How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Blue Star Ferns


Blue star ferns may not look like your typical fern- and they’re not! They share many similar characteristics to other ferns but also have some unique traits.  

Known for their elongated blue-green fronds, these ferns earned their reputation as a well-loved houseplant. If you do not have enough shade for traditional ferns, this is the perfect plant for you. 

These ferns are stunningly beautiful and surprisingly easy to care for. Read on to learn how to grow blue star ferns

Overview

A close-up of an evergreen plant displays healthy elongated leaves attached to a rough brown tree trunk. Some added elements in the photo is an expanse of green grass and some sunlight streaming in and touching the plant’s leaves.


Native Area


North and South America


Watering Requirements


Moderate


Pests & Diseases


Common houseplant pests and diseases


Soil Type


Moist and well-draining 

What Is It?

Ferns may not come to mind when you think of evergreen plants, but in fact, many ferns are evergreen. These plants are traditionally tropical and make for excellent house plants. 

Characteristics

A close-up of fern showcasing its blue-green elongated fronds that grow in an upright position. The frond emphasizes a veined structure and plants of the same variety are in the background.
This fern is composed of elongated fronds and spreads via creeping rhizomes.

This blue-green fern is made up of several elongated fronds. It grows and spreads by creeping rhizomes.

These rhizomes will help the fern attach to trees and other plants when growing in the wild. They can grow up to three feet tall and wide

Native Area

A close-up of a fern attached to a smooth tree bark with water droplets on the surface. The leaves are characterized with a light green color.
The ferns thrive in North and South America and grow on trees in tropical regions.

Blue star ferns are native to both North and South America. In tropical zones, these ferns can grow from trees, absorbing moisture from the air. In more temperate zones, they grow happily in the understory of forests

Planting

These popular houseplants can be found at many garden centers and will grow nicely in the pot you brought them home in. If you want to transplant, this is best done in the spring or summer when the plants are actively growing. 

Transplanting

A white pot with a healthy growing  fern is on the wooden floor of a house. The pot is positioned near a closed glass window but this condition is suitable as the plant exhibits a healthy condition.
This species is slow-growing, so you won’t need to transplant frequently.

This is a pretty slow-growing fern, making transplanting a rare occurrence. However, the pot you have purchased your fern in will likely remain a suitable home for years to come. When the time comes to transplant, it is always helpful to be prepared!

  1. Take a look at your current pot. Purchase a new pot that is larger than the original pot. This will allow the fern plenty of room to grow while limiting the time you need to spend re-potting. 
  2. Shake off as much of the potting mix as you can from the roots. 
  3. Replant the fern with fresh potting mix and place it in bright, indirect light. 

How to Grow

Blue star ferns are very simple to grow. Keeping a few of these maintenance tips in mind will get you started on the right foot!

Light

A close-up of an open hand holding  leaf that boasts of an elongated form, veined appearance. Dotted spots on the underside of the leaves are quite obvious even on the surface of the leaves.
They thrive in bright, indirect light but may suffer from leaf burn in direct sunlight.

Blue star fern differs from other ferns because it grows best in bright but indirect light. If this fern receives too much direct sunlight, the leaves may burn.

They will also grow nicely in the shade. However, you may notice that your leaves are not as lush as desired. 

Water

A close-up of elongated leaves characterized with fine veins. The presence of moisture is marked with varying sizes of water droplets on the leaves.
Provide consistent moisture and adjust your watering frequency depending on soil type.

These plants benefit from consistent moisture. The moisture required will depend on the soil they are growing in. 

Ferns growing in a standard potting mix should only be watered when the top inch of the soil has dried out. It is important not to waterlog the soil as this can lead to root rot

If your fern is growing in a looser mix with bark, soak the whole plant in a bowl of water every week in the warm months and every two weeks to one month in the cooler months. Place the entire pot in water and remove it after a short soaking, allowing the excess water to drip off into your sink. 

Soil

A close-up of a gloved hand cupping a good amount of loose potting soil. The potting soil has a coarse and loose texture and some soil of the same quality is on the ground.
These epiphytic plants require loose potting soil with materials like coconut coir and tree bark.

These are epiphytic plants. In short, this means that they grow on the surface of another plant, hence getting the moisture it needs from the air. 

Keep yours in very loose, chunky potting soil like a combination of coconut coir, tree bark, and sphagnum peat moss. Orchid bark, as well as perlite, can be very helpful in keeping your ferns happy. 

Temperature and Humidity

A well-thriving plant overflows from a large, white pot. The pot is found in a corner of a house beside a window sill, a place suggestive of having warm humid air which the blue star fern appreciates.
Provide warm, humid conditions, or try growing in a bright bathroom.

Create an environment with warm, humid air. If your household is drier, consider growing this plant in your bathroom.

Fertilizing

A close-up of a plant carer putting some liquid houseplant fertilizer in a pink cup. He is wearing blue latex gloves, and in the backdrop, a few houseplants and a yellow watering can are seen.
Fertilize with a diluted houseplant fertilizer in the warm months.

Ferns are not known for being heavy feeders. However, as with most houseplants, they appreciate some diluted general houseplant fertilizer throughout the warmer months

Propagation

The two most common ways to propagate are through division and spore reproduction. These can both be done at home, although one method is much easier than the other. Let’s learn a bit more about propagating.

Division

A close-up of a chunk of soil held by two hands exhibit the growth of roots on the soil. The roots attach to the soil in a veined pattern and need to be separated and loosened to help the healthy growth of the fern.
One method for dividing a large fern involves delicately separating its roots.

Division is a very simple process and is a great way to thin out a large fern.

  1. First, tip your fern out of its pot. Doing this over a sink or a tablecloth is best to make cleanup a breeze. 
  2. Very carefully, loosely break apart the roots with your hands until you find a naturally occurring break within the fronds. 
  3. Continue to loosen the roots until the two clumps of plants separate. Use a sharp knife or clean snips to separate the plant if needed. 
  4. Re-pot the separated plants into well-draining and chunky potting soil. 
  5. Keep the soil moist while the plants are recovering. Keep the new plants in bright but indirect light. 

Spores

A close-up of elongated fern leaves that feature brown spores on the underside. These spores can be collected and sown in a new container to help propagate new ferns.
Propagate new ferns when dark spots appear on the backside of fronds.

Propagating by spores is simple, but it does take a careful eye and a bit of patience.

  1. When you notice black or dark brown spots appearing on the backside of the fronds of your fern, it is time to start preparing to propagate some new ferns. 
  2. Snip a frond from your plant and lay it spore side down onto a white sheet of paper.
  3. When the spores are ready, they will be released onto the paper, where you can carefully collect them for sowing. 
  4. Use your choice of sterile growing medium and whichever type of container you wish, such as a seed starting tray
  5. Gently scatter the spores on top of the soil and place the tray in indirect light or under a grow light if you have one handy. Keep the soil damp to the touch but not oversaturated. 
  6. Within two weeks, you should notice your soil taking on a green tint, a sign that your spores have begun to germinate. Yay!
  7. Within a few months, when you notice more prominent growth, transplant small fingernail clumps into a new container.
  8. Keep these new ferns misted.
  9. As these ferns continue to grow, you should continue thinning them. The most successful ferns are made up of about 2-3 spores.

Common Problems

Growing ferns indoors can be tricky, but this species is low maintenance, contributing to its appeal. However, there are still a few issues that can arise. Let’s look at the pests and diseases you may encounter and what to do if you see them. 

Pests

A close-up of a solitary leaf with a pest scale attached to its base against a blurred backdrop.
You may see typical pests that often infest indoor plants.

Blue star ferns can fall victim to typical houseplant insects. Let’s learn more about the more common insects found on these pretty plants. 

Fungus Gnats

A close-up of yellow paper where numerous fungus gnats are trapped. On the left side of the photo is a sturdy and rough bark.
Houseplants become infested with fungus gnats when the soil is excessively damp.

These pesky little insects are common in houseplants. If you notice small flies that look like fruit flies when you water your plants, you probably have fungus gnats hanging around. The presence of these gnats means that your soil is overly moist, which is the exact environment fungus gnats look for when laying their eggs. 

Allow your soil to dry out completely before watering again. This will help get rid of the gnats. If you want to amp up your efforts, leave a small dish of apple cider vinegar near your plants. The vinegar attracts the adult gnats and will trap and drown them. To kill off larval infestations, apply water to which some Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis has been added (using a product like Mosquito Bits), as this bacteria is fatal to the larvae.

Spider Mites

A close-up of a leaf infested with tiny and numerous spider mites. The thin spider webs that these mites created cover the whole surface of the leaf and look like a canopy over the leaf surface.
These bugs make sticky webs and can be eliminated using insecticidal soaps or oils like neem.

Spider mites are tiny little bugs that feast on the leaves of plants. They protect themselves by creating a webbing similar to the webs of a spider. You may notice speckled leaves and the webs before you notice any insects. 

Using insecticidal soaps or oils like neem is a great way to eliminate spider mites. You can also bring your pots to your sink or tub and spray the plants. The mites will get knocked off by the force of the water. 

Thrips

A close-up of thrip insects with elongated bodies and transparent wings on the surface of a leaf. The leaf has areas of white spots.
Detecting thrips can be done by shaking the plant over a white surface.

Thrips are challenging pests to tackle because they are difficult to spot. If your plant looks sick, but you can’t figure out why, there is a chance that you have thrips. Lay a white sheet or some white paper under the plant. Give the plant a shake. If you have thrips, you will see their bodies fall on the paper

Neem oil is the best way to attempt to eradicate these insects. In the meantime, remove any damaged foliage by using clean plant snips

Diseases

Growing ferns successfully requires maintaining optimal conditions to prevent common diseases and issues.
This plant is susceptible to common houseplant diseases.

Houseplants tend to encounter a whole new world of diseases and problems. This is true with these plants as well.

Providing the correct growing conditions is the best way to keep your ferns healthy. Let’s consider a few common issues you may encounter.

Browning and Curling Fronds

A close-up of a fern with fronds that are curled and have turned to brown. The blurred background indicates an outdoor setting of low humidity which is the contributing factor for the frond’s condition.
The browning and curling of fern fronds can result from low humidity.

The browning and curling of fern fronds is directly related to the amount of moisture, or humidity, in the air. While the brown fronds cannot be saved, you can prevent more fronds from becoming discolored by upping the humidity in the air.

Adding moisture to the air can be done by placing a humidifier nearby or using a pebble tray. Pebble trays are really neat because you likely have all of the supplies you need in your home or yard.

Using a plant saucer or small bowl, gather pebbles from a store, the beach, or your gardens and fill the bowl, adding water to the sides of the pebbles. Next, place your potted fern on top. This will provide evaporative moisture without causing any harm via rot

Crown and Root Rot

A close-up reveals delicate fingers gently holding thin, intricate roots. The roots appear to be reaching out with determination, seeking sustenance from the fertile clump of soil they are nestled in.
Root and crown rot occur due to fungal growth caused by excessive soil moisture.

Crown and root rot happens when too much moisture comes into contact with the fronds and roots of the plants. This may seem confusing since I have been discussing keeping your ferns growing in a humid environment. This type of moisture is different. You can get into trouble if you soak your plants and allow them to sit in the excess water for too long.

Oversaturated soil is the perfect home for several fungal pathogens, particularly the ones that cause rotting in the roots and the plant’s crown.  Remedy this issue by transplanting your fern into a dry potting mix. Remove any damaged parts of the plant and care for the plant as usual.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sadly, broken fronds can happen for a variety of reasons. Once they are broken, there is not much else you can do for them. Cut the rest of the frond back to the base of the plant. Continue to maintain your fern, and you will see new fronds emerging quickly from the soil.

Yes! They are non-toxic to animals as well as humans. This characteristic makes it a great and safe option for a houseplant!

Absolutely! While it is true they are popular houseplants, they can also be grown outside in a container or in the ground. Be aware of the hardiness zones 8-13. If you live in a cooler zone than 8, bring your fern indoors when the cool temperatures dip below 60 degrees.

Any type of spot on your beloved plants can be cause for concern. However, if you have black or deep brown spots on the undersides of your fern leaves, do not worry. This is simply the spores the fern uses to reproduce. You do not need to remove them, just let them do their thing, and they will fall off. If you want to collect them, you can use them to propagate more ferns. See above!

Final Thoughts

Blue star ferns are beautiful houseplants that are very easy to care for.  Keep your ferns growing in a warm and humid area of your home, and you will have a happy plant for years.



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