10 Different Types of Ferns With Pictures

Ferns are eternal!

We say so because they are amongst the oldest living plants on earth. And the best thing about ferns is that they can stay lush green for a more extended period.

Ferns are usually associated with dense and wild rainforests, growing in a bush-like structure beneath oak and larch trees. However, these plants have made their way into our backyards, gardens, and even inside homes in the contemporary world.

Many different species of ferns can be grown both outdoors and indoors. And while some are native to tropical and subtropical locations, others may come from colder climates. As a result, we get to see a variety of leaf shapes and hues in ferns.

So, if you are planning to grow ferns on your own and are confused about which one to choose, here is a list of 10 stunning varieties with pictures. This list will help you to identify the different species of ferns along with their features. 

What are Ferns?

What are ferns
Image Credit: Fern from Pxhere

Ferns belong to the vascular plant group. These plants reproduce via spores and do not bear flowers or seeds. There is an exciting thing about ferns, i.e., botanists are equivocal on classifying these plants and if they truly belong to the Pteridophytes division. Nonetheless, a section of them, however, agree to the latter.

Ferns are versatile, as they can be used as decorative plants and for medicines, food, bio-fertilizers, and soil remediation. There are over 20000 species of plants across this globe, and their reference could be found around 300 million years ago when they almost dominated our planet.

So without any further ado, let’s marvel at the different types of ferns we can get to see that are most suitable to be grown indoors and/or outdoors. 

Different Types of Ferns with Pictures

Here is a list of popular fern types, with their pictures, that you can grow on your own.

Indoor Ferns

#1. Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis Exaltata)

Boston ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata)
Image Credit: Boston indoor fern by inonoyazy from Pixabay

Boston ferns come in different types, including:

  • Compact Boston ferns
  • Delilah Boston ferns
  • Florida Ruffle Boston ferns
  • Orlando ferns

These ferns are characterized by dark green leaves with several deep and evenly spaced indentations in the edges.

  • Exposure: Indirect sunlight (indoors); full shade and plenty of moisture (outdoors) 
  • Height: 16”- 35”
  • Hardiness: Zones 9-11 
  • Soil type: Light, loamy, and airy

#2. Staghorn ferns (Platycerium Spp)

Staghorn ferns (Platycerium Spp)
Image Credit: Staghorn fern by Lynn Greyling from Public domain pictures 

One of the most unusual-looking, Staghorn ferns has over 18 different species. One of the most mind-boggling things about these ferns is that they don’t need soil to grow and have antler-shaped leaves hanging out from the rhizome.

  • Exposure: Bright light but no direct sunlight
  • Height: Approximately 3 feet
  • Hardiness: Zones 8 and above 
  • Soil type: Does not need soil

#3. Lemon button ferns (Nephrolepis cordifolia)

Lemon button ferns (Nephrolepis cordifolia)
Image Credit: Lemon button fern by David J. Stang (CC BY-SA 4.0) from Wikimedia

Native to Australia and Asia, Lemon Button ferns are the minor variation of Boston ferns. The most striking feature of these ferns is their long sword-like leaves.

  • Exposure: Shade, away from the direct sunlight 
  • Height: Up to 12”
  • Hardiness: Zones 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b
  • Soil type: Loamy, moist, and well-drained

#4. Holly ferns (Cyrtomium Falcatum)

Holly ferns (Cyrtomium Falcatum)
Image Credit: Fortune’s Holly fern by harum.koh (CC BY-SA 2.0) from Wikimedia

Holly ferns are unusual looking when compared with traditional fern plants. And you can plant these ferns both outdoors and indoors. If you want green foliage even in winters, go for Holly ferns, as they are evergreen in nature.

  • Exposure: Full as well as partially shaded areas
  • Height: Up to 2 feet
  • Hardiness: Zones 6-10
  • Soil type: Well-drained acidic soil with a pH between 4 and 7

#5. Bird’s nest ferns (Asplenium Nidum)

Bird’s nest ferns (Asplenium Nidum)
Image Credit: Bird’s nest fern from Pxhere

These ferns are truly ornamental and have an exotic look. We say so because Bird’s Nest ferns have been praised by the Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society. In addition, these ferns can be grown both indoors as well as outdoors and need low maintenance.

  • Exposure: Partial to full shade
  • Height: Between 4 to 5 feet (outdoors); between 1 to 2 feet (indoors)
  • Hardiness: Zones 11- 12
  • Soil type: Well-drained, moist and loamy 

Outdoor Ferns

#1. Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris)

Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
Image Credit: Ostrich fern from Pxhere

These showy ferns produce large, upright clumps of finely dissected leaves. The spikey erect leaves of these fern plants look amazing if planted at the entrance of a house. Ostrich ferns are also known as Fiddlehead fern or Shuttlecock fern.

  • Exposure: Partial to full shade 
  • Height: Up to 6 feet 
  • Hardiness: Zones 3- 7
  • Soil type: Rich, moist soil

#2. Australian tree ferns (Sphaeropteris cooperi)

Australian tree ferns (Sphaeropteris cooperi)
Image Credit: Australian tree ferns by Forest & Kim Starr (CC BY 3.0) from Wikimedia

Unlike most traditional ferns, Australian tree ferns are more trees than ferns. They grow upright and really tall, which makes them ideal to be grown on lawns or backyards. In addition, it is perfect for planting them in the early spring for better sun exposure and a warm climate.

  • Exposure: Partial to full shade
  • Height:15- 25 feet 
  • Hardiness: Zones 9- 11
  • Soil type: Moist and well-grained 

#3. Japanese painted ferns (Athyrium niponicum)

Japanese painted ferns (Athyrium niponicum)
Image Credit: Japanese painted ferns by Derek Ramsey from Wikimedia

Japanese painted ferns have a silvery hue to their pinnae or leaflets, often considered the prettiest of the ferns. These ferns display hardiness, which is the preferable feature to be desired. If you stay in a closer climate, you can go with Japanese painted ferns.

  • Exposure: Partial to full shade
  • Height: Around 18”
  • Hardiness: Zones 3- 8
  • Soil type: Well-drained and moist soil

Also Read: 12 Best Plants to Grow in Your Terrarium

#4. Asparagus ferns (Asparagus aethiopicus)

Asparagus ferns (Asparagus aethiopicus)
Image Credit: Asparagus fern by GoranH from Pixabay 

Asparagus ferns look beautiful with their fuzzy-looking pinnae or leaflets. Ideally, you can grow these ferns in your rock garden or the outdoor hanging baskets. However, on the downside, Asparagus ferns are invasive. So, you must keep them under control and prune them regularly.

  • Exposure: Indirect or partial sunlight
  • Height: Up to 2 feet
  • Hardiness: Zones 9- 11
  • Soil type: Well-drained potting soil

#5. Cinnamon ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum)

Cinnamon ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum)
Image credit: Cinnamon fern from Pxhere

Don’t go by the name, as there is nothing cinnamon-ish in these ferns other than the cinnamon-colored spores. Cinnamon ferns have broad fronds with long pinnae and can be planted in spring after the last expected frost of the season.

  • Exposure: Partial to full shade
  • Height: Up to 5 feet
  • Hardiness: Zones 4- 8
  • Soil type: Rich and acidic, medium to wet 

Planting and Caring for Ferns

Planting and Caring for Ferns
Image credit: gardeningknowhow

Ferns are pretty easy to be grown and require low to medium maintenance. Follow the tips given below to make sure you experience a hassle-free ‘fern-ing’ process.

1. Use Well-Drained Soil

When planting ferns, make sure to use well-drained soil. That being said, in the outdoors, choose a place that does not face water clogging. And if you are using a pot, ensure to keep 1- 2 holes at the bottom for the water to drain.

2. Select a Medium Exposure Area

Ferns do not require direct and harsh sunlight. So choose an area that receives indirect sunlight and is partial to fully shaded. Also, keep in mind that most ferns need a similar temperature to grow as we do.

3. Keep the Soil Moist

Overtly dry soil can ruin your ferns. So watering them is essential but beware not to overwater them. Ferns like humidity, so keep them out of hot gusts and spray them with water periodically to prevent frond tips from browning.

4. Fertilize the ferns

Fertilize your ferns every 2-3 weeks with a typical plant fertilizer from March to August. However, take caution not to over-fertilize your plants.


Ferns are fascinating underbrush plants that hold with them the flavor of the mythical world of fairies, gnomes, and trolls.

Keeping the imagination apart, by now, you know that ferns come in all sizes and shapes. And you can grow them effortlessly indoors as well as outdoors. These are primarily ornamental plants that require very low maintenance but are worth to be planted.

Just make sure that you choose ferns as per your zone, climate, and soil types. And voila! You can expect to transform your backyard or indoor areas into a lush green zone.

About Jennifer Igra

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York City known for it’s green gardens. Jennifer, a 30 year old gardener and green living fanatic started Igra World to share her gardening journey and increase gardening awareness among masses. Follow Igra World to improve your gardening skills.

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