Live to Plant

Fern Plant Roots and Stems:
an In-depth Look

Updated: May 6, 2022

Ferns are a group of vascular plants that reproduce via spores rather than seeds. These ancient plants have been on Earth for over 360 million years and have evolved a unique set of structures to help them thrive in a variety of environments. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at fern plant roots and stems.

Fern Plant Roots

Ferns have a complex root system that allows them to grow in a variety of soil types and conditions. Unlike other plants, fern roots do not have root hairs. Instead, they have rhizomes, which are horizontal stems that grow just beneath the surface of the soil.

Rhizomes are important for ferns because they allow the plant to spread horizontally and form colonies. This is especially useful for ferns that grow in areas where the soil is shallow or unstable. Some ferns also have adventitious roots, which are roots that grow from the stem above ground. These roots are important for stability and can help the plant anchor itself to rocks or other surfaces.

Fern roots are also able to absorb nutrients and water from the soil efficiently. This is because they have a symbiotic relationship with fungi called mycorrhizae. The fungi attach themselves to the roots and help the plant absorb nutrients from the soil. In return, the plant provides the fungi with carbohydrates.

Fern Plant Stems

Ferns have two types of stems: aerial stems and underground stems. Aerial stems are responsible for supporting the fronds (leaves) of the fern. They are typically thin and flexible, allowing the fronds to sway in the wind without breaking.

Underground stems, like rhizomes, are horizontal and grow just beneath the surface of the soil. They are responsible for storing nutrients and water, as well as producing new fronds. Some ferns also have erect stems that grow above ground. These stems are typically thicker and more rigid than aerial stems, and they help support the weight of the fronds.

Fern stems also have a unique structure called a stipe. The stipe is the part of the stem that connects the frond to the main stem. It is similar to a petiole in other plants. The stipe is important for supporting the frond and transporting water and nutrients from the roots to the frond.


Do all ferns have rhizomes?

No, not all ferns have rhizomes. Some ferns have a single underground stem called a caudex, while others have erect stems that grow above ground.

Can ferns grow in full sun?

Some ferns can tolerate full sun, but most prefer partial shade. Too much sun can cause the fronds to wilt or turn yellow.

How do I care for my fern plant?

Ferns prefer moist soil and humidity. Water your fern regularly and mist it frequently to keep it healthy. Avoid placing your fern in direct sunlight or near heating vents.

Can ferns be grown indoors?

Yes, many ferns make excellent houseplants. Choose a fern that prefers low light and high humidity, and place it in a location where it will receive indirect sunlight.


Fern plant roots and stems are unique structures that have evolved over millions of years to help these ancient plants survive in a variety of environments. From their horizontal rhizomes to their thin aerial stems, each part of the fern serves a specific purpose. Understanding these structures can help us appreciate these fascinating plants and care for them properly.