How to grow ferns indoors

Despite their frail looks, many ferns are tough, long-lasting houseplants that survive in sunless corners where most plants cannot grow. They need warmth, humidity, and lots of water.

Keep them out of direct sunlight; they do best in bright filtered light at room temperatures. During the growing season, water generously with tepid water. Mist the fronds daily when temperatures are above 70°F; during hot spells place the pots on saucers full of wet pebbles. Feed once a month with nitrogen-rich plant food, diluted to half the recommended strength. In winter, let the top of the soil dry out between waterings; do not feed.

Repot only when roots fill the pot. Plant in a mixture of 2 parts sterilized potting soil, 2 parts peat moss or leaf mold, 1 part coarse sand or perlite, and some charcoal granules. When plants get crowded, divide them or cut away some root growth and repot.

Many kinds, such as Boston ferns, mother ferns, Venushairs, and some maidenhairs, are ideal for hanging baskets. Miniatures, such as button ferns and small table ferns, can live in terrariums with virtually no care. The epiphytic staghorn fern can grow on a piece of bark or cork hung on the wall; water and feed it by immersing the mount in a container of tepid water.