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Why Are My Fern Plant Leaves Turning Yellow?

Updated: April 7, 2022

Ferns are popular houseplants that add a lush, green touch to any interior. However, they require specific care to thrive and stay healthy. One of the most common problems that fern owners face is yellowing leaves. This article will explore the reasons behind this issue and provide tips on how to fix it.

Lack of Water

One of the primary reasons for yellowing fern leaves is a lack of water. Ferns need consistent moisture to thrive, and letting the soil dry out completely can cause damage to the plant. If you notice yellowing leaves, check the soil’s moisture level by sticking your finger about an inch deep into the soil. If it feels dry, your fern needs watering.

To water your fern properly, pour water slowly onto the soil until it starts to drain out of the bottom of the pot. Be careful not to overwater, as this can also cause problems for your plant.

Too Much Water

On the other hand, too much water can also cause yellowing leaves in ferns. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which prevents the plant from absorbing nutrients properly. Signs of overwatering include mushy, brown roots and a foul odor coming from the soil.

If you suspect overwatering is the problem, let your fern dry out for a few days before watering again. You may also need to repot it in fresh, well-draining soil.

Lack of Nutrients

Ferns require specific nutrients to grow and stay healthy. A lack of these nutrients can lead to yellowing leaves or stunted growth. If your fern is not getting enough nutrients, it may be time to fertilize it.

Choose a balanced fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can find specific fertilizers made for ferns at most garden centers or online. Follow the instructions on the package carefully, as over-fertilizing can also harm your plant.

Too Much Sunlight

Ferns thrive in low to medium light conditions and can burn easily in direct sunlight. If your fern is in a location that gets too much sun, it may start to yellow or brown. Move your plant to a shadier spot, or use sheer curtains to filter the light.


Pests can also cause yellowing leaves in ferns. Common culprits include spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects. Look for small insects on the undersides of leaves or along the stems of your plant.

To get rid of pests, you can try spraying your fern with a gentle insecticidal soap or wiping the leaves down with a damp cloth. You may need to repeat this process several times to get rid of all the pests.


Can I save my fern if the leaves have already turned yellow?

It depends on the extent of the damage. If only a few leaves have turned yellow, you can remove them and take steps to correct the problem. However, if most of the leaves are yellow or brown, your fern may not recover.

How often should I water my fern?

Ferns need consistent moisture, but they don’t like to sit in water. Water your fern when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. This could be every few days or once a week, depending on the humidity levels in your home.

What kind of fertilizer should I use for my fern?

Choose a balanced fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can find specific fertilizers made for ferns at most garden centers or online.

Can I grow ferns outside?

Many fern varieties can be grown outside in shady areas with well-draining soil. Check the plant’s specific requirements before planting, as some ferns prefer more moisture or acidic soil.

How can I prevent pests in my fern?

To prevent pests, make sure your fern is in a location with proper light and humidity levels. Keep an eye out for signs of pests and act quickly if you spot any. Regularly wiping down the leaves with a damp cloth can also help prevent infestations.