different types of ferns

35+ Different Types of Indoor and Outdoor Ferns

Ferns are proven to be one of the oldest existence around for over 350 million years. This family of ferns do not produce flowers or seeds, but reproduce through spores and are prized for their fronds, which delicately unfurl to reveal unusual and attractive plants.

There is a vast variety of ferns that have different characteristics and are usually tropical evergreen plants, which can be grown in shaded areas.

They can thrive well in low light indoor conditions, bringing much-needed greenery to the dull corners of your house and garden even in winters.

Most garden ferns can be grown both indoor and outdoor when provided the right care. Still, there are certain varieties that do better as a houseplant than when grown in the yard, and vice versa.

There are 3 categories of ferns, with a complete guide about each fern explained below.

  1. Indoor Ferns
  2. Outdoor Ferns
  3. Aquatic Ferns

Different Varieties of Indoor Fern Plants

1. Boston Fern (Sword Fern)

This is one of the most popular ferns for an indoor houseplant. It is easy to take care of as long as you plant it in well-drained fertile soil, allow any excess water to pass through the soil. Keep it away from direct sunlight and try keeping it moist without turning soggy.

Scientific name: Nephrolepis exaltata

Family: Nephrolepidaceae

Height/Width: 20–98 in; 6–15 centimetres (2.4–5.9 in) broad

Sunlight Requirement: Requires filtered, indirect sunlight

USDA Hardiness Zone: 9-11

Suitable for: Dark green feathery arching fronds make it suitable for hanging planters, and balconies.

Picture

Boston Fern (Sword Fern)
Boston Fern (Sword Fern)

2. Maidenhair Fern

A delicate and high-maintenance species with varying shades of green leaves. This plant requiring moist conditions at all times, though its fronds cannot tolerate misting. It also requires soil rich in organic matter. Often grows well in moist areas in the house like in the corner of a bathroom.

Scientific name: Adiantum

Family: Pteridaceae

Height/Width: 1 foot; 1-2 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Shaded and Indirect Sunlight

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Suitable for: The lacy effect created by the flowing fronds of soft little leaves on dark stems makes it one of the best options for hanging planters.

Picture

Maidenhair Fern
Maidenhair Fern

3. Staghorn Fern

The names “staghorn fern” and “elkhorn fern” are often used interchangeably, although those with thinner fronds are often called elkhorn ferns.

These ferns are epiphytes, which means that they do not grow rooted in soil. Instead, they grow on other plants or trees in their native habitats and needs to be mounted.

As the name suggests, the fronds of this variety resemble the antlers of a stag. Reasonably easy to take care of as long as you make sure not to overwater, as it is susceptible to root rot.

Scientific name: Platycerium bifurcatum

Family: Polypodiaceae

Height/Width: up to 3 feet;  approx 2 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Medum- Low sunlight

USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-12

Suitable for: This plant is easy to grow and often grown as ornamental plants. In indoor cultivation, staghorn ferns are typically grown mounted on wooden boards, wire baskets, or on other supports that provide the essential perfect drainage.

Picture

 Staghorn Fern
Staghorn Fern

4. Holly Fern

A common name for multiple types having a similar appearance and growing conditions, including the Japanese and northern holly ferns. It’s a hardy plant that is drought-resistant and.  It has characteristic dark green shiny fronds with pointy edges that resemble that of holly plants.  Plant your holly fern in partial to full shade. It will grow best in loose, fertile, moist soil.

Scientific name: Cyrtomium falcatum

Height/Width:  1-2 feet; up to 3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Partial to full shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-11

Suitable for: Decks and porches and covered patios.

Picture

Holly Fern
Holly Fern

5. Blue Star Fern

The blue star fern is an epiphytic fern commonly known as ‘Golden Polypody’. It is a perfect indoor plant with its air-purifying powerhouse nature and can thrive well in low light conditions.

Well-drained moist soil is best for the growth of blue star fern. Natural potting soil gives good results.

The large blue-green fronds are tough enough to hold their shape and divide into multiple fingers to form a star-like shape.

Scientific name: Phlebodium Aureum

Sunlight Requirement: Indirect sunlight to full shade (15-25°C (55-80°F)

USDA Hardiness Zone: 9-12

Suitable for: placing indoors in decorative pot, plastic nursery pot or a hanging planter.

Picture

Blue Star Fern Pictures
Blue Star Fern Pictures

6. Cretan Brake Fern

Brake Fern adapts well to average indoor conditions, earning it another common name: Table Fern or Ribbon fern. It is an evergreen variety of ferns and is a lot easy to care for this plant making it a good choice for beginners.

This plant has long dark green-white leaves. Needs plenty of humidity and regular pruning of dead and discolored fronds to survive and grow.

Scientific name: Pteris Cretica

Family: Pteridaceae

Height/Width: about 30 inches; around 1 foot

Sunlight Requirement: Bright indirect sunlight

USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-10

Suitable for: Great potting plant for any room, or even the porch (as long as it gets enough humidity)

Picture

Cretan Brake Fern Pics
Cretan Brake Fern Pics

6. Button Fern

The name comes from the leathery small compact round button like leaves, attached to a long curvy stem that turns dark red as the plant matures.

Button ferns like enough water, but do not grow well in soggy soil. Let the top portion of soil dry out between waterings. If the fronds are green and not wilted, you’ve found a perfect happy medium.

Scientific name: Pellaea Rotundifolia

Height/Width: 1-1.5 feet; up to a foot

Sunlight Requirement: Ample of indirect sun

USDA Hardiness Zone: 9-11

Suitable for: Hanging planters; lace-like appearance creates a nice contrast with other ferns.

Picture

Button Fern Picture
Button Fern Picture

6. Bird’s Nest Fern

This fern is established by their ripple-edged fronds that grow out of a nest-like crown. Also known as crispy wave fern, plants that receive more light produce crinkled fronds resembling seaweed, while those growing in full shade have flat fronds more like proper leaves.

This plant required medium indirect sunlight and is not suited for intense, direct sun. This plant is not known to be toxic, but still, the best practice is always to keep houseplants out of reach of small children and pets.

This plant requires high humidity and needs watering 1-2 times a week depending on the soil condition. When growing in a container, it needs to be mounted on a wall, like the staghorn fern.

Scientific name: Asplenium nidus

Family: Aspleniaceae

Height/Width: 2-3 feet; 1-2 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Indirect sunlight

USDA Hardiness Zone: 9-11

Suitable for: Indoor Hanging planters, balcony gardens.

Picture

 Bird’s Nest Fern
Bird’s Nest Fern

7. Crocodile Fern

The Crocodile Fern, sometimes known as an alligator fern a Crocodylus fern or a crocodile plant, is a fern native to Australia with a slightly unusual texture on its leathery crinkled fronds that resembles a crocodile’s skin.

This rare fern is one of the most recognizable types. Being quite delicate, it cannot survive even the slightest hint of cold or frost. Thus making it most suitable only for growing as an indoor plant in most places. The plant grows well in high humidity and moist soil types.

Scientific name: Microsorum musifolium

Height/Width: Up to 4 feet; 3-4 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Filtered sun or full shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 9-10 (can be grown indoors in other zones)

Suitable for: Large planters, hanging baskets

Picture

Crocodile Fern
Crocodile Fern

8. Rabbit’s Foot Fern

The rabbit foot fern is a native of Fiji. The rabbit’s foot fern plant gets its name from the furry rhizomes that grow on top of the soil and resemble a rabbit’s foot.

It can be grown outdoors in warm climates but is quite suitable as an indoor fern as it can thrive in normal room temperatures and indirect sunlight.

During the day they like temperatures between 70 and 75 F. (21-24 C.), and slightly cooler temperatures at night. Never try to cover these growths with soil as that will lead to root rot. It can tolerate drying of the soil at times, but try to keep it constantly moist.

Scientific name: Davallia fejeensis

Family:

Height/Width: 1-3 feet; up to 2 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Bright indirect sun

USDA Hardiness Zone:  10-11

Suitable for: Outdoor decks, porches anywhere where the furry rhizomes will be visible.

Picture

Rabbit’s Foot Fern
Rabbit’s Foot Fern

9. Kangaroo Paw Fern

This plant is an Australian native fern, with the name ‘Kangaroo paw’ which refers to the long fronds of the fern, which resemble the big feet of the kangaroo.

It has dark green leathery fronds ( by 6-7 inches) and long spreading hairy rhizomes. The plant can tolerate some sunlight and frost. It has a low-growing spreading habit, so some care is needed to keep its growth in check in a pot. Try to keep its soil consistently moist, but be sure it does get soggy.

Scientific name: Microsorum diversifolium

Height/Width: 1-1.5 feet; up to 3 feet (or wider if growing outdoor)

Sunlight Requirement: Indirect sun/partial shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 9-12

Suitable for: Hanging planters; good for groundcover when growing outdoors.

Picture

Kangaroo Paw Fern Pics
Kangaroo Paw Fern Pics

10. Lemon Button Fern

This compact and neat looking plant is also called fishbone fern. It is highly preferred to use in shaded landscapes and flower beds to give a beautiful look to the garden.

It grows well in regular moist soil and can thrive in a relatively salty soil near the seaside climate areas too. Do not confuse this fern with button fern, though this one lacks the reddish color of stems.

Scientific name: Nephrolepis cordifolia “Duffii”

Family: Polypodiaceae

Height/Width: 1 foot; about 1 foot

Sunlight Requirement: Ample indirect sun

USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-11

Suitable for: Hanging planters, ornamental houseplant

Picture

Lemon Button Fern
Lemon Button Fern

Different Types of Outdoor Ferns

1. Australian Tree Fern

As suggested by the name, it is one of the large tree fern types growing 2-4 m (up to 14 feet) tall. It is a native of north-eastern Australia.

Not tolerant of drought at all, the Australian tree fern needs weekly watering to keep the soil moist at all times.

Scientific name: Cyathea cooperi

Family: Cyatheaceae

Height/Width: Up to 30-40 feet; 3-10 (tree crown)

Sunlight Requirement: Indirect sunlight in partial to full shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 10-11

Suitable for: Shaded gardens, borders in large gardens, outdoor container planting.

Picture

Australian Tree Fern
Australian Tree Fern

2. Ostrich Fern

This long fern produces majestic fronds that can unfurl to up to 5 feet in length, giving the plant a wild vase shape. It gets its name owing to its straight soft feathery fronds that resemble ostrich tail feathers.

It needs regular watering to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Watering less frequently can help in controlling its growth rate.

Scientific name: Matteuccia struthiopteris

Family: Onocleaceae

Class: Polypodiopsida

Height/Width: 4-6 feet/up to 5 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Partial to full shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 – 8

Suitable for: Tall hedges, borders, groundcovers and planting with flowers like rose.

Picture

Ostrich Fern
Ostrich Fern

3. Japanese Painted Fern

Its silvery foliage and dark reddish-purple or burgundy stem give the Japanese Painted Fern a unique appearance. This unique plant is quite beautiful and will add to the work of art in your garden or outdoors.

It needs compost-rich well-drained soil with regular watering. Quite cold-hardy, it can tolerate temperatures down to -30°F.

Scientific name: Athyrium niponicum pictum

Family: Athyriaceae

Height/Width: 1-2 feet; up to 2 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Partial sun to full shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4- 8

Suitable for: Ground cover, hedges, and mass planting for summer gardens as it sheds its leaves in winter.

Picture

Japanese Painted Fern Picture
Japanese Painted Fern Picture

4. Cinnamon Fern

It grows two distinct types of fronds – large, showy, sterile dark green fronds surrounding the plume-like fertile ones at the center, resembling cinnamons.

This fern type can easily be grown in medium to wet soils in part shade to full shade. It prefers moist, rich, humusy, acidic soils, but adapts to lesser conditions.

Commonly growing in swampy areas, it can survive in various soil types including lime soil, and tolerate some direct sunlight, though then it cannot attain its maximum height.

Scientific name: Osmunda Cinnamomea

Family: Osmundaceae

Height/Width: 2-4 feet; 2-3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Partial to full shade (can thrive in full sun if stays in standing water all day)

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-10

Suitable for: Groundcover (especially for any swampy areas), borders, a backdrop for flowering plants, around pools and water gardens.

Picture

Cinnamon Fern
Cinnamon Fern

5. Christmas Fern

An evergreen fern that holds its fountain-like vibrant green foliage in the winter, though they may lie somewhat flat to the ground when it’s too cold.

It grows nicely in well-drained moist soil, but can survive in dry conditions also, though might not grow as well. It can also tolerate some direct sunlight when the soil is kept wet.

Scientific name: Polystichum acrostichoides

Family: Dryopteridaceae

Height/Width: 1-2 feet; 2-3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Partial to full shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Suitable for: Mass planting, ground cover in shade gardens, short hedges.

Picture

Christmas fern
Christmas fern

6. Mother Fern

Produces delicate arching fronds that hang gracefully, resembling carrot greens. Tiny plantlets grow from the frond-edges of mature plants, earning its name. Evergreen in warmer climates with consistently moist soil. It can tolerate cold climate conditions, but only for a short period.

Scientific name: Asplenium viviparum

Family: Aspleniaceae

Height/Width: 1-3 feet; up t 3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Partial to full shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 9-11 (for growing outdoor)

Suitable for: Groundcover in shaded areas in your garden

mother fern
mother fern

7. Chain Fern

A tall, wide variety with a unique appearance where the veins of the fronds create a feathery net-like pattern. The plant has a compact form, with rosettes of glossy dark green fronds, not growing out of control easily. If they get enough water, established plants can survive in full sun.

Scientific name: Woodwardia

Family: Blechnaceae

Height/Width: 4-5 feet; up to 5 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Partial shade

USDA Hardiness Zone:8-10

Suitable for:  Tall borders, hedges in areas where you can have some privacy

 Chain Fern
Chain Fern

8. Royal Fern

Also known as the flowering fern, the fronds appear pinkish when they appear in spring, later turning bright green. Produces copper or brown fertile flower spikes. Automatically adds a natural wild charm to any shaded soggy area in your garden. It can take full sun when gets lots of moisture every day.

Scientific name: Osmunda regalis

Family: Osmundaceae

Height/Width: 2-5 feet; up to 3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Partial shade (early morning and evening sun)

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Suitable for: Planting medium for orchids and other similar flowers, groundcover, garden borders

Royal Fern (Osmundaceae)
Royal Fern (Osmundaceae)

9. Hart’s Tongue Fern

With its long dark green fronds that look more like leaves, this one has a unique appearance. Mature leaves have long dark brown marks – the sori containing the spores. Evergreen plants remain green and lush throughout the year.

Scientific name: Asplenium scolopendrium

Family: Aspleniaceae

Height/Width: 1-2 feet; up to 2 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Ample filtered sun

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Suitable for: Edging, groundcovers, underplanting for flowers like roses, as well as shrubs.

Hart’s Tongue Fern
Hart’s Tongue Fern

10. Japanese Tassel Fern

Another evergreen variety with graceful, arching fronds that alone grow over a foot in length. Immature fronds bend backward and hang like tassels before straightening themselves gradually. It has a slow growth rate, being short yet robust when mature.

Scientific name: Polystichum polyblepharum

Family: Polystichum – Ferns

Height/Width: 2 feet; 2-3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full shade or filtered sun

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Suitable for: Evergreen hedges, borders, shade gardens, underplanting for ornamental trees like Japanese weeping maple

japanese tassel fern
japanese tassel fern

11. Western Sword Fern

A classic variety with the typical appearance of fern, characterized by glossy dark green toothed fronds growing in bunches. Requires consistently moist soil, but does not tolerate overwatering.

Scientific name: Polystichum munitum

Family: Dryopteridaceae

Height/Width: 2-4 feet; 2-3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Partial sun to full shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Suitable for: Groundcover, hedges, poolside planting, container planting

12. Leatherleaf Fern

Evergreen plants growing dark green glossy leathery fronds. Plants need constantly moist yet well-drained soil to thrive, but can survive in less than perfect conditions, maintaining its green and vigorous foliage for a considerable time.

Scientific name: Rumohra adiantiformis

Family:Dryopteridaceae

Height/Width: 2-3 feet; up to 3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Indirect sun or full shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-11

Suitable for: Groundcover, underplanting for flowers and ornamental bushes, outdoor large hanging planters

13. Autumn Fern

Derives its name from the golden or copper red papery appearance of its young fronds that appear in spring, gradually turning dark green as they mature by summer. Has inspired a number of cultivars and varieties, with ‘brilliance’ being a popular one. Evergreen in frost-free regions, but can grow as deciduous in colder areas.

Scientific Name:

Family:

Height/Width: 2-3 feet; up to 2 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Suitable for: Borders, hedges, mass planting

 

14. Lady in Red Fern

A soft-textured type with lacy bright green foliage extending from red or purple stems. Though a perennial, it is hardier to draught and sunlight than other similar ferns. Relatively low-maintenance, and has a slow growth rate.

Scientific Name:

Family:

Height/Width: 2-3 feet; 3-4 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full to partial shade

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Suitable for: Companion planting along with flowers like plantain lilies, foamflowers, and coral bells.

The fiddleheads of certain ferns, including the western sword, ostrich, and royal are edible, commonly eaten as a vegetable.

Though do not consider using all fern types for edible purposes as some have carcinogenic or cancer-causing effects.

Aquarium Fern Types

1. African Water Fern

A delicate fern with attractive dark green fronds that work well for soft water aquariums, the African water fern is also easy to take care of once established. Though slow-growing, it does get quite tall and works well as a bottom plant.

Height/Width: 1-1.5 feet; 0.5-1 feet

Ideal for: Aquarium planting as background or foreground

2. Java Fern

Not exactly a houseplant as it is popular as an aquarium plant, there are various leaf shapes available, like ‘lance’, ‘needle’, and ‘trident’. Can grow half or fully submerged in water, and has a slow growth rate. The long curvy ‘leaves’ look nice when floating in tank water. Does well with occasional indirect sunlight.

Height/Width: 1-1.5 feet; up to 1 foot

Ideal for:Aquarium planting as background

 

 

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