How to Care for Button Fern Plant?

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There is a certain allure to the world of houseplants – a charm that transcends beyond their aesthetic appeal and breathes life into any interior space. They not only transform our living areas into green, tranquil environments but also act as our silent companions, growing and thriving alongside us.

Among the numerous varieties of houseplants, the Button Fern (Pellaea rotundifolia) holds a special place for its unique beauty and resilience. With its elegant, button-like leaves lining wiry stems, this fern makes a captivating addition to your indoor plant collection.

The plant’s whimsical appearance might suggest a delicate nature, but you’ll be surprised at how hardy this little fern can be. In this guide, we will dive deep into the world of Button Fern care and learn about its propagation in the simplest of terms. Also, here is a detailed article on how to propagate button fern.

Care Basics of Button Fern

Understanding a plant’s basic needs is akin to understanding a friend’s likes and dislikes; it forms the foundation of a beautiful, lasting relationship. In the case of our Button Fern, here is a concise yet comprehensive table detailing its primary care and maintenance needs:

AspectButton Fern Needs
LightBright, indirect light
WaterKeep soil lightly moist, but never soggy.
TemperatureIdeal range between 60°F (15°C) and 75°F (24°C).
Soil pHSlightly acidic to neutral (6.1 to 7.3).
Soil TypeWell-draining, standard potting mix. Add peat moss for acidity.
FertilizerUse a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength, every month during growing season.
PruningRegular trimming helps maintain a bushy and vibrant appearance.
Growth PeriodSpring and summer are the main growing seasons, but the fern stays evergreen year-round.
Difficulty LevelBeginner to Intermediate, based on the care aspect.
Equipment NeededA pot with good drainage, pruning shears, water-soluble fertilizer, peat moss, and a moisture meter (optional).

Light Requirements

While our previous discussion centered on the Button Fern, it’s valuable to digress momentarily to explore light requirements for another popular houseplant: the Snake Plant. This excursion will help us appreciate the diversity of lighting needs across various indoor plants, enhancing our overall understanding of houseplant care.

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A. Light Requirements for Snake Plants

Snake Plants (Sansevieria) are known for their robustness and can tolerate a wide range of light conditions. However, they perform best under bright, indirect light. While they can withstand some direct sunlight and even low-light conditions, their growth may become stunted in very dim environments. It’s always best to observe your Snake Plant’s reactions to light changes and adjust as needed.

B. Types of Light Exposure

Understanding the types of light exposure is fundamental to houseplant care:

  1. Direct Light: The plant is exposed to unfiltered sunlight, often resulting in strong shadow casting. Most indoor plants find this harsh and could suffer from leaf burn.
  2. Indirect Light: The plant is exposed to sunlight that has been diffused or reflected. It is less intense and ideal for most indoor plants, including our Button Fern and Snake Plant.
  3. Low Light: The plant is in an area away from direct sources of sunlight or under artificial lights. Many houseplants can tolerate such conditions, but growth may be slower.

C. How to Provide Proper Light to Snake Plants

To provide your Snake Plant with proper light, place it near a North, East, or West-facing window where it can receive bright yet indirect light. If the leaves start yellowing or the plant’s growth seems sluggish, consider moving it closer to the window or introduce a grow light. Rotate the plant occasionally to ensure all sides receive equal light exposure. Remember, Snake Plants are resilient; it’s better to err on the side of less light rather than risk scorching the plant with too much direct sunlight.

Planting Techniques

Now, let’s return to our Button Fern and discuss the proper planting techniques to ensure its optimal growth and development.

How to Plant Button Fern

Button Ferns can be potted using a standard indoor potting mix. Add some peat moss to increase the soil’s acidity and improve moisture retention. The key is to ensure the mix is well-draining to avoid water-logging the roots.

Start by filling a pot (with drainage holes) about one-third full with the prepared potting mix. Place the Button Fern in the pot, ensuring the root ball’s top is slightly below the pot’s rim. Fill the remaining space around the root ball with more potting mix, pressing gently to secure the plant.

Location for Planting Button Fern

Choose a location where your Button Fern will receive plenty of bright, indirect light. As previously mentioned, a North or East-facing window is ideal. Avoid placing the fern near heating or cooling vents, as sudden temperature changes can cause stress. Button Ferns also appreciate some humidity, so consider placing them in a kitchen or bathroom if the air in your home is particularly dry.


Proper watering is one of the most critical aspects of Button Fern care, influencing the plant’s health and growth significantly. Understanding the watering needs of this fern involves knowing how often to water it, identifying signs of overwatering and under-watering, and applying appropriate watering techniques.

Water Requirements

Button Ferns prefer their soil to be consistently moist but not waterlogged. It’s crucial to strike a balance between providing adequate water for the fern to thrive and preventing the onset of root rot, which can occur in water-saturated soil.

Button Fern

How Often to Water

The frequency of watering will depend on several factors such as the fern’s size, the pot size, the current season, and your home’s indoor conditions. Generally, watering once a week works well for most Button Ferns. However, in hot, dry conditions or during the growing season (spring and summer), the plant may need watering twice a week. On the contrary, in cooler months or low-light conditions, watering can be reduced.

Signs of Overwatering and Under-watering

The Button Fern communicates its needs quite clearly. Overwatered ferns often display yellowing leaves, a surefire sign of too much moisture, potentially leading to root rot. On the other hand, under-watered Button Ferns may have droopy or wilting fronds, and the soil will feel dry to the touch.

Tips for Proper Watering Techniques

Water your Button Fern thoroughly, allowing the water to seep through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. This approach ensures that the water reaches the entire root system. Always allow the top inch of soil to dry out before the next watering session. Use lukewarm water if possible, as cold water could shock the plant’s roots.

Soil and Fertilization

Choosing the right soil and understanding the fertilization needs of your Button Fern are key to promoting healthy growth.

Soil Requirements

Button Ferns prefer a well-draining, slightly acidic to neutral soil. A standard indoor potting mix can work well, but adding some peat moss will provide the acidity and excellent moisture retention that Button Ferns love. The potting mix should be light and airy to allow the fern’s delicate roots to expand freely.

Importance of Proper Soil Drainage

Proper soil drainage is critical in preventing root rot. Despite the Button Fern’s love for moisture, waterlogged soil can cause the roots to become suffocated and decay. Ensure that your pot has sufficient drainage holes and consider adding some perlite or coarse sand to the potting mix to improve its drainage properties.

Fertilization Requirements

Button Ferns aren’t heavy feeders, but they do benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season. Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer at half the recommended strength, applying it once a month from spring through summer. This feeding schedule provides the necessary nutrients for the fern’s active growth. Remember to water your plant thoroughly before and after fertilizing to prevent root burn.

The joy of houseplant care lies in these nuanced elements – finding the right balance of light, water, soil, and nutrients that your Button Fern needs to flourish. With your continued care and dedication, your fern will undoubtedly grow into a healthy and captivating companion, bringing a piece of nature’s tranquility into your home.

Temperature and Humidity

Creating an environment that closely mimics a plant’s natural habitat is key to its successful growth. For the Button Fern, this means understanding and maintaining the optimal temperature and humidity ranges.

Optimal Temperature Range

Button Ferns thrive in temperatures between 60°F (15°C) and 75°F (24°C). They can tolerate a little cooler or warmer, but dramatic fluctuations in temperature or exposure to extreme cold or heat can lead to plant stress.

During winter, move your Button Fern away from cold drafts such as windows and doors. Conversely, in the summer, keep it away from direct sources of heat, like radiators or heating vents.

Humidity Requirements

Being native to New Zealand, Button Ferns are used to a relatively humid environment. Therefore, they prefer a humidity level of around 50%. If you live in a dry climate, you may need to take measures to increase humidity around your Button Fern.

Button Fern (6)

How to Adjust Temperature and Humidity for Optimal Growth

To increase humidity, you could use a pebble tray filled with water under the pot, ensuring the pot doesn’t touch the water to avoid root rot. Regular misting with lukewarm water can also be beneficial, especially during winter when indoor heating can create dry conditions. Alternatively, consider using a humidifier to maintain a consistent humidity level.

As for temperature, maintain the indoor temperature within the fern’s comfortable range by monitoring and adjusting your home’s heating or cooling as needed. Remember to keep your fern away from sources of extreme temperatures or sudden drafts.

Pests and Diseases

Despite its hardy nature, the Button Fern can sometimes be affected by common houseplant pests and diseases. However, with the right preventive measures and treatments, you can protect your plant and ensure its healthy growth.

Common Pests and Diseases

Button Ferns are generally resistant to most diseases, but they can be susceptible to root rot if overwatered. Pests such as spider mites, mealybugs, and aphids can also infest the plant, especially if the fern is stressed or weakened.

Prevention and Treatment Methods

Preventing pest infestations involves regular plant check-ups. Examine the fronds and stems for any signs of pests during your routine care. Keeping the plant healthy, with appropriate watering, lighting, and feeding, will make it less susceptible to pests and diseases.

In case of a pest infestation, isolate the affected plant immediately to prevent the pests from spreading. Use a soft cloth dipped in soapy water to wipe off the pests or consider using a natural or chemical insecticide if the infestation is severe.

For root rot, the best treatment is prevention. Ensure the plant is not overwatered and that the pot has proper drainage. If root rot does occur, it may be necessary to repot the plant, trimming away any decayed roots and using fresh, well-draining soil.

By being observant and proactive in your Button Fern care, you can swiftly tackle any issues that arise, keeping your fern lush, green, and happy. The journey of plant parenting is filled with learnings, and every challenge faced contributes to becoming a better, more knowledgeable plant owner.


While our focus is on the Button Fern, it’s essential to understand the pruning needs of another houseplant – the Snake Plant. Pruning is an important aspect of plant care that promotes healthier and more controlled growth.

Reasons for Pruning Snake Plants

Snake Plants, also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue or Sansevieria, don’t require frequent pruning. However, certain situations may warrant a trim:

  1. To Remove Damaged Leaves: If the leaves are yellow, brown, or damaged, pruning helps improve the plant’s overall appearance and health by preventing potential disease spread.
  2. To Control Growth: Snake Plants can grow quite tall, and you may want to keep the plant’s size in check for aesthetic reasons or space constraints.
  3. To Propagate: Pruning is an excellent opportunity to propagate new Snake Plants. A healthy leaf cutting can be rooted to grow a new plant.

How to Prune Snake Plants

When pruning your Snake Plant, use a clean, sharp knife or pair of scissors to make a clean cut. This practice minimizes damage and helps prevent disease transmission. If you’re pruning for propagation, cut off a healthy leaf near its base and let the cut end callous over for a couple of days before planting it in well-draining soil.

Recommended Varieties

While the classic Button Fern is a popular choice, there are several other fascinating varieties that you might consider adding to your indoor plant collection:

  1. Button Fern ‘Crested Surf’ – This variant features a wavy, crested form, adding a touch of whimsy to your plant collection.
  2. Button Fern ‘Silver Lady’ – This variety sports silvery-green fronds that are notably delicate and elegant.
  3. Button Fern ‘Rozanne’ – ‘Rozanne’ has more robust fronds compared to the typical Button Fern and can tolerate slightly lower light conditions.

Each of these varieties offers unique aesthetic traits, broadening the visual impact of your indoor plant ensemble while retaining the easy-care benefits of the Button Fern species.

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Common Problems Faced in Care and Maintenance

Despite our best intentions, problems can arise during the care and maintenance of the Button Fern. Here are some common issues:

  1. Yellowing Leaves: This could be due to overwatering, which can lead to root rot. Check the soil moisture levels and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
  2. Wilting/Drooping Fronds: This usually indicates under-watering or low humidity. Increase the frequency of watering and consider methods to increase humidity around your fern.
  3. Brown Leaf Tips: This is often a sign of low humidity or over-fertilization. Try to increase the humidity and reduce the frequency of fertilization.
  4. Slow Growth or Pale Leaves: These are signs of insufficient light or nutrients. Consider moving the plant closer to a light source and make sure it’s receiving the correct amount of fertilizer.

Tips for Better Care

Caring for your Button Fern becomes easier with the right strategies. Here, we break down the tips into basic and advanced levels, allowing for both novice and experienced plant parents to take their care game to the next level.

Basic Tips

  1. Right Environment: Ensure your Button Fern is in a spot that receives bright, indirect light, and is away from cold drafts or intense heat sources.
  2. Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again.
  3. Humidity: Consider ways to increase humidity around the plant, such as using a pebble tray or humidifier.
  4. Feeding: Fertilize monthly during the growing season with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.

Advanced Tips

  1. Pruning: Regularly prune your Button Fern to remove old or yellowing fronds, promoting bushier and healthier growth.
  2. Observation: Become adept at observing your fern for any changes. The sooner you notice a problem, the quicker and more effectively you can intervene.
  3. Pest Control: Inspect your plant routinely for signs of pests or disease. Isolate any affected plant to prevent the spread of pests to other houseplants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are the fronds on my Button Fern turning yellow?

This could be a sign of overwatering or poor drainage, leading to root rot. Check your watering schedule and ensure the plant’s pot has good drainage.

My Button Fern has brown leaf tips. What’s happening?

Brown leaf tips often indicate dry air or over-fertilization. Try increasing humidity around your fern and reduce the frequency of fertilization.

Can I propagate my Button Fern?

Yes, Button Ferns can be propagated by division. Spring is the best time to do this. Simply divide the plant at the roots and repot the sections.

Is the Button Fern pet-friendly?

Yes, the Button Fern is considered non-toxic to cats and dogs by the ASPCA.

My Button Fern isn’t growing. What should I do?

Check the light, water, and nutrient levels. Your fern may need more light or may be under-watered or under-fertilized.

About Christopher Evans

Hello, I'm Chris, the green-thumbed Founder of I'm passionate about bringing the beauty of nature indoors through houseplants and indoor gardening. Let's create healthier and more beautiful living spaces, one plant at a time!

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