Bringing a fern home, not being able to take good care of it, and eventually killing it has been part of the plant parenting journey for many of us. But this wouldn’t have been the case if the fern we brought home was a Lemon Button fern.
The zesty Lemon Button looks like the dwarf variety of the Boston fern. Known as Nephrolepis Cordifolia ‘Duffii‘ in the books of science, this tropical plant has cute button-like leaves and fresh green color.
Lemon Button Fern Care
Lemon Button fern likes rich, moist, and slightly acidic soil. It will only need 4 hours of bright indirect light per day. It should be watered moderately once the top two inches of soil dry out. The optimum temperature range is 60-80°F (15-27°C). It likes to have 70% or higher atmospheric humidity.
Lemon Button fern prefers to grow in nutrient-rich, consistently moist, and slightly acidic soil. It can tolerate soil pH levels 4-7. Adequate drainage is also a must because this plant will suffer in soggy soil. Potting mix made of equal parts of garden soil, peat moss, and perlite is perfect.
Having the right soil to grow in can make the difference between a dull-looking Lemon Button fern and one that looks vibrant and happy.
Although it is one of the least demanding fern species and can survive a lot of neglect, it will not be at its best if its soil requirements are not fulfilled.
The two most important soil characteristics for a Lemon Button fern to thrive are drainage and water retention. Adding two simple ingredients, perlite and peat moss, can fulfill these needs efficiently.
You can use regular house plant potting mix for potting this cute fern, and it won’t mind. If you want to be more specific to its needs, add equal parts of perlite and peat moss.
Adding perlite will enhance the soil drainage. And peat moss will help hold soil moisture for longer, so the plant does not go without water for a long time.
The Lemon Button fern is tolerant to a range of light levels, from low indirect light to bright light. They can adapt to a range of light levels but will grow best if provided medium indirect light and are kept out of harsh sunlight. It will only need 4 hours of bright indirect light per day.
Out on the internet, you may read that the Lemon Button fern can thrive in a wide range of light levels and are very adaptable in this regard.
While it is true that the resilient fern can tolerate light levels from low indirect light to bright light, it will only thrive when we give it similar light conditions to those it will receive when growing in the wild.
It can be hard to understand the different light level requirements for plants. The best way is to understand the light levels by imagining the natural environment of these plants.
Lemon Button ferns are tropical plants that grow on the forest floor, under the thick canopy of the tropical forest. They receive heavy to medium shade, with dappled sunlight.
Growing this plant under trees’ shade is one excellent way to mimic the natural light conditions. When growing indoors, choose a spot that gets just medium indirect light.
The light should not be too bright nor too low. Placing on the side of a window is a good option.
The Lemon Button fern is not very sensitive about watering and can tolerate dry spells better than other ferns. It should be watered moderately once the top two inches of soil dry out. This plant will not act out even if watering gets delayed. Care is needed as the fern will die if overwatered.
Your Lemon Button fern will thrive if provided with ample soil moisture. When available, this plant will drink heavily, and its colors will brighten up.
But even when soil moisture is less than the required amount, this fern will tolerate it and will not shrivel very quickly.
This means you can allow your Lemon Button fern soil to dry out sometimes to encourage healthy root growth and avoid the dangers of root rot.
When watering your fern, make sure you’re using the right kind of water. If the tap water in your area is too hard or is chlorine-treated, you should not use it to water your fern.
Using drinking water is a much better option for your plant’s health. You can also leave tap water to rest overnight so that the majority of the chlorine evaporates from it.
Lemon Button fern is a tropical plant that prefers mild-warm temperatures. The optimum growing temperature range for this plant is 60-80°F (15-27°C). They can be grown outdoors year-round in USDA zones 8-10. The plant should be brought indoors before temperatures dip below 50°F (10°C).
The Lemon Button fern is native to tropical or sub-tropical Asia and grows on the forest floor where the temperature stays within a very regulated range.
The temperatures never dip below freezing, neither does it get extremely hot because of the forest cover.
This way, the temperatures always remain within a comfortable range for the tropical plants growing in the forest.
When growing in the home, try to give your Lemon Button a place where the temperatures do not fluctuate a lot.
All you have to do is protect this plant from the extreme heat of the summer and the extreme cold of the winter.
Do not place the plant directly in front of an East or South facing window, as the direct sunlight gets intensified through the glass and can burn the foliage.
Like all ferns, the Lemon Button fern requires high humidity to thrive. Humidity is a much more important factor than the temperature for these plants to grow well. This tropical plant likes to have 70% or higher humidity. Typical indoor humidity levels are not enough, so special steps are needed.
High humidity is a critical factor for Lemon Button ferns to thrive. The edges of the leaves may turn brown and crispy if adequate humidity is not present.
Place this plant out of drafty places, away from fans, furnaces, or open fires. All of these locations have extremely low humidity levels and will make your fern suffer.
But placing out of low humidity locations is nearly not enough. You have to adopt special practices to notch up humidity levels for your Lemon Button fern and other tropical plants in the winter.
Using a humidifier is a straightforward and one-time solution for all your low humidity woes in the winter.
A humidifier running nearby your plant will increase the humidity by 50-60%, making life much better for it.
Using a pebble tray is also a great way to increase humidity around your plant if you only have to care for a few plants. Place the pot in a pebble-crammed tray and fill the tray with water.
The evaporating water will make up for artificial humidity around your plant.
The Lemon Button fern is not a heavy feeder and grows slow, so fertilization is not needed. You can still use a very mild liquid fertilizer to feed this plant monthly or fortnightly only during the growing season. Wait a few months before fertilizing your plant when you’ve bought it.
Ferns usually do not need to be fertilized. But loving plant parents still want to do as much as they can for their cute Lemon Button.
One thing you will surely want to avoid is overfertilization. This can happen if you feed your plant with intense doses or that you have fertilized a plant immediately after buying it from the nursery.
You never know when was the last time the plant was fed at the nursery, so to avoid the risk of overfertilization, wait for two months before you fertilize.
Lemon Button fern looks a lot like a miniature Boston fern, with small button-like leaves. They can grow up to a height of 12 inches maximum. They do not produce flowers but reproduce through spores. They are typically slow growers. Growth is fastest in high humidity and warmth.
Despite its small size and delicate look, the Lemon Button fern is very hardy. It can tolerate high salt content in the soil and the atmosphere.
It gives off a sweet lemon scent when the foliage is touched or pinched.
The fronds are typically 2-3 feet long, with the button leaves arranges alternatingly on both sides of the main stem.
Your Lemon Button fern will thrive in any sort of pot as long as it has drainage holes. Terra cotta pots are always recommended because the material allows the soil to breathe. You will have to increase the pot size by one every subsequent growing season to keep with the plant’s lateral growth.
You can pot this plant in any kind of pot, and it will stay happy.
These are one of the most popular plants among terrarium enthusiasts for their small size and ability to grow in small spaces.
When choosing a pot for your fern, drainage holes are a must. A pot without drainage should never be used as it will always result in a dead plant.
Lemon Button Fern Propagation
Ferns do not produce flowers and cannot be propagated through seed. They can be propagated through division and through spores. The most followed practice is division, whereby the plants are divided from their roots and planted in separate planters. The separated plants develop in a few months.
Ferns do not flower or produce fruit. Lemon Button fern, being a true fern, is no exception. Hence, the sexual reproduction method cannot be followed to propagate these plants.
The anatomy of the Lemon Button is such that baby plants develop from rhizomes, a part of the root structure of the parent plant.
When the new plant sprouts, it develops its own independent root system while still being attached to the parent plant. The new plants and their root systems can be identified by spotting individual clusters of roots.
These can be easily separated and potted separately.
Another way to propagate ferns is through spores, which is also how these plants reproduce in the wild. But propagation through spores is a technical topic and will need a lot more time and space to talk about.
Common Problems with Lemon Button Fern
Lemon Button fern is not susceptible to many pests or diseases and rarely catches an infection or infestation.
The citrus scent it gives off when the foliage is pinched works as a good defense against many pests.
However, when growing in the garden, your Lemon Button fern may attract slugs, mealy bugs, and plant scale.
You can easily get rid of mealybugs and other bugs with a mild spray of Neem oil. Slugs can be dealt with by removing them by hand and applying diatomaceous earth around the plant.
The Lemon Button fern brings a sweet and lively vibe to wherever it’s planted. It will go perfectly on your kitchen windowsill or beside your living room window, emanating happy vibes.
Easy-to-care for and one of the best plants for new plant parents, the Lemon Button fern is a must-have plant in your collection.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Lemon Button Fern
Is Lemon Button fern toxic to pets?
Part of what makes this plant an excellent houseplant is its non-toxicity to dogs and cats. Not only is it easy to care for, but you also will not have to worry about your pet messing around with this plant.
Does Lemon Button fern smell like lemons?
When the foliage is handled or pinched, a sweet lemony scent is released. This scent, along with the button-like leaves, gives this plant the name Lemon Button fern.
Is Lemon Button fern a dwarf variety of the Boston fern?
Although it looks a lot like a miniature Boston fern, the Lemon Button fern is separate from the Boston fern. Lemon Button fern is scientifically known as Nephrolepis Cordifolia ‘Duffii’, while Boston fern is called Nephrolepis exaltata.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.