Why is my Fern turning brown?

It's always concerning when you see that the leaves of you houseplants are starting to turn brown, especially on great looking ferns.

Why is my Fern turning brown?

It’s always concerning when you see that the leaves of your houseplants are starting to turn brown, especially on great looking ferns. We’ve found that the most common reasons for ferns turning brown are; a lack of humidity, too much bright light, watering issues and over fertilisation. The first of which by far being the most common problem, and easiest to fix.

Lack of humidity

Ferns love a more humid environment, so if your home tends to have dry air it’s worth your time to try and increase the humidity a little. There are a few really simple techniques to keep the humidity higher than normal for your fern; you can mist the leaves with a spray bottle every few days, sit your plant in a tray with water and some pebbles or use a humidifier. Our ferns really love this humidifier which is available on Amazon and is super affordable too!

You can always pick up a good humidity monitor like this one from Amazon to keep track of everything and make sure the air isn’t too dry. Make sure to also move your fern away from any air conditioning units or radiators as these create very dry air!

Too much bright light

Lighting is always important to your houseplants and ferns are no different. If your fern is getting too much bright light you’ll start to notice the tips of the fronds turning brown, this is because ferns are pretty prone to burning. Try moving it into a slightly shadier place, and if there’s no improvement move it a little further again until you find its perfect spot. This is all slightly different for Boston Ferns that can deal with more bright sunlight very well.

If you aren’t sure how much light your Fern is getting in its current spot (or any alternative spots in your home) then we highly recommend using a light meter. They’ll tell you what level of light is in your home throughout the day and you’ll be able to monitor how it varies across the year.

Watering problems

As with a lot of things in the houseplant world, proper watering is an integral part of the puzzle. You should start off by looking into if you’re over or under-watering the plant that has started showing signs of yellowing leaves. One of the simplest ways to do this is the finger rule. Press one of your fingers around 1″ into the soil. If the soil is completely dry then you’re under-watering. If it’s super soggy, then you might be giving it a little too much water. You can also use a moisture meter to check the soil and know for certain when it’s time to water.

We’ve always gone for a little and often view towards watering, but really it’s good to get to know what your plants like most. We’d recommend picking up your fern when it’s in need of watering and after you’ve watered it, this way you get a feel for when your fern might need a little more simply by giving them a little lift.

If you find the soil is extremely dry, you may have to soak the pot in water. Most ferns will come with a good amount of peat moss in the pot and tend to have pretty dense root systems, this makes it very difficult for water to get through when they’ve dried out.

If you always find yourself forgetting to water your Fern then a self-watering pot is the thing for you. It will give your plant the right amount of water without you needing to even be home! We love this one which is available from Amazon. 

Product Recommendation

How To Care For Your Houseplants (eBook)


Everything you need to know to keep your houseplants happy and healthy.

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Over fertilisation

Most generic plant foods and fertilisers will recommend a dosage for your plants, but it’s often far too much for a fern and can result in browning in the fronds. The best bet here is to try out feeding at half the recommended dosage and see how your fern reacts. If you notice any browning you can flush the feed out with more water and try again the next time you water with a quarter of the dosage. Our plants have always liked the liquid fertiliser from Miracle Gro which is available on Amazon here. 

Overall the issues with browning ferns are easy to spot, and even easier to fix. With ten minutes of care and attention, your fern will be thriving again in no time at all. You can find a full care guide to Boston Ferns over in our plant index if you’d like some more information.


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