Skip to Content

Why Is My Fern Drying Out? Ooh, What Should I Do?

Why Is My Fern Drying Out? Ooh, What Should I Do?

Most people are used to seeing ferns grown outdoors, but these plants make quite excellent indoor houseplants.

Ferns add an unbeatable and plush texture to any room, as long as you provide the right conditions to flourish.

With enough light, humidity, and water, it’s easy to grow healthy ferns. Boston ferns are especially easy to grow because they aren’t as demanding as maidenhairs.


Why Is My Fern Drying Out?

The most obvious reasons for drying ferns are excess or lack of sunlight, low air humidity, failure to water ferns properly, and using excess fertilizer. Most ferns flourish in high air humidity, but some exceptions are growing well in dry atmospheres. These plants have individual needs, depending on the individual type and variety.


6 Common Reasons Why Ferns Dry Out

There is a lot of dry air in most homes, which is a major obstacle to growing ferns indoors.

Ferns that lack adequate humidity, light, water, or fertilizer develop damaged fronds which turn brown or yellow. The following are major reasons why your ferns dry out.


1. Exposure To Sunlight

Most gardeners plant their ferns in shady locations. As the fern grows, the fronds’ tips are exposed to bright sunlight.

That causes the fronds to bleach out, and they turn pale or yellow as they get crispy. In such an event, transporting your plant to a shadier location, hardscaping, or adding plants for more shade helps.

If your ferns are drying out and you don’t think the issue is with the humidity or watering, the issue could be insufficient light.

Ferns, especially Boston ferns, do well in indirect light outdoors. The trees filter sun rays reaching the plant, so ferns that don’t get sufficient and bright indirect light don’t thrive.


2. Cold Damage

Ferns, especially Boston ferns, are easy to grow and take care of, provided they get favorable conditions to grow in. They are hassle-free plants that need little care when grown both indoors and outdoors.

Some outdoor ferns can dry out due to cold damage, especially in places with harsh conditions in winter. If they are at risk of cold damage, plant ferns in containers that you can relocate indoors to prevent drying out when winter comes.


3. Inadequate Soil Moisture

Garden ferns require adequate soil moisture to ensure its healthy growth. When the soil becomes too dry, the ferns develop brown tips and consequently dry out.

Water these plants slowly, and deeply to allow the soil to absorb the moisture into the plant roots.

If the soil is compacted, water runs off instead of sinking into the soil. That prevents moisture retention.

You can add organic matter to help loosen the soil to hold more moisture for the plant. You can’t turn back once these leaves have dried up.

They begin to fall off over time which makes the garden very messy.


4. Humidity Problems

Ferns do well in humid areas, so if grown outdoors, they will need higher humidity. Most people growing ferns indoors hang the plants in their bathrooms.

Ideally, ferns require high humidity to turn them into green, lush, and beautiful plants, and this humidity is present in bathrooms.

If they are exposed to low humidity, ferns turn brown and dry out in the long run. You can fix the humidity problem by setting indoor fern plants on a tray of water and pebbles or using a cool-mist humidifier indoors.

Choose another location with high humidity if the plant is outdoors. Ferns should be moved in spring to minimize the transport shock.

Ferns may not necessarily die from low humidity, but their appearance is affected. You can measure the humidity in your house to determine if it’s suitable to grow ferns without struggling.

If the humidity is lower than 50%, raise it or move the plant to a room with higher humidity, preferably the bathroom.


5. Overwatering

Most household plants die when overwatered, and ferns are no exception. Like most plants, ferns don’t need to be water-clogged or to grow in constantly wet soil.

Overwatering ferns causes them to deteriorate health-wise, which leads to drying up.

Overwatering makes the soil too saturated, and when the plant sits in this moisture for a while, it develops root rot which kills the plant in no time.

Ferns grow well in moist soil, but wet soil kills the plants, so it’s crucial for every gardener to differentiate between wet soil and damp soil.

There are some signs to look out for to determine if your ferns are dying from overwatering such as;

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Browning on the tips of the fronds
  • Soil that is constantly wet when touched
  • Root smelling in cases where root rot develops
  • Drooping of fronds
  • Loss of plant vitality


6. Pest Infestation

Pests are common, and a potential problem for plants, including ferns. Pests kill plants if not treated, and they can spread to other plants at home.

If your ferns have started drying out, you can inspect the plants and look out for any signs of pests under the foliage.

Pests like spider mites are easy to spot, so look out for visible signs of pest infestation on the plant and in the soil. Infected ferns have stunted growth, and their leaves yellow and become spotted.

This damage causes the plant to dry out in cases of large infestations.


Frequently Asked Questions about Why My Fern Is Drying Out


How do I tell if I am overwatering my ferns?

Overwatering ferns isn’t exactly about water quantity, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are getting too much water. When the plant is frequently watered, the excess water doesn’t run out from the drainage holes, which makes the soil oversaturated with water. Overwatering causes root rots, and in most cases, the plant cannot be saved.


Can I revive back dried-out ferns?

It may be hard to bring dried-out ferns back to life, especially if most of the plant is affected. However, if there is even one healthy, or partially healthy frond, a dying fern can be revived. You can begin by pruning dead foliage and watering the plant if the soil is dirt dry, ensuring that all excess water is drained out.


How can I tell if my ferns are drying out from underwatering?

The issue of under-watering plants is easily identifiable when the soil dries up, shrinks, and becomes compact. If you can’t remember when was the last time you watered your ferns, this could be what is causing them to dry. In such cases, the physical appearance of the plant changes, starting with the drying up of the small leaves.



Ferns give your home or garden a tropical and lush appeal, but only with the right conditions for healthy growth. Your ferns can dry out, even after you take good care of them.

Most varieties of ferns require shade, humidity, and water as basic needs, and one need doesn’t compensate for the other.