12 Best Fern Houseplants for Lush Indoor Foliage

Lush, green ferns add vivid color to your home. Discover the best fern houseplants to bring into your space.

Published March 18, 2023
fern houseplant

Whether you're looking to start or expand your houseplant collection, ferns are a great choice. With their vivid green leaves and lush foliage, they bring the vibrancy of the outdoors inside. There are many kinds of ferns, each with distinctive leaves and other characteristics. But no matter their size or shape, they're all gorgeous and a great way to perk up any indoor space.

Best Indoor Ferns With Compound Leaves

Compound ferns have feathery-looking fronds with a lot of small leaves that grow out from a central stem. Many of the most popular indoor ferns are this type.

Asparagus Fern

asparagus fern

Asparagus fern (Asparagus aethiopicus) isn't actually a fern. Unlike true ferns, it produces seeds rather than spores. Still, it's a popular houseplant that's called a "fern," so it deserves a spot on this list. It has feathery fronds that look like an asparagus plant, but it doesn't produce food. It can grow up to three feet tall with an equivalent spread. When grown indoors, asparagus fern needs bright indirect light.

Austral Gem Fern

austral gem fern

Austral gem fern (Asplenium dimorphum x difforme) is a hybrid bird's nest fern that is perfect if you're looking for a small indoor plant. It grows to between 12 and 18 inches tall, with a spread of around four inches. It's particularly well suited for indoor growing because its leaves don't shed as much as other ferns. It will grow in all indoor light conditions, from bright indirect light to low light.

Boston Fern

Boston fern

Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is a classic houseplant that has been popular since Victorian times. When grown indoors, Boston ferns can grow to reach two feet tall with an equivalent spread. They make great hanging plants, and they also look great in pedestal containers. This plant thrives indoors in medium or bright indirect light. They'll add lush, airy foliage to any space.

Cotton Candy Fern

cotton candy fern

Cotton candy fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) is also called fluffy ruffle fern, largely because of its soft, fluffy fronds that do actually look a bit like cotton candy. This plant has an upright growing habit, though its fronds gracefully flare outward. It usually grows to between two and three feet tall, though it can actually reach a height of five feet. When grown indoors, this plant needs bright indirect light.

Fishbone Fern

fishbone fern

Fishbone fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia 'Duffii') is a dwarf version of the Boston fern. It has a few other common names, including lemon button fern and little-leaved sword fern. This plant itself is small, and so are its leaves. This fern doesn't get more than a foot tall and has tiny oblong leaves that sit very close together along its fronds. It does great in just about any indoor light condition, including low, medium, and bright indirect light.

Holly Fern

holly fern

Holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) is sometimes called Japanese holly fern. Its leaves have pointy ends, which is why it's nicknamed for the famously pointy holly plant. Holly fern has a clumping growing habit and can grow to reach two feet tall, with a spread of up to three feet. It tolerates low humidity better than other ferns. When grown indoors, this plant needs bright indirect sunlight.

Kangaroo Fern

kangaroo fern

Kangaroo fern (Microsorum diversifolium), also called kangaroo paw fern, is - not surprisingly - native to Australia and New Zealand. This plant is a spreading fern that grows only to about a foot tall, with a spread of between three and four feet. Its foliage is sturdier than most other ferns. Small round structures that produce spores sometimes form on the bottom of the leaves, making it a seriously cool plant. Kangaroo fern needs bright indirect light when grown indoors.

Best Indoor Broadleaf Ferns

Broadleaf ferns have undivided leaves rather than the divided feathery style fronds more commonly associated with fern plants. Broadleaf ferns make excellent houseplants.

Bird's Nest Fern

bird's nest fern

Bird's nest ferns (Asplenium nidus) have long, broad leaves that look more like the leaves of banana trees than a typical fern leaf. This plant usually reaches between three and five feet tall, with a spread of two to three feet. It does best in medium to bright indirect light when grown indoors, but it is also somewhat tolerant of low light.

Crocodile Fern

crocodile fern

Crocodile fern (Microsorum musifolium 'Crocodyllus') has distinctive wrinkled, leathery-looking leaves that look a lot like the scales on a crocodile's skin. Its unusual appearance turns a lot of heads, so it's a great plant to have in your house. This plant can range between two and five feet tall, with an equivalent spread. Unlike most other ferns, crocodile ferns prefer to grow in low light, so they're perfect for the darker corners of your space that totally need a plant.

Hart's Tongue Fern

hart's tongue fern

Hart's tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) is also sometimes called horse tongue fern and burn weed fern. This plant usually stays under two feet tall, with long fronds that can grow up to 16 inches. It thrives indoors when it gets moderate/medium indirect sunlight. Hart's tongue fern can handle some bright indirect light, but only for three or fewer hours per day.

Staghorn Fern

staghorn fern

Staghorn ferns (Platycerium bifurcatum) have green leaves shaped like antlers and brown leaves that grow from the plant's base. They reproduce by producing pups (like a spider plant) that can be used to start new plants. Like other true ferns, you can also propagate staghorn ferns via spores. This plant needs bright indirect light when grown indoors.

Table Fern

table fern

Table fern (Pteris cretica), also commonly called Cretan brake fern, is a small broadleaf fern that does very well indoors where it grows up to 18 inches tall. Variegated varieties have a cream-colored center outlined with a thick band of green, while others have all-green leaves. This plant needs bright indirect light.

Which of the Best Indoor Ferns Will You Grow?

Which ones are your favorites? With so many great options, it can be hard to narrow down to just one, or even a few. Fortunately, you can keep adding more and more ferns to your houseplant collection for even more vibrant greenery.

12 Best Fern Houseplants for Lush Indoor Foliage