Ferns are popular plants for indoors. But some do better than others with the low light and low humidity levels found inside during the winter. This segment shows a fern that's best suited for outdoors, and an unusual fern than can become a conversation piece for your home.

Produced by the Department of Communications at Kansas State University. For more information, visit our website at: http://www.kansasgreenyards.org

Growing Indoor Ferns

Tropical foliage plants used as hanging baskets in our homes have been very popular for many years. This Boston fern has just one problem. It has an extremely high light requirement. It’s a full sun plant – outdoor full sun. It looks great on a Kansas farmhouse hanging on the front porch.

But unfortunately, we then to bring it indoors, and it sheds leaves because we don’t have enough light. After a week or two of not much light a few leaves will turn yellow and fall on the floor. We vacuum them up. The next day, there will be a few more leaves on our carpet, and we vacuum them up. Then, we decide to park the vacuum cleaner next to the plant. So, my common name for this plant is the vacuum cleaner plant.

It has a very high light requirement, and it doesn’t make a good indoor plant unless you live in a green house. So the best thing to do is to put it in a sun porch where it won’t freeze. It will take up to forty degrees. So we can keep it cold with as much bright light as we can get. View the Boston fern as something that we want to survive the winter indoors, and then put it outside for the summer months. That’s an appropriate use. However, if we think it’s primarily a houseplant and try to beautify our interior décor with it on a year-round basis, it just doesn’t work.

A much better substitute would be this Rabbit’s Foot fern. They’re fuzzy and soft, and it’s a very light airy fern that is used to be hanging up. It takes the low humidity indoors in the winter, and it takes a much lower light level than most ferns. It’s an excellent choice for a traditional appearing indoor fern. And the rabbit’s feet, or furry rhizomes, form a nice conversation piece as well.

This feature story prepared with Alan Stevens, retired Kansas State University Research and Extension State Leader, Horticulture. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.

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