Just was wondering if you could see why my fern is looking the worse for wear. I know humidity is a big factor. I’m going to buy a spray bottle today, but other than that I’m not sure what to try. We have a birds of paradise in the same room and it is doing fine. Thoughts? The photo shows that the top leaves are fine. The bottom leaves are dry but not crumbly. They are off coloured. They don’t look dead, just not doing too well.
I’d suggest you first have the plant positively identified. From your photo, it appears the plant is an Areca palm, not a fern. But there is a lot of overlap in care for these two types of plants.
Let’s discuss fern care first. Briefly, ferns are happiest
- When the temperature is relatively consistent, with a drop of 5 degrees Celsius at night. They do not like drafts or excessive heat (don’t place them near a working radiator).
- Where the humidity is relatively high. Mist the plant a couple of times a day with room temperature water, not cold. Cold water may cause the leaves to look spotty. You can also put the pot on a pebble-lined tray to which water is added. The bottom of the pot should not touch the water but just rest on the stones. This provides additional humidity, as the water evaporates.
- When they are not overwatered – soil should be kept moist, not soggy.
- In humus-rich soil. Your plant may need repotting. Now, in early Spring, is a great time to repot the plant.
- If they are fertilized lightly during active growth periods (spring, summer). It’s the end of March now so start fertilizing once a month, until October.
- When they are grown in filtered or diffuse light.
For more details, see
- Growing ferns as houseplants: A Toronto master gardeners guide and
- University of Vermont Extension, Growing ferns successfully indoors.
That being said, as noted above, your plant looks like an Areca palm, Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, Areca lutescens, Dypsis lutescens, or more commonly known as Golden Cane Palm, Bamboo Palm or Butterfly Palm, rather than a fern. Much of the information provided above regarding ferns also applies to caring for the Areca palm – temperature, humidity, not over watering. There are two exceptions, which are lighting requirements and fertilization. So I suggest that you,
- Fertilize the plant, starting now in the early Spring. Arecas are heavy feeders, unlike ferns.
- Ensure it has bright, but indirect, light. In winter, move it to the area with the brightest light possible – a south or west facing window.
- Repot it every 2-3 years. This not only replenishes the soil, but also gets rid of salt deposits from fertilizer and water. Yours may need repotting. Now’s a good time…
For further details, see
- Royal Horticultural Society. Palms: indoors.