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How Much & How Often to Water Ferns: Facts & FAQ

fern leaves close up

Although often treated as flowers, ferns existed hundreds of millions of years before plants did. They are unusual because rather than reproducing via seeding, they produce spores that spread and grow to become a gametophyte. Ferns do best in a partially shaded location and might struggle when in full sunlight or full shade, but as long as you provide them with suitable conditions, indoor ferns can live for years or even tens of years in your home.

Read on for more details about ferns, including how often to water them and how to tell when it is time to get the watering can out.

garden flower divider

How to Tell When It’s Time to Water a Fern

Ferns do not need to be watered too often, but the actual frequency will depend on a variety of factors including temperature, humidity, and how much sun or shade they receive. It will also depend on the time of year. Rather than sticking to a strict schedule, the best way to determine how often to water a fern is to check the soil. Stick your finger about an inch into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. If the soil is still damp, there’s no need to water.

How Much Water to Give Ferns

Give the plant a reasonable amount of water: at least enough to ensure that the top of the soil is damp and try to avoid overwatering. Ferns that are planted in the garden will not usually need to be watered as often because they will get moisture from the soil and the environment around them. Indoor ferns may need watering every couple of days, depending on the humidity levels in your home.

Woman watering a potted fern indoor
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Feeding Fern Seedlings

Seedlings need water to be able to grow strong and healthy, but, as with adult ferns, you need to avoid overwatering. With seedlings, it is best to water little and often. Seedling bunches can soak up water very quickly, so if you do grow in bunches, pay special attention to the dampness of their soil.

Can You Overwater Ferns?

Overwatering and underwatering are probably the most common reasons that ferns die. If you notice the leaves of the fern wilting, check the soil. If the soil is dry, you are likely underwatering. If the soil is wet, rather than damp, and the plant is wilting, it could mean that you are watering too much and too often.

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What’s the Best Way to Water Ferns?

Ideally, you should avoid watering the foliage directly and provide water to the soil around the base of the plant. Use a mister to ensure good coverage of the area without damaging the soil and roots below. These plants prefer humid conditions, so try to find suitable locations around your home or in your garden. The bathroom is a good spot for growing ferns.

How Long Can Ferns Go Without Water?

As a general rule, plants can go around a week without water. A well-established fern may be able to survive a little longer. This means that it could be 10 days or more since the last watering before a plant dies from a lack of watering, but you should ensure that your ferns do not reach this point. Underwatering can cause damage and may prevent further growth while also leading to wilting of the leaves.

beautiful fern leaves
Image Credit: 652234, Pixabay

Do Ferns Need Sun or Shade?

Many ferns prefer full or partial shade which means not too much sunlight but also not too little. Some varieties do better with total shade than others, so do check the type that you are growing to ensure you provide optimal growing conditions and get the best results from your new plant.

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Ferns have been around for hundreds of millennia and while most plants reproduce by producing and spreading seeds, ferns produce spores. When it comes to fern care, try to provide shade or at least partial shade, and ensure that the soil is damp but not soaking wet or bone dry. This level of moisture will give your fern the best chance to grow big and healthy. They prefer watering little and often, rather than being given huge volumes of water less often.

See also: Is My Fern Dead? (9 Signs to Look For)

Featured Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay


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