10 Types Ferns for Stunning Indoor & Outdoor Foliage

Nothing dresses up your landscape and indoor plants like vibrant, beautiful ferns. These are some of the best ferns for indoor and outdoor spaces.

Updated December 11, 2023
woman caring for a potted fern

Ferns are among the oldest living plants, with fossil records dating back 383 to 393 million years ago. These plants are resilient and have survived volcanic eruptions and cold climates thanks to their underground stems. Being able to withstand almost any harsh condition is also why they thrive as a houseplant — even for those lacking a green thumb. 

If you love the airy look and beautiful greenery of ferns, you have lots of options for types of ferns for both indoors and out. Bring this ancient and gorgeous greenery to your living spaces by choosing from one of these common fern varieties. 

List of Indoor Fern Varieties

When growing ferns indoors, make sure they've got a lot of room, because they tend to grow long leaves or fronds that shoot out in all directions. They make beautiful hanging plants and do well in low-light conditions, so they're perfect for hanging in some of the darker corners of your home.

Helpful Hack

Ferns need moisture. They love bathrooms especially because they enjoy your showers as much as you do. 

Boston Ferns

Boston Fern - Nephrolepis Exaltata

These are the most popular of the houseplant varieties, although they also grow wild outdoors in many regions. They have dark green leaves with deep, evenly spaced indentations in the edges. Boston ferns require special care because they can grow to gargantuan proportions. For example, they benefit from frequent but light misting.

Related: Here's How to Propagate Ferns Easily From Clippings or Spores

Holly Ferns

Japanese holly fern

This variety has three to six-inch dark green leaves that resemble those on holly bushes. They're are heat, light, and water tolerant. They are available in three species, including Japanese, Hawaiian, and East Indian holly ferns.

Maidenhair Ferns

maidenhair fern

As one of the most delicate types of indoor ferns, this unique plant has thin black stems and small, dainty leaves. They are a challenge to grow because they prosper best in atmospheres with high humidity, but their leaves can't withstand direct misting. This is the fern to stick in your bathroom where the steam from your shower will keep it happy.

Helpful Hack

If you're keeping your maidenhair fern outside of the bathroom, mist the air above with warm water once a day instead of directly misting on the maidenhair fern.

Staghorn Ferns

staghorn fern closeup

When you get a look at the staghorn fern, it's easy to see how it gets its name — it looks like antlers. Although this species commonly grows on the bark of trees in Asia, Africa, and Australia, it's a good houseplant if you plant it in coarse soil with good drainage. Staghorns have two sets of fronds. The green fronds are fertile, resemble stag horns, have spores on their underside, and grow up to four feet long. The brown infertile fronds grow outside the green ones and are short, flat, and round.

List of Outdoor Fern Varieties

Outdoor ferns add drama and lush green color to your yard and landscaping. 

Ostrich Ferns

ostrich fern

If it's drama you want, then an ostrich fern will bring it. This is one of the tallest and most majestic outdoor fern varieties, with fronds that often grow to five feet in length. The leaves on ostrich ferns grow in an upward sweep that resembles a vase. Ostrich ferns like moist soil and shade. To care for an ostrich fern and make them more compact, water them infrequently at ground level, taking care not to get any moisture on the delicate leaves.

Japanese Painted Ferns

Japanese painted fern

If you live in an area with harsh winters, this striking plant is the perfect outdoor fern for your garden — it can withstand temperatures as low as -30°F degrees. The tapered fronds on this fern are beautiful mixes of purple and silver and only grow up to 18 inches long.

Australian Tree Fern

Australian tree fern

As the name implies, this plant is actually a tree that normally grows to about 30 feet tall, with eight-foot fronds and trunks around six inches in circumference. It thrives all over the rainforests in New Zealand and Australia, so only plant it in a climate with heavy precipitation and warm temperatures.

Asparagus Ferns

asparagus ferns

The vivid colors and airy fronds of the asparagus fern make it a beautiful garden plant, but the fine, needle-like leaves are irritating to the skin. They thrive well in bright light and often proliferate so well they take over entire gardens, so keep them in check with frequent pruning.

Bird's Nest Ferns

bird's nest fern

Bird's nest ferns are like garden garnishes. They're compact and provide a great contrast for a garden's flowering plants. They prefer shade and can grow on rocks and trees as well as in soil.

Cinnamon Ferns

cinnamon ferns

This fern frequently grows wild along creeks and streams, so it requires a lot of water if planted in a garden. It grows about five feet tall and has two kinds of fronds. The bright green ones are infertile and the fertile ones have a deep, brown cinnamon color.

Gorgeous Greenery for Indoors & Out

Whether you plant a fern in a garden or a pot, be prepared to be awed by its beauty and hardiness. Since most ferns last for almost a decade, they're a perfect low-maintenance solution for landscapes and great for indoor pots. Their beauty will last a long time and create a lush landscape that no other plant can mimic. 

10 Types Ferns for Stunning Indoor & Outdoor Foliage