Dying Button Ferns

plantomaniacDecember 4, 2006


Both my Mom and I bought two button ferns for ourselves about a month ago and have had problems with them every since. The first issue we noticed was the tips of their leaves were turning brown. Now it has turned into every couple days or so, the branches die back even more (it is like the branch itself is dying). Sadly, some recently new fronds (the branches with the green balls on the ends... I am unsure if these are called fronds or not) are beginning to die. I have not seen any new growth on either of our ferns. I have mine on our kitchen table which is about 3-4 feet away from double glass doors. It is currently in a six inch pot (re-potted from a 3.8 inch pot; I did not know it was so small... I thought it was in a 4.4. inch pot, but somehow got myself confused with another plant as I have many I just recently repotted in the last month or so) and I would say receives meduim light or partial low light. I have it sitting in a plastic 6 inch tray full of small fish tank pebbles and water. My Mother's fern is in her bedroom which is about 2-3 feet away from a southern window (which gets lots of light during the day). he has hers potted in a 5 inch pot, transplanted from a 3.8 inch pot also. She has it sitting in a plastic tray with small fish tank pebbles and water as well. Our house is about 75-80 degrees during the day and at night. Both ferns are moist, which makes me wonder why they are dying? Are they just acclimating to our house still or is there something we are not doing for them that they need? I think mine is actually getting too much water as on several occasions I have found furry (very furry) white mold patches on the top of the soil in my fern's pot and hidden in it's aerial roots (is that what you call the roots that are not buried, but laying on top of the soil?). Please help me save me and my Mom's ferns!


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Welcome to GW.
I believe you have ID'ed the problem, to much moisture and maybe, not enough light!
First, let's be sure which Button Fern you have. Is it Pellaea rotundifolia?
Potting mix is important also. Best results are obtained when using 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 peatmoss & 1/3 sand, gravel & charcoal(in equal amounts). Incorporate one tsp. of powdered (dolomitic) lime for each quart of combined potting mixture.
Water only when soil feels dry to touch. Mist fronds occasionally, especially in winter, if you have a forced air heating system.
Low or subdued light is sufficient, but place in a brightly lighted location during winter, when skies are cloudy or overcast.
Best to move the pot outdoors in spring into a brightly lighted, shady location. Pellaea rotundifolia is surprisingly hardy and can survive temperatures as low as
-10C (13,14F), equivalent to USDA Zone 8a/8b. If left indoors all year, scale will sometimes develop on the fronds. Basically, it's one of the easiest ferns to grow indoors, Well drained. slightly moist soil (neutral to slightly alkaline), watering habits and light levels are the keys.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 12:52AM
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Thanks for the advice. To be honest, even though I do agree with you, I do not think that I am going to change its current conditions. I mean I care about my plant and so does my Mom, but we have many other plants right now and I guess are looking for the low maintenance plants that won't fuss with what we do have in our house. I hate to see plants die, but we cannot accomodate every plant like a nursery as we are both very busy. Again, I appreciate your advice. =:o)


    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 6:03PM
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I am reviving this thread because I am having similar problems. Seems when I search for care instructions online, some reliable sites say soil for these plants must be kept constantly moist, while others (including here) say you must let the soil dry somewhat between watering. So I am confused. Also - even if the soil dries out a bit, should I mist to add humidity?


    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 9:33PM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

My best button ferns grow either between rocks or between the bricks on a raised bed.

The bricks are right by a downspout - humid area and grows lovely mosses. Mostly shady.

The rocks are below a plum tree and free-draining. Dappled light and leaf drips.

Both ferns have widespread root systems spread as a netting between the rocks or bricks. Both receive annual helpings of leaf mold from the deciduous trees around them.

Both ferns have come through a hard summer with no water. They look a little tatty and brown-tipped and are recovering over the winter.

They're tougher/more adaptable than I thought.

In Sunset 17, yours would probably be fine outdoors, too.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 1:25AM
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