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When and How Often to Water Your Fern (Best Practices)

Watering your fern correctly involves a few simple steps. Use distilled water, ideally at room temperature or slightly warm, to maintain a moist root ball.

Be mindful that the water should drain well from the pot as waterlogging can lead to root rot in your fern. If the fern appears underwatered or its leaves look dry, a gentle spray of water on the leaves can be beneficial.

Are you wondering about the exact quantity and frequency of watering needed to avoid both underwatering and overwatering your fern?

Don’t fret! I have assisted numerous friends who faced the same challenge. I’ll share some straightforward tips to prevent you from ever watering your ferns incorrectly.

Ferns in hanging baskets.

How Often and How to Water Ferns

Ferns are tropical plants, naturally accustomed to abundant rainfall and humidity. To keep your fern healthy and thriving, try to emulate this environment by providing consistent moisture to the root zone and maintaining a good level of humidity.

However, take care to avoid overwatering or allowing stagnant water to sit in the pot, as this could cause wilting.

Conversely, if your fern is underwatered or lacks moisture, it may start shedding leaves, which is also a sign of stress due to prolonged sun exposure or an overly hot environment.

Determining when to water your fern might seem tricky, but a simple trick has saved me from the hassle of setting alarms or falling into inconsistent watering habits.

The key is to check the soil in your pot using your finger. If the top 2 inches (about 5 cm) of soil feel dry, it’s time to water your fern. If it feels moist, you can afford to wait another day or two.

If you’re dealing with a severely dehydrated fern, merely pouring water into the pot isn’t the solution. You need to immerse the pot in water, either in a bucket or your sink.

Remember, when watering, the excess water should drain out of the pot through the drainage holes. This helps prevent any water accumulation or stagnation in the root zone, which could lead to root rot.

You don’t need to maintain a journal of your watering schedule or remember the specifics of how much or how often to water your fern.

The finger test method by feeling the potting mix is the simplest and most effective way to keep your ferns watered correctly. Trust me; it works like a charm in my experience.

Tips for Watering Your Ferns

Here are some important considerations for watering your ferns, particularly during the growth phase in spring and summer. Ferns require ample water during these seasons, and even slight overdrying can cause the young shoots to fall off.

It’s recommended to check your fern’s moisture level daily during summer. Aim to water in the morning to protect your fern from heat stress throughout the day. Avoid only wetting the top layer of the soil as it won’t sufficiently reach the root zone.

When watering, ensure you provide enough water so that it seeps through the drainage holes of the pot, guaranteeing the water reaches the root zone.

Avoid watering your ferns with tap or city water as it contains chloride, fluoride, and other salts. These elements are mixed into city water to make it drinkable and safe for human consumption.

Chloride eliminates microbes in the water, while fluoride promotes teeth and bone health in children.

Always try to use filtered or distilled water for your ferns. If you don’t have access to distilled water, fill a container with tap water and let it sit overnight.

This way, all the salts and minerals will settle at the bottom, and you can use the clearer water on top for your fern.

Regardless of the type of water you’re using, it’s recommended to water from above. Any salts in the water will be filtered by the topsoil before reaching the roots.

As there aren’t many roots in the top layer of the soil, any salts from the water won’t significantly harm the plant. However, it’s still best to use filtered water, rainwater, or melted snow.

Another important aspect we often overlook is the need to clear away any accumulated water in the pot’s saucer, especially during fall and winter.

If water isn’t accumulating in the saucer but remains at the surface of the soil, you should check the drainage holes to ensure they’re not clogged.

Sometimes, if the soil is very dry, water may flow quickly to the saucer. This happens when water runs through the space surrounding the walls of the pot, not having enough time to moisten the soil.

In this case, as mentioned before, you should submerge your pot for a few minutes, watering it until it seeps down through the drainage hole.

Understanding Underwatered Versus Overwatered Ferns

As an indoor gardener, one of the most crucial skills you need to develop is understanding your plants’ needs, particularly regarding water requirements. Ferns, like other houseplants, require a balanced watering routine.

If your fern starts to look distressed, the first step is to assess whether underwatering or overwatering could be the culprit.

Here’s a comparison table highlighting the differences between underwatered and overwatered ferns:

ConditionLeaf StateLeaf ColorLeaf Texture
UnderwateringWilting and droopingBrowning at the tipsNormal to dry
OverwateringWiltingTurning yellowSoft and soggy

Though these symptoms may sound alike at first, with experience and careful observation, you’ll soon become proficient at distinguishing between them.

If the plant itself isn’t showing clear signs of either condition, another reliable method is to feel the soil. This tactile approach can provide a wealth of insight into your fern’s hydration status.

Common Mistakes in Watering Fern

Observing ferns thriving in the wild, often in dense forests or on damp river banks, it’s only natural to want to recreate these conditions at home.

However, one crucial aspect often overlooked is the free-draining nature of the soil in these outdoor environments.

When it comes to potted soils, they don’t drain as quickly. So, contrary to what one might think, you should refrain from watering your indoor ferns as frequently as nature would in the wild.

Humidity is another critical factor for ferns. While wild conditions might offer humidity levels as high as 70%, achieving these levels in a typical home is practically impossible. Nonetheless, your fern will be quite content with humidity levels between 30% and 50%.

Boosting the humidity level around your fern can be achieved in several ways.

One way is to purchase a plant humidifier. These are popular with indoor plant enthusiasts and come in a variety of price ranges to suit your budget.

A less expensive alternative is grouping plants together, allowing them to create their own microclimate.

You could also fill your plant’s saucer with pebbles and add water. The pot can then rest on the pebbles, without its base in the water. As the water evaporates, it will enhance the humidity around your fern.

Another favored method among fern growers is placing the plant pot inside a larger one and filling the gap between the two with moss. Keeping this moss wet will help to increase the humidity as the water evaporates.

Ferns need bright light, but direct sun can harm them. This makes ferns perfect indoor plants. While south-facing window sills might be too sunny, other windowsills in your home are typically ideal.

Bathrooms can also make great homes for ferns, provided they receive some natural light. They often have high humidity levels, which your fern will adore.

Key Takeaways

Ferns are big fans of humidity and they rely on it to stay healthy and ward off pests. As soon as the thermometer creeps above 60 °F (16°C), it’s crucial to shower your ferns with enough water to keep their root ball consistently damp.

Please also remember these handy tips for watering your ferns:

  1. Treat your indoor ferns to distilled water, or let tap water stand before using it.
  2. Use lukewarm water rather than cold for a soothing drink.
  3. Make sure to set up good drainage before you plant – ferns dislike having wet feet!
  4. Be mindful to avoid waterlogging. Ferns love a drink but they don’t want to go swimming.
  5. Give your indoor ferns an extra spritz to replicate their natural habitat.
  6. Mulch your outdoor ferns to lock in moisture and cut down on your watering duties.

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