Last Updated on October 15, 2020
Ferns are an attractive plant that loves shade and is very popular in both gardens and homes. However, there are quite a few varieties out there. The following are some of the species you’ll run into when shopping for plants to add to your own collection.
Types of Ferns
1. African Water Fern
A popular aquarium plant, this fern has beautiful green fronds and can grow rather tall, making them best for planting on the bottom. They’re best suited for soft water and are easy to care for once they’ve become established.Australian Tree Fern
These tree ferns have a similar appearance to palms and feature extremely long fronds. They prefer some shade and need regular watering, making them a poor choice for areas at risk of drought conditions.
2. Autumn Fern
This plant’s name is somewhat ironic, as it has autumnal colors only on young fronds that emerge in the spring. However, but summer, the plant becomes a dark green and will remain evergreen in areas where there’s no frost. In colder areas, the plant is deciduous instead.
3. Bird’s Nest Fern
Also referred to as a crispy wave fern, this mounted plant can handle dry soil once established. Exposing the fern to more sunlight will produce a crinkled pattern on the leaves while shade keeps them flat.
4. Blue Star Fern
This attractive species is popular with amateur fern enthusiasts as it can tolerate low light conditions and some overwatering. It’s an excellent choice for bathrooms and the blue-green fronds set it apart from many of its kin.
5. Button Fern
The leaves of this plant are small and round, resembling buttons. As the plant matures, the long stems turn to a dark red, making a lovely contrast. It needs moist, well-drained soil and doesn’t fare well in high temperatures.
6. Chain Fern
This compact fern has rosettes of glossy green fronds which create a feathery net. As with many ferns, they prefer partial shade but can handle full sun with enough access to water.
7. Christmas Fern
This evergreen is vibrant green and tends to stoop in cold weather. It prefers shade but can tolerate some sun in adequately moist soil. The soil should be well-drained and while it’s best to keep it moist, the Christmas fern is able to handle short periods of dry earth.
8. Cinnamon Fern
With its attractive dark green outer fronds and cinnamon-colored inner fronds, this fern is a great choice fort borders and general groundcover.
It can handle a wide range of soil types and, while preferring partial shade, can actually grow in full sunlight so long as it remains in standing water. They grow best near water or in swampy conditions.
9. Cretan Brake Fern
This popular fern has long, curved fronds that have a dark green-white pattern. They require high humidity and regular maintenance, but are excellent for indoor cultivation.
10. Crocodile Fern
This delicate, rare fern is completely intolerant to frost. However, the rosette of leathery, crinkled fronds make it a distinctive and attractive choice for indoor enthusiasts.
11. Hart’s Tongue Fern
The dark green fronds growing on this evergreen fern may be mistaken for leaves at first glance. It requires ample filtered sunlight, and the mature leaves have distinctive long brown marks.
12. Japanese Painted Fern
This deciduous fern needs rich, well-drained soil, shade, and regular watering. However, it makes up for the extra attention with unique blue-green fronds on red-purple stems. It also fares quite well in the cold, being able to handle temperature as low as -30°F
13. Japanese Tassel Fern
While not the most colorful, the long arching fronds of this fern are very graceful and resemble tassels before maturing. They need full shade or filtered sun to avoid damage.
14. Java Fern
This species can be cultivated on rocky spaces and thrives when partially or fully submerged, making it a popular aquarium plant.
15. Kimberly Queen Fern
Similar in appearance to a sword fern, this attractive species prefers a humid environment and full shade but has zero tolerance to frost, making it a perfect choice for bathrooms. It’s relatively easy to care for and can be kept in either large planters or hanging baskets.
16. Lady in Red Fern
Garnering its name from the red to purple stems, this fern has lacy, bright green foliage. It’s fairly low maintenance, drought resistant, and prefers shade but has a higher resistance to sunlight than many other ferns.
17. Leatherleaf Fern
This richly colored species requires moist, well-drained soil, but can handle drier conditions for a time before losing its color. The leathery fronds are a dark, glossy green, making them a wonderful addition to ornamental bushes or as hanging plants.
18. Lemon Button Fern
This species has long, feathery fronds sporting rounded leaflets. It grows well in acidic soil and can tolerate saline environments such as shorelines. It’s commonly referred to as a fishbone fern due to the shape of its leaves.
19. Maidenhair Fern
Found growing in ultra-moist areas such as waterfalls, lagoons, and ponds, this attractive fern has delicate, waxy fronds. It tends to be more sensitive to sunlight than many other species, so be sure to grow it in a shady spot with plenty of moisture.
20. Man Fern
Native to Australia, this tree fern grows about 16 feet tall, although although some have been recorded as tall as 49 feet. It’s a great plant for both pots and landscaping, as it can handle alkaline, dry, or acidic soil equally well.
21. Mother Fern
Able to endure only brief periods of cold, the mother fern is best used as a houseplant in colder climates but is evergreen in warmer regions. It gets its name from the plantlets which grow from its frond edges. The fronds themselves have a delicate, arching appearance that resembles the leaves of a carrot plant.
22. Ostrich Fern
The fronds of this plant are long and feathery, leading to its name. It requires moist water but growth can be controlled by reducing the frequency of watering. It makes for a rather attractive and unique ground cover.
23. Rabbit’s Foot Fern
These unusual ferns hail from Fiji and actually grow above the soil. The furry rhizomes creep along the ground, leading to its monicker. While it can tolerate occasionally dry soil, it needs to be misted regularly to prevent it from drying out.
24. Royal Fern
These colorful ferns have brown to copper colored flower spikes with new fronds appearing a pinkish color in the spring. They prefer partial shade and are sometimes referred to as flowering ferns.
25. Staghorn Fern
One of the more unusual types of fern, the staghorn gets its name from the peculiar shape of its leaves. They require humus-rich soil and plenty of moisture, but make for a great conversation starter when grown indoors, especially if mounted on a board like actual antlers.
26. Sword Fern
This popular species requires well-drained soil and the occasional misting but is otherwise very low-maintenance. You’ll often find it on balconies or in hanging planters. It’s also commonly referred to as a Boston fern.
27. Western Sword Fern
This popular species has a look typical of ferns, with bunches of glossy dark green fronds. It prefers shade and moist but not overwet soil.