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31 Types of Ferns

Ferns are thought to be one of the oldest living plants. If you are interested in learning more about the different types of ferns and which is the best one for you, then you are in the right place.

Image with cream background, variety of leaves of different types of ferns

Ferns are thought to be one of the oldest living plants. You can find outdoor and indoor types of ferns. Typically, a fern has leaves, which are also referred to as fronds, that flow, and drape. The leaves give a dramatic look to any setting. 

Ferns reproduce by spores, and they do not produce seeds or flowers. They will stay green just about all year long, regardless of the season. They rarely change color. They flourish in tropical settings, but there are some ferns that enjoy colder weather. 

There are over 20,000 known fern species that grow around the globe. They like partial shade and can grow in brightly lit areas as long as they do not have direct sunlight. Ferns are rugged and rarely have pest infestations or disease. They can be grown by even novice garners. 

If you are interested in learning more about the different types of ferns and which is the best one for you, then you are in the right place. But, first, we will discuss all the various indoor and outdoor ferns. 

Indoor Ferns

Ancient Fern Plants

Outdoor image of large trees with green plants growing around the base of the trees, sunny day

Ancient ferns are often considered tree ferns. This is the oldest of all the ferns. The fronds of the ancient fern are found at the top of the trunk. These trunks are often fibrous. 

These ferns are different from temperate ferns because they grow directly from the rootstock. The ancient fern species can handle colder climates. This is an ideal plant to keep indoors. 

Austral Gem Bird’s Nest Fern Plants

Table with white and black stripped towel, cream flower pot with a green Austral Gem Birds Nest Fern planted in it, large pointy leaves

The Austral Gem Bird’s Nest Fern is an organic fern. This fern has deep green, large, and lancing foliage that also has jagged edges. The fronds look similar to spears. They are also wavy and brown.

This fern enjoys a good amount of moisture. It would grow better outside in a climate that is damp and rainy. This fern grows yes in moist soil with rocks and growing trees. It does require a low amount of light, which makes it ideal for indoors. 

The Austral Gem Bird’s Nest Fern is large when it is mature, and it requires a significant amount of spacing. This is a wild fern, and it requires high humidity and a decent amount of light to keep it under control. However, this fern is non-toxic to pets. 

Boston Fern Plants

Metal pot with a small leave green Boston fern sitting on a wooden stool

Boston ferns is one of the more popular varieties of houseplant ferns. It can grow wild outdoors in various regions. This is also referred to as a sword fern.

The Boston fern has green dark leaves that have indents that are deep and evenly spaced in the edges. These fronds of these ferns enjoy a light misting on a regular and frequent basis. They will grow large.

Boston fern requires some basic care with indirect but bright light, high humidity, and soil that is moist and well-draining. These ferns do not want fertilizer as they are sensitive, and it will kill them. However, it does want a warmer climate. 

This fern usually has fronds that are three feet long. This is a non-toxic fern making it safe for pets. It might enjoy being in your bathroom, where there is more humidity. 

Cloverleaf Fern Plants

Close up of a Cloverleaf Fern, green clover shaped leaves with little water droplets on them

Cloverleaf Fern grows just about everywhere. It completely covers the ground. Therefore, it can provide great ground cover if that is what you want. It is considered to be a complete plant, which is rare for ferns. It has roots, stems, and leaves.

Cretan Brake Fern Plants

Close up of a Cretan Brake Fern, long skinny leaves, white in the center and green on the edges

The Cretan Brake Fern is a bushy fern that has sword like leaves that are long. These leaves have deep green edges surrounding a pale green inside. This is an easy to grow fern which makes it an ideal houseplant. It loves shade and a tropical climate. 

This fern grows to about one to two and half feet tall. It comes in various shapes and colors. It does require pricing to get rid of dying fronds. However, this allows it to remain healthy. 

Delta Maidenhair Fern

Delta Maidenhair Fern, lots of small green leaves on thin branches

The Delta Maidenhair Ferns are on the more delicate indoor types of ferns. It is a unique looking plant that has small leaves and a thin black stem. This type of fern is slightly difficult to grow because it needs a large amount of humidity. 

The Delta Maidenhair Fern does really well in bathrooms because of the high amount of humidity. However, this fern does not do well in direct sunlight. It also does not want its leaves misted. This fern grows to one and a half feet tall. The fronds on this fern are triangular shaped.

Holly Fern

Holly Fern, growing out of pots along walkway, shinny green pinty leaves

Holly fern is a fern variety that has about three to four inch dark green leaves. These leaves look like holly bushes. They tolerate water, light, and heat really well. 

Holly fern comes in three different species, which include Japanese, Hawaiian, and East Indian holly ferns. They are the ideal indoor ferns because they need a complete share or low amounts of light. 

You are most likely to find this fern in a zen garden design. It is native to East Asia. This fern is resistant to deer and pests.  

Horsetail Fern

Horsetail Fern, long green skinny stick-like leaves

The Horsetail fern is one of the last surviving species in its family, which is the Equisetum family. While its name may confuse you, this fern is not safe for horses. It is deadly if they ingest it. 

The Horsetail fern looks like a combination of tall grass and bamboo. The stems have short stalks which resemble grass. This fern dates back to the Paleozoic era, which makes it one of the oldest fern types. As a result, it can survive in areas where most ferns cannot.

Rabbit’s Foot Fern

Close up of a Rabbits Foot Fern, green with a bushy look, tons of tiny needle like leaves

The Rabbit’s Foot fern is a popular houseplants because it is easy to care for and grow. They are ideal for hanging baskets. The Rabbit’s Foot fern has the appearance of a wire, and it has a habit of trailing. 

This fern has an exotic look and a bushy look. It usually appears in the shape of a triable. This tends to look like a rabbit’s foot. They grow between one to two feet tall. 

The Rabbit’s Foot fern grows in rock crevices or on trees. It needs well draining soil and needs a fair amount of humidity. 

Staghorn Ferns

Green Staghorn Fern growing out of a ceramic pot, large green leaves that split of at the ends

Staghorn Fern is a species of fern that often grows on tree bark in Australia, Africa, and Asia. It is an ideal houseplant as long as it has coarse soil and proper drainage. 

The Staghorn fern has two sets of fronds. The inner fronds are green. These are fertile fronds that look like stag horns. They can grow as long as four feet. They also have spores on their underside. There are brown fronds that are infertile and grow outside the green fronds. They are flat, round, and short. 

These ferns typically only grow in wood. They do not grow in soil. The Staghorn fern need a fair amount of shade and high humidity. They also require a large amount of misting and watering. There have a long lifespan and often stay in a family for a long time when growing as houseplants. 

Wire Fern

Wire Fern, green leaves taht look like forks, waxy look and feel

The Wire fern is easy to determine because of the way it looks. It has leaves and stems that look like forks. Technically, the Wire fern is not a true fern but more of a fern ally. These ferns have waxy and dark green foliage and are single-veined.

Outdoor Ferns 

Alpine Wood Fern

Alpine Wood Fern, long branch with shiny green leaves growing off horizontally of each side that come to a point

The Alpine Wood fern is a native plant of China and India that is also considered a semi-evergreen. This fern is easy to pick out because of its lancing fronds that sprout out of the rhizome. It grows in bulky tufts that look similar to a shuttlecock. 

The Alpine Wood fern has fronds that are yellow in spring. The stems and midribs are a black-brown color. These are ideal outdoor ferns because it responds well in winter and tolerates frost. The deeper it gets into winter then, the darker green the foliage becomes. 

Alpine Wood ferns grow as high as three feet tall. Therefore, you may need to provide a good amount of space between your ferns when planting them. 

Asparagus Fern

Burnt orange ceramic pot with a green Asparagus Fern growing out of it, bushy look with tons of tiny needle like leaves

There are three different varieties of Asparagus Fern. The most common one of these has leaves that are like needles and highly irritating to the skin. However, this fern does well in bright light, and it can quickly take over a garden. Therefore, it is critical that you keep the Asparagus fern in check with constant pruning if you plan to have it in your garden. 

Australian Tree Fern

Green Austrailian Treen Fern, whispy look with perfectly spaced out leaves, each brach coming to a point

The Australian Tree fern is more like a tree than a fern. It can grow up to 30 feet tall. It has a six inch circumference trunk and eight foot fronds. 

Australian Tree fern does well in rain forests and is native to the New Zealand and Australian rain forests. If you plan to have it in your garden, you want it to get a lot of rain and hot temperatures. 

Autumn Fern

Close up of an Autumn Fern, green whispy pointy leaves, some with pink tips

The Autumn Fern has fronds that resemble the colors you see in autumn. They are typically a combination of gold and red. The fronds also look like paper and grow during spring. 

The Autumn fern matures in the summer and turns deep green. This fern is considered an evergreen plant and does well in colder temperatures. 

Bird Nest Fern

Bird Nest Fern growing out of a gray concrete pot, large shiny green leaves, surrounded by other green plants, sunny day

The Bird Nest fern is compact, small, and gives a wonderful contrast to flowering plants in a garden. This fern is considered a garnish for gardens. They enjoy being in the shade. The Bird Nest fern can grow in soil or on rocks and trees. 

Carrot Fern

Close up of green Carrot Fern, shinny, poky looking pointy leaves

The Carrot fern is native to Japan and Asia. This fern grows quickly and produces fronds that look similar to carrot tops. They have a lacy texture and a dark green hue.

The Carrot fern does well in full sun, full shade, and everything in between. It tolerates drought well. It has wiry stems that only grow as tall as two feet. 

The Carrot fern is ideal for under planting and ground cover. In addition, it can be a potted houseplant in the spring. 

Chinese Ladder Brake

Close up of a Chinese Ladder Brake Fern, green, thisn soft looking leaves that curl at then ends

The Chinese Ladder Brake is native to Australia and Asia. It is considered a pantropical fern. It has sported along the pinna and sports foliage that is deep green. The leaves are a triangle shape. 

The Chinese Ladder Brake is perfect for controlling erosion. However, if left uncontrolled, it becomes incredibly invasive. It is often used in industrial designs because it can grow on limestone and brick walls. 

Cinnamon Fern

Cinnamon Fern, showing 2 types of fronds, one with bright green growing long pointy leaves and the other tall skinny fronds that are a brown cinnamon color

Cinnamon fern is often found along streams and creeks. If you plan to plant it in your garden, it needs a high amount of water. This fern grows to as high as five feet. It produces two types of fronds. It has infertile fronds that are bright and green. It also has fertile fronds that are a brown cinnamon color. 

Eagle Fern

Close up of an Eastern Fern growing near a stream, green pointy leaves

The Eastern fern is also referred to as the Eastern Bracken fern. It has stems that are in the shape of triangles. This fern adapts well, and if left unattended, it can become highly invasive. It does well in subtropic or tropic climates. 

Giant Fern

Giant Fern with tall branches grwoing lots of thin leaves creating a fan like look, cloudy sky

The Giant fern is considered the largest and tallest fern around the world. It is also referred to as the King fern. Its fronds can grow up to 20 feet long and five feet wide. However, it does have slender stems that grow only three feet. This fern is ideal for outdoor tropical gardens. 

The Giant fern does require a sturdy and durable root system. It must maintain moisture. It does well in full shade to full sun. It is highly adaptive and quickly becomes invasive. 

Hart’s Tongue Fern asplenium

Close up of a Hart's Tongue Fern, large shinny green leaves with brown stripes on the back side, wavy edges

The Hart’s Tongue fern is well-known because of its fronds that are shaped like a strap. They are also arching and similar to rosettes. They also have green hues with brown stripes underneath them. 

The Hart’s Tongue has a striking appearance. It is a hardy fern that stays a lush green color all year long, even in the cold months. 

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern adiantum

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern with broad and triangle shaped leaves that look like fans, water beads on each leave, brown stems

The Himalayan Maidenhair Fern is an evergreen fern with broad and triangle shaped fronds. It has segments that have small segments that are shaped like fans. 

The Himalayan Maidenhair Ferns peak in late winter and through the spring. It changes from being tinged with orange to dark green in the spring. This fern creeps which makes it ideal for underplanting and shade gardens. 

While this is an invasive species, you must care for it when there are strong winds. 

Japanese Painted Ferns

Japanese Painted Fern, purple veins with silver gray green foliage, bushy leaves taht each come to a point

The Japanese Painted Fern is the best outdoor fern when you have harsh winters in your area. This fern can tolerate temperatures as low as negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The fronds on this fern are tapered and a combination of silver and purple. 

The fronds also grow up to 18 inches long. Despite being able to tolerate such cold temperatures, it is considered a tropical fern. 

The Japanese painted fern is a variegated fern because it has purple veins with silver gray green foliage. It is prostrate and never grows upright. They also need plenty of moisture to grow.

Japanese Tassel Fern

Japanese Tassel Fern, long green stems with lots of pointy green leaves grwoing out like a fan, other trees and plants growing all around, sunny day

The Japanese Tassel Fern grows slowly but is robust once they mature. This is considered an evergreen that has arching fronds of medium length. When it has immature fronds, they hang like tassels but gradually begin to straighten like arches. 

These are ideal for ground cover and complement Japanese weeping maples. They are easy to grow.

Licorice Fern

Licorice Fern, green pointy leaves growing out of a mossy like bush, sun reflecting off it

The Licorice fern is native to North America, and the stem tastes like licorice. It has been used as a medicine and herbal remedy for sore throats, coughs, and colds. It can be dried for tea or eaten as a raw snack. The stem can be chewed to ease a sore throat. 

Licorice Fern does well in a damp and tropical climate. This fern sprouts from the bark of trees in the forest. This fern also smells like licorice. This fern lives naturally on rocky or woody surfaces. 

Man Fern

Close up a Man Fern, perfectly spaced out thin green leaves that come to a point and are pokey looking on the edges, sun reflecting off leaves

Man fern is a native of Australia, Tasmania, to be specific. This fern can grow as high an average of 13 feet but can be as tall as 49 feet. It has leaves that are dark green with a wavy texture. 

The Man fern is also referred to as a soft tree fern. It is a dark evergreen and can handle cold temperatures. The roots are thick and fibrous. It grows well in dry and acidic soil. 

Ostrich Fern matteuccia struthiopteris

Close up of an Ostrich Fern, green pointy shiny leaves, bushy

The Ostrich fern is also known as the Shuttlecock fern. It is one of the tallest of the outdoor fern varieties. The fronds grow five feet long. The leaves grow in an upward sweep that looks a lot like a vase. 

These ferns like shade and moist soil. If you want them to be more compact, you should water them less at ground level. You should be careful not to get water on the leaves, which are delicate. 

The Ostrich fern prefers shade and low light. They also want high humidity and moist soil.

Royal Fern 

Forest with a close up of a Royal Fern, green bsshy like fern with lots of leaves, other trees and plants in the background, sticks on the ground, sunny

The Royal fern is thought to be one of the largest European ferns. It is also thought to be an easy to grow houseplant. The Royal fern gets as tall as five feet tall and two inches wide. 

This fern produces compact leaflets in 13 pairs about three feet long. It loves damp and acidic soil along with shady locations. These ferns are better outdoor than houseplants because of their size. They have pale green fronds but change to bronze in the fall. 

Silver Fern

Close up of a Silver Fern, long stems with perfectly spaces out leaves taht come to a point, green and shiny on one side and a silvery color on the other

The Silver Fern is a native to New Zealand. It is considered a national symbol in New Zealand. The name comes from its foliage, which is dark green with the silver underneath.  

The Silver Fern prefers moist soil when it is young but wants to be moved into soil that is less moist once it has matured. They can be found in subcanopy forests in wet and dry conditions. 

Tasmanian Cup Fern

Tasmanian Cup Fern, green stems and large fanlike leaves

The Tasmanian Cup Fern is an evergreen that can grow as high as 30 feet. It has stems that are not branches and fronds that grow as long as 10 feet. 

The Tasmanian Cup Fern is native to South America, Asia, and Africa. It is cultivated and harvested to be an ornamental tree. However, it can easily be transplanted to and grown as an indoor plant. 

The Tasmanian Cup fern has a hard trunk that is about three to five inches thick with a soft inside.

Whisk Fern

Whisk Fern, green long skinny leaveswith little nubs on the end

The Whisk fern is a fern species that is native to Asia, Oceania, Africa, and the Americas. It is a famous fern in Japan. Its stems look like thin chicken feet. They have a compact habit of growing, and it resembles an egg whisker. 

The Whisk fern grows between rocks and prefers warm climates with high humidity. It also enjoys moist soil. This fern does not have vascular organs that distinguish ferns from other plants. 

How To Care For A Fern

No matter if you have a fern that is indoor or outdoor, they still require a specific type of care. If you can master these tips, you will have no problems growing your ferns. 

Humidity – ferns really love humidity. If they are indoors, you may want them in your bathroom or use an air humidifier. You can also mist your plant regularly or add pebbles to the tray.

Temperature – each fern requires a specific temperature, but most of them do not enjoy cold temperatures. When they are in a tropical climate, ferns enjoy 15 – 21 degrees Celsius. When they are in a temperate climate, they can handle 10 – 16 degrees Celsius. Some ferns are more cold hardy and can tolerate lower temperatures. 

Soil – ferns enjoy moist and light forest soil that contains a large amount of organic matter. Using the appropriate compost will prevent waterlogging. If you cannot find hummus soil, you can use a sandy substitute, but you must add mulch to it. 

Light – ferns thrive best in low light, which is also bright and indirect light. There are some types of ferns that can tolerate partial to full sun. 

Fertilizer – ferns do not need fertilizer. They will grow just about anywhere. Giving them fertilizer may have the opposite effect and kill them because of their sensitivity.

Pruning – it is a good idea to prune your ferns so that you can get more robust growth. If you cut off the dead or yellowing fronds in the fall and winter, it ensures you healthier fronds in the next spring. In addition, pruning allows you to see if the soil is soggy or waterlogged. 

Water – you should water the soil of your fern regularly. You want to ensure there is enough moisture going to the soul. You should only water your fern when the topsoil is very dry. If it is not dry, you should not water the ferns. If you mist the base of your plant and foliage on a daily basis to maintain the moisture.