Q. My fern houseplant has been slowly deteriorating, getting very spindly and dry.

The leaves feel brittle, but soil is moist. New fronds appear, but end up dry and brittle before they ever unfurl. It continues to hang on, just not looking so healthy. What is going wrong?


Outdoors, ferns grow in a sheltered location where they are protected from strong sunlight and where the tree canopy and leaf litter keep the atmosphere moist. They need the same conditions in your home. Strong sunlight will scorch their leaves but extended darkness will prevent growth. Protection from direct light in northern exposure is about right.

High humidity is essential and temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees are best for most ferns. Your fern seems to be asking for more humidity. Mist it daily or stand the pots on a tray of pebbles and water so that the humidity wafts up. A terrarium is an ideal solution to keeping ferns happy in your home. Make sure that it sits nowhere near the vent of your heating system. Keep roots moist, watering deeply and allowing the water to runoff in the sink before replacing it in its growing location. Adjust to this care routine and be patient. You may get a revival as the new sprouts you have been seeing mature. Good luck!

Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service

  • Last Updated Jan 19, 2021
  • Views 2
  • Answered By Leslie Coleman

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