Many plant enthusiasts love ferns for their bright green foliage and their tolerance to shade. They make the perfect house plant for those who don’t have direct sunlight in their homes and tend to overwater their plants. They also work well in the shady parts of the garden that can’t seem to grow anything.
There are thousands of varieties of ferns available to choose from. Some are tropical, and some can withstand harsh winters. When given the right conditions, some ferns may live for 100 years, making it a generational plant that can be passed down from parent to child.
25 Types of Ferns:
- Autumn Fern
- Basket Fern
- Bird’s Nest Fern
- Brazilian Tree Fern
- Christmas Fern
- Deer Fern
- Eagle Fern
- Elkhorn Fern
- Giant Fern
- Golden Zebra Fern
- Hart’s-tongue Fern
- Himalayan Maidenhair Fern
- Japanese Painted Fern‘
- Kangaroo Fern
- Lady Fern
- Leatherleaf Fern
- Maidenhair Fern
- Man Fern
- Marsh Fern
- Monarch Fern
- New York Fern
- Ostrich Fern
- Rabbit’s Foot Fern
- Resurrection Fern
- Whisk Fern
How Do Ferns Grow?
Ferns are perennials, which means they come back year after year until they die of old age. Perennials will lose foliage at different times of the year, depending on what type of perennial they are. There are four different types of perennials: evergreen, deciduous, herbaceous, and semi-deciduous. The fern family is so large that there are ferns in each of these four categories.
Evergreen is the easiest to remember – they’re forever green. Evergreen ferns will keep green leaves all year long. You will notice that some of the foliage will die throughout the year, but this normal. All plants have to lose leaves at some point, but there will always be living leaves on an evergreen.
Deciduous ferns will lose their leaves during the winter. Deciduous plants keep their woody branches despite having lost all their leaves. Unless the temperature was too cold during the winter, the deciduous fern will grow its leaves back in the spring.
Herbaceous ferns are a type of deciduous fern that behaves a little differently. Instead of retaining branches, the entire plant dies except for the roots. All leaves and branches will die in the winter, but they’ll come back in the spring. There are some types of herbaceous plants that will lose their leaves in the summer instead of winter.
Also called semi-evergreen, semi-deciduous ferns will lose some of their leaves during winter or summer. They will retain some foliage all year long like an evergreen but lose some of it at specific points in the year, like a deciduous plant.
Where Do Ferns Grow?
Take a walk through a home improvement store with a plant section, and you’ll probably find several ferns marketed as house plants. Many plant lovers grow ferns inside their homes, but where are they native to?
Ferns typically lie low to the ground and grow around tall trees because they’re shade lovers that can’t tolerate full sun and need plenty of water to stay happy. Tropical rainforests provide plenty of shade and water, so ferns are so prolific in those areas of the world.
Homeowners can grow ferns in their yards if they take the time to make sure the plant has the right conditions. The plant will need minimal direct sun and will need the soil to stay moist but not soggy. They may be more challenging to keep alive in areas that receive harsh temperatures in summer or winter.
Many tropical plants can be kept as indoor plants, and ferns are no exception. With the right care, ferns can last for many years as a house plant.
The key to keeping ferns alive inside is to mimic their natural habitat. They don’t like full sun, so keeping them away from windows is ideal for preventing them from having sunscald. Since they like moisture, you may need to water them more often than your other plants. A plastic pot with a drainage hole will prevent the soil from becoming soggy but will help it keep the right amount of moisture.
25 Types of Ferns
1. Autumn Fern
The autumn fern is aptly named for its beautiful red and green foliage. The young leaves in the spring will have a bright red color and will turn to a deep green as it matures. This fern requires partial or full shade and frequent water to stay healthy.
2. Basket Fern
Basket fern is the common name for the genus of ferns called Aglaomorpha. These ferns grow on trees or rocks in their natural habitat, making them a challenging plant to grow. But, it can be done with continual care and determination.
As an indoor plant, this fern should be watered almost every day, kept away from direct sunlight, and receive very little fertilizer. But, it can be done with continual care and determination.
3. Bird’s Nest Fern
The middle of a bird’s nest fern looks like a bird’s nest, which is how this plant got its name. Many people enjoy growing this fern inside because its leaves look like seaweed. Its crumpled leaves get their shape from the amount of sunlight it receives.
The more light it gets, the more crumpled it’ll look. However, too much light will give it sunscald and may kill it.
4. Brazilian Tree Fern
The Brazilian tree fern is a tree-like fern that grows a thin trunk up to 1 foot (30 centimeters) tall. New growth will have red or pink trunks and fronds. As the plant matures, the foliage will turn to a deep green with a glossy finish.
This plant can’t survive temperatures lower than 59°F (15°C), so it can’t be grown unprotected in many temperate areas.
5. Christmas Fern
The Christmas fern is an evergreen fern. It got its name because it stays green through the winter season. It may lose old foliage throughout the year, but it will always have some green leaves. Its small pinnae resemble pine trees, making them a great plant to keep around during the winter holidays.
6. Deer Fern
Deer ferns are evergreens that can survive cool temperatures in the winter. They’re great to have in gardens because they keep green foliage even when all the other plants have died. The plant can grow 2 feet (61 centimeters) tall and wide, making them perfect for the borders of gardens.
7. Eagle Fern
The eagle fern, or bracken fern, is a delicate-looking plant but can quickly become invasive if given the proper conditions. The average height is 3-4 feet (about 1 meter), but it can reach as tall as 7 feet (2.1 meters).
The eagle fern may take over the area and may prevent other plants from growing. This fern is unique because it requires full sun and is edible, but it can be toxic if not prepared carefully.
8. Elkhorn Fern
The elkhorn, or staghorn, fern gets its name from the antler-shaped foliage. The leaves branch out in two directions, and each one of those branches out into two separate pieces, and the pattern continues.
This fern is prone to black spot disease, so keep humidity levels low and avoid getting the leaves wet when watering it. It usually grows on trees in its natural habitat, so it will require very little soil at home.
9. Giant Fern
The giant fern gets its name from its massive size that towers over other types of ferns. The rhizome, or stem, that it grows from is trunk-like, reaching up to 3.3 feet (1 meter) in diameter. The individual fronds are glossy and green and can reach up to 30 feet (9 meters) long and 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) wide. This fern has to be brought inside during cool weather.
10. Golden Zebra Fern
The golden zebra fern gets its name from the striking zebra stripes on the pinnae. The yellow and green foliage on this evergreen plant is sure to bring much-needed color to gardens during the winter. This plant thrives with full sun and generous watering.
11. Hart’s-tongue Fern
The hart’s-tongue fern is unique because the pinnae are detached, making each frond look like a singular leaf. The spores on the underside of the pinnae look like stripes instead of spots, which is unusual for ferns.
12. Himalayan Maidenhair Fern
The contrast of the black stems and the delicate foliage on the Himalayan maidenhair fern makes this plant stand out from the others. It grows best in the shade with plenty of water. It’s an evergreen fern unless temperatures fall below 14°F (-10°C), so it should stay green all year long unless the winter is too harsh.
13. Japanese Painted Fern
If you’re looking for interesting colors to bring to your garden, the Japanese painted fern will deliver. This plant has silver foliage with red stems and will thrive in the shaded parts of the garden. The warmer the temperature, the more shade it will require. If grown indoors, it should be kept in bright, indirect light.
14. Kangaroo Fern
The kangaroo fern is native to Australia. Its long fronds resemble the length of a kangaroo’s feet, which is how it got its name. This fern is herbaceous, so its glossy green leaves and the stems will die back in the winter. If grown in the ground, it will spread out by the rhizomes and can be divided into separate plants.
15. Lady Fern
Lady ferns have long, bright green foliage. The pinnae on the fronds are thin and small, giving the plant a feathery, delicate look. The fern prefers shade and plenty of water, but it can be slightly drought resistant if it receives enough shade. There are several varieties of lady ferns, and some can handle hot temperatures, such as the Southern lady fern.
16. Leatherleaf Fern
The leatherleaf fern is an evergreen plant that has leathery green foliage. The plant thrives in a tropical environment with warm winters and plenty of moisture throughout the year. The plant grows well in containers and hanging baskets, so it’s a great house plant in colder climates.
17. Maidenhair Fern
Maidenhair fern is the common name for the Adiantum genus of ferns which contains at least 200 varieties. These ferns usually have black stems and fan-shaped leaves. A unique aspect of maidenhair ferns is that their leaves repel water. When it rains, you can see the droplets roll off the plant. It’s a slow-growing plant, so it will take some patience to see this one reach full size.
18. Man Fern
The man fern has dark green foliage that stays green all year long. In its natural habitat, this fern can grow up to 49 feet (15 meters), but usually reaches up to 16 feet (5 meters) in other parts of the world. The plant is native to Australia and prefers partial shade and moist soil.
19. Marsh Fern
Marsh ferns are native to North America, Asia, and Europe. These ferns are deciduous so they’ll lose their fronds in the winter when it gets cold and will come back each spring. The foliage looks wispy since the leaves are small and thin, making them the perfect native plant to add interest to outdoor gardens.
20. Monarch Fern
Monarch ferns have drooping leaves with wart-like spores on the underside. This plant can grow up trees and around rocks, so if it’s given the right conditions outdoors, it will likely spread wherever it can. This plant prefers shade and makes the perfect indoor plant since its droopy leaves hang well from a basket or planter.
21. New York Fern
The New York fern earned its name by being native to the northeastern part of the United States. The plant will only grow to be about 2 feet (60 centimeters) tall. Its native environment is marshy forests with plenty of shade and water. Whether you grow this fern inside or out, it should be kept out of the direct sun and have good drainage.
22. Ostrich Fern
The ostrich fern is native to North America and can survive temperatures as low as −35 °F (−37.2 °C). This fern gets its name from its tall feathery fronds that can reach up to 6 feet (2 meters). They prefer shade and lots of water. This plant is a slow grower and may stop growing foliage to produce a robust root system.
23. Rabbit’s Foot Fern
The rabbit’s foot fern is a great plant to grow indoors. It gets its name from the hairy rhizomes that grow above the ground. When planted in a pot, the rabbit-like rhizomes will spill over the sides, making the plant even more interesting to look at. This plant should be kept out of direct sunlight, watered frequently, and the visible rhizomes should be misted frequently.
24. Resurrection Fern
The resurrection fern is native to the southeastern United States and typically grows on oak trees. This glossy green fern turns grey when it loses all of its water content during droughts but will turn green again when it has water. The plant doesn’t die during this time, even if it looks grey, and is an evergreen that will stay alive all year long. To avoid turning grey, this plant should receive frequent waterings.
25. Whisk Fern
Whisk ferns are a unique type of fern that doesn’t look like any other kind. Instead of fronds with spores on the underside, it grows what looks to be like stems with little buds on them. The buds function the same as typical spores do.
The stems look like a broom or wire whisk, which is how it gets its name. This plant is highly adaptable and can grow in full shade or full sun as long as it gets enough water.