Why Do Your Ferns Keep on Dying Quickly?

Ferns are usually great options for houseplants, especially if you’re going for a modern decor theme for an interior. They’re one of the hardiest plants around, with over five hundred species to choose from. The leaves are attractive as well, staying fresh and green in all sorts of environments.

All of these factors are nice, but that doesn’t mean ferns don’t die or wilt at all. On the contrary; many homeowners might be worried about why their ferns seem to keep on dying. There are some common issues that might be at the source of such problems. Let’s check out some of them now and see how we can make a change:

The Watering Routine

Some fern varieties want very little moisture, while others thrive in wet soil. However, proper drainage and a little drying in between are best for most of them. If you’re watering your ferns too much, that may actually cause them to turn yellow and droop. This is a signal of root rot.

On the other hand, if you don’t water ferns enough, the fronds will droop and look sickly. Figuring out the right balance is one of the first steps towards ensuring that your ferns have a long and healthy life. It might also be a good idea to invest in a self-watering planter to save yourself some trouble.

You can go about ascertaining the moisture level of the ferns by checking the drainage holes in their pot. Push up against the hole with a pencil or thin stick. It shouldn’t be clogged; if it is, you should repot or transplant the fern in organic soil that drains well. It’s also a good idea to put some wire mesh at the bottom of the pot. Plus, see that your fern doesn’t stay in standing water much, whether this is in the pot saucer or foil wrapping.

Periodically check the soil of your fern between watering sessions. You should find that the soil does get a bit dry, but not completely parched.

The Placement

If your watering routine seems fine, see if those discolored and drooping leaves are being affected because of their surroundings. If the window they’re under is getting direct sunlight or none at all, move them under one that faces north. If an outside fern is in direct sunlight, move its pot or transplant it. It’s best to keep them in dappled sunlight, partial shade, or intermittent light.

It’s important to focus on proper lighting for ferns because the direct rays can cause damage to the fronds. Daytime temperatures are best as long as they don’t go above 70 degrees. The evening temperature should be between 50 and 60 degrees for an ideal environment to support your fern.

If you think your rooms are staying too warm even during the night, see if you can move the ferns to a cooler place. You might want to put the fern outside if they’re currently indoors and vice versa.

The Humidity Level

Very low levels of humidity might lead to excessive dryness, which isn’t good for many ferns. This might be an issue during the winter, especially if there’s central heating installed in the place. This will dry the air, causing the fern fronds to shrivel up and turn brown.

This doesn’t mean that you have to turn off your heating during the cooler months. There’s another way to up the humidity: place the fern pot in a larger pot and line the space in between with moss. Alternatively, fill a spray bottle with water and mist your plant three or four times a day.

Yet another solution here is to get a humidifier for your home or any room with plants in it. You can get one installed right inside the heating system. Finally, try placing the whole pot on a platform or tray that’s filled with water and pebbles. The water level should be below the pebbles, as the pot shouldn’t be consistently stranding in any water. You may also have to wash the pebbles and replace them every few months in order to prevent any algae growth.

The Wrong Soil

The Wrong Soil

Ferns don’t always have to be indoors, but both indoor and outdoor varieties need organic soil, to ensure proper draining. If this isn’t available, the ferns might become sickly and droop. Fortunately, there are ways to make things better.

If your fern is in such a state, dig it up and add compost to its hole. This will help with the draining, especially if you’ve planted the fern in clay-like soil. Replant the fern and see if it comes back to normal after some weeks.

Drooping ferns may also benefit from some compost, wood chips, or leaves at its base. This will work as mulch and help in moisture retention.

Pest infestations

Pest infestations

Ferns are among the safest plants when it comes to pest infestations, but don’t get too comfortable. It’s still possible for pests to attack ferns if the conditions are right. Your fern might be dying due to the tiny insects eating up all its nutrients and munching away at its narrow leaves.

Some fern enthusiasts say that the best way out here is to pick off each bug manually. Alternatively, you can also hose the plant off–make sure to take it outside before trying out this method.

Pest infestations might also cause your fern to become infected. You would know this by the appearance of a black substance on its fronts. This would look something like mold, so you’d know that something is wrong right away. In such cases, you need to cut off the fronds that have been infected. After this pruning, make sure to sterilize and disinfect the pruners or shears.

Too Much Fertilization

Too Much Fertilization

Anxious homeowners might end up overfeeding their ferns, which might actually cause problems instead of ensuring their longevity. If you give the ferns a lot of fertilizer, this might scorch their foliage. This is because ferns usually need a very little bit of fertilization while it’s growing season.

If your ferns are newly potted, they probably don’t need any fertilization for at least four months. To be on the safe side, wait for six months or at least until you can see active signs of growing in the plant.

Of course, it’s hardly a good idea not to feed the plants at all. You can ask your local gardening experts for guidance. However, a general rule of thumb is to limit feedings to just once a month for maidenhair ferns. Use liquid houseplant fertilizer at half strength from April to September unless an expert recommends otherwise. If you see the ferns actively growing when it’s winter, continue the monthly feeding.


If you’ve been wondering why your seemingly hardy ferns keep dying, don’t fret too early. One or more of the reasons above might be the issue. There’s no need to get overwhelmed either; just try eliminating all the problems one by one until you find the method that works. Once you’ve managed to keep your ferns and other houseplants alive, it might be time to start looking at perennial flowers for your garden or yard.