The Best Palm and Fern Houseplants to Grow

AuthorAntonio Pachowko

Posted on Houseplant Indoor Gardening

Container Plants and Gardening

In this article, we will be broaching the best palm and fern houseplant to have in your home.

As we want our homes to have the best greenery as possible, we look to palms and ferns to bring green hues to our lives, so that we can bring the outside gardening space to our living spaces.

Palm and fern do make a home
Palm and fern do make a home.

Palms bring up an image of tropical climates in our own homes. It gives a picture of sipping a pina colada under a palm tree. They bring relaxation to our homes, an area of peace and relaxation without our place of sanctuary.

Palm plants like the same conditions what we do: warm temperatures, average humidity and good levels of lighting. Palms and ferns will most definitely add a degree of the exotic into our homes, as we can live side by side with these plants.


Ferns are wonderful indoor plants, where they can add much greenery to an indoor space, especially in winter where outdoor greenery is not much to be seen. Ferns tend to be easy to look after provided that the plant has the right level of light and moisture.

Ferns are one of the oldest plants known in existence and most of them are tough as boots. There are so many different species of fern from all regions of the world from cold area to tropics. They also come in many different sizes from miniatures to tall tree ferns.

Palms and ferns are great houseplants as long as you look after them well.

What follows are the palms and ferns that I would recommend to be grown in your homes, along with the suitable growing conditions:


This is an extremely pretty and delicate leave plant that has arching black stems that have many tiny rounded leaflets. These leaflets start life pale green or pale pink and mature to a bright green colour.

Adiantum capillus-veneris
Adiantum capillus-veneris

This plant will suffer if it is neglected so it will need careful monitoring.

The biggest problem is adiantum needs constant humidity. If the air is allowed to dry the leaves will turn brown at the edges and will eventually die back completely.

This pot plant grows up to 8ocn in height on its preferred position of light shade. To be at its best grow in average to hot temperature (16 degree Celsius to 27 degree Celsius).

This plant needs lots of water during the growing seasons, sparingly in winter. Needs to be fed once a month in the growing season with a houseplant liquid fertiliser. For an attractive alternative lookout for Adiantum raddianum.

ASPLENIUM NIDUS (Bird’s Nest Fern)

There are a beautiful group of ferns that do well under indoor growing conditions. It is an unusual fern as the fronds are solid leathery and heavily divided. The fronds are large, leaf-like and glossy, which are light green in colour and have darker midribs.

Asplenium nidus
Asplenium nidus

The fronds form a rosette-like clump in which material collects in the centre of the rosette. This creates a bird’s nest effect.

This 1.2m tall plant need a humid spot in warm temperature and a decent level of shade. The plants prefer to be grown in an ericaceous compost when you are potting the plant on.

The compost must be kept moist at all times, but appreciates not been overwatered in winter. Be carefully the plant’s fronds are brittle and can easily break-off. Do not overfeed.


This is a 90cm tall slow-growing fern that has long fronds that are borne in a clump formation on a short trunk. It is a plant that can be kept in cool condition, this is provided that is watered sparingly. Young plants need warmer temperatures to hasten its development. The short trunk is only visible as the plant matures and grows.

Blechnum gibbum
Blechnum gibbum

The ferns preferred position is a warm and moderate humid spot in moderate shade. As said it can take cool temperature of watering is reduced.

In warm surroundings, it will need plenty of water, whilst in winter and in cooler conditions, just keep the roots just moist. It is best to water with rainwater, as hard water can reduce the vitality of the plant. Does not need feeding regularly but once or twice during the growing season.


Palms tend to be graceful foliage plants that will eventually become large enough to fill a corner of the room. They are not fast-growing and are well adapted to growing indoors. They are also easy to look after.

This palm is no different, as long as it is given moderate amounts of water in the summer months and its roots are not allowed to dry out. The roots hate being waterlogged and under these conditions, the plant will do particularly badly.

Chamaedorea elegans
Chamaedorea elegans

This 3m tall plant has small clumps of stem bearing fronds with wide leaflets. The plant appreciates being grown in warm, moderate humid conditions in light shade to good levels of light, but away from direct sunlight.

The plant hates its roots to be disturbed, so only pot on with the plants start showing signs that it is root-bound.

Every spring add new compost on top of the old compost layer. Old plants may look unattractive and you may need to start all over again with a new plant.


This is a half-hardy palm that is often grown outdoors in a container and then moved indoors before the first frosts hits. It can even suffer slight frosts and still survive. This implies for a houseplant that it does not require high temperature to grow, as long as the temperature is greater than 10 degree Celsius.

What is an impressive feature of this palm is that the thin, glossy leaflets are arranged in an attractive formation around a central point. This gives the appearance of a great circle of spikes.

Chamaerops humilis
Chamaerops humilis

A young plant the leaves emerge at compost level, but as the plant matures it forms a structure from which on top of the leaves are produced. The lower leaves gradually turn brown and die back as the plant grows upward. All you need to do is remove these brown leaves as soon as they appear.

This fern can get pretty large, up to 3m in height but this is unusual for container specimens. Grow it in a good, bright site in warm temperature in summer and cooler temperature in winter.

Water moderately when growing in spring to autumn, sparingly in winter. Humidity does not need to be high at all.

Feed once a month with a balanced liquid fertiliser.

CYCAS (Fern Palm or Sago Palm)

For a palm, this is an odd-looking plant but it is most certainly exotic. Cycas produces tough arching leaf stalks covered in spiny leaflets. As new leaves are produced from the plant the old ones fade forming a thick spiky crown.

Cycas 'Sago Palm'
Cycas ‘Sago Palm’

Cycas like good, bright light but away from bright sunlight. This 6m tall plant will require watering moderately in summer, less so in winter. It will need an occasional misting in summer, and do not worry about the giant size it can grow to, as it is very slow-growing. Warm condition is a must and must be met at all times.

Be aware Cycas are intolerant of any chemical pesticides, so do not use any with this plant around. Any pest infestations need to be removed manually.


This is an unusual looking fern, where the fronds produced are glossy green and look like holly. The plant can grow up to 90cm in height and is not a difficult plant to grow as it often survives harsh growing conditions.

Cyrtomium falcatum
Cyrtomium falcatum

All that is required is good drainage and a 15cm diameter pot full of houseplant compost.

Grow it in a cool position that gets plenty of air and moderate shade. North-facing windows are an ideal location. In summer water generously, whilst sparingly at all other times.


This is a relatively small fern that grows up to 45cm in height. It has feathery fronds and creeping underground stems that look like a hare’s foot.

Davallia canariensis
Davallia canariensis

It is best grown in special containers so that the underground stems can be allowed to creep over the surface, you can also grow it in a hanging basket to give the best effect.

Grow it in moderate shade in a frost-free position. Water moderately in summer where the compost is never allowed to dry out. Water sparingly in winters, whilst feeding regularly in summer.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.