or garage to store the plant.

It is best to keep the plant out of direct sunlight. The plant will be dormant for the season and will only need watering once a month. 

Outdoor potted ferns can also be brought indoors for the winter and grown as a houseplant. Trim off extra large fronds and spray off the plant to remove any pests. During the winter months ferns will grow well as a houseplant as long as you give them the same indoor growing conditions as they would get outdoors. This means providing a moist humid environment will moist soil.

After the winter, ferns will need a hardening period before moving them back outdoors permanently for the summer. For a couple of weeks after the threat of frost is over, leave them outside in a shady, sheltered area for a while each day to adjust. 

Can Ferns Be Grown Indoors

If you decide to grow your potted fern as a house plant for the winter instead of allowing it to go dormant in a cool space, it will take a bit of work. You will need to create the right indoor growing conditions that will mimic the outdoor elements that the fern needs.



After trimming the plant and spraying any pests off of the fronds, place the container in a sunny, southern facing location. Water when the soil feels dry, and mist the plant as needed to create humid conditions. This will help keep the plant from drying out. It is not necessary to fertilize during the winter as the plant is in a dormant period of growth. 

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Author Chris Link - Published 11-17-2021