Why Are My Ferns Turning Brown? [Reasons & Preventions]

Ferns, with their delicate fronds and intricate patterns, are the royalty of houseplants. These low maintenance plants can transform any space into a lush, green oasis.

However, you may sometimes find the regal fern becoming less than its optimal self, with brown patches or fronds appearing. If your ferns are turning brown, it’s time to don your detective hat and unravel the mystery.

The Anatomy of a Fern

Before diving into the possible reasons for your ferns turning brown, it’s essential to understand the basics of fern anatomy.

The main structure of a fern is called the frond, made up of a stipe (the stem) and a blade (the leafy part). These plants thrive in a humid environment, with indirect light, and well-draining soil.

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Common Causes of Brown Ferns

These below are represents some common zauses of Brown Ferns. Such as:

Insufficient Humidity

As I mentioned earlier, ferns are typically plants that originate from tropical or subtropical climates, where they have adapted to thrive in high humidity environments.

If the air around your fern is too dry, the fern’s cells lose their water content, causing the plant tissue to dry out and turn brown. This browning is especially common in heated indoor environments or arid regions where the air’s moisture content is low.

Overexposure to Light

While ferns need light to perform photosynthesis, prolonged exposure to direct, bright light can result in sunburn. This scorching causes their delicate fronds to turn a brownish color and may lead to leaf drop. Some types of ferns are particularly sensitive to bright light and can experience sunburn even with brief exposure.

Improper Watering

When it comes to watering, balance is key. Overwatering can cause the plant’s roots to become waterlogged and deprived of oxygen, a condition known as root rot. The lack of oxygen can damage or even kill the roots, inhibiting the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients, resulting in browning fronds.

Underwatering, on the other hand, can also cause ferns to turn brown. Without adequate water, the plant cannot perform photosynthesis effectively, and cells in the leaves may start to die, leading to browning.

Poor Soil Quality

Soil quality plays a significant role in plant health. Ferns need slightly acidic soil rich in organic matter for optimal growth.

If the soil is too alkaline, it can inhibit the plant’s ability to absorb certain nutrients, leading to nutrient deficiencies that can cause browning. Similarly, soil that doesn’t drain well can cause water to accumulate around the roots, leading to root rot.

Pests and Diseases

Pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites can feed on ferns, leading to browning. In addition, diseases like fungal and bacterial infections can also cause browning in ferns. These diseases often cause water-soaked spots that eventually turn brown.

Temperature Stress

Ferns are sensitive to temperature changes. If temperatures fall below their tolerance level, it could cause cell damage, leading to browning. Similarly, too high temperatures, especially in conjunction with low humidity, can cause the plant to dry out and turn brown.

Nutrient Deficiencies

While ferns are generally not heavy feeders, they do need certain nutrients to thrive. A lack of essential nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and iron can lead to a general browning or yellowing of the fronds.

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Solutions for Brown Ferns

Knowing the potential causes is half the battle. The next step is remedying the issue:

Increasing Humidity

To raise the humidity around your fern, consider these methods:

  • Misting: Regularly spray your fern with a fine mist of water. Avoid using cold water, as it can shock the plant.
  • Humidity tray: Place your fern’s pot on a tray filled with pebbles and a little water. The water should not touch the base of the pot; it should only evaporate into the air around the plant.
  • Grouping plants: Plants naturally release water into the air, so placing several together can create a more humid microclimate.
  • Humidifier: Using a humidifier near your plants is a great way to increase the humidity level, especially during winter when heating systems can dry out the air.

Adjusting Light Exposure

Ensure that your fern is placed in a location where it will receive bright but indirect sunlight. If you notice that your fern is receiving too much direct sunlight, you might need to move it further away from the window or use curtains to filter the light.

Modifying Watering Habits

Watering should be done regularly so that the soil remains damp but not waterlogged. Here are some tips to improve your watering habits:

  • Check the soil: Before watering, check the top inch of the soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to water. If it’s still damp, wait a day or two.
  • Drainage: Make sure the pot has good drainage to prevent water from pooling at the bottom, which can lead to root rot.
  • Watering technique: When watering, aim to moisten the soil thoroughly. It’s better to water deeply and less frequently than to give the plant small amounts of water more often.

Improving Soil Quality

Choose or create a potting mix that suits ferns’ needs. They prefer a loose, rich, slightly acidic soil. You can create your own mix using equal parts peat moss, loamy garden soil, and perlite or sand for drainage. You can also buy premade mixes designed for ferns.

Pest and Disease Control

If your fern is suffering from a pest infestation or disease, identify the cause and treat it accordingly. Insecticidal soaps can help manage pests, and fungicides can address fungal infections. Always follow the product’s instructions to avoid harming your fern.

Nutrient Supply

A balanced liquid fertilizer can help provide the necessary nutrients for your fern. Choose a fertilizer with a balanced ratio like 20-20-20 (Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium). Fertilize during the growing season (spring and summer) and follow the package instructions to avoid overfertilization.

Temperature Control

Maintain a consistent temperature within your fern’s tolerance range. Avoid placing your fern near heaters, air conditioners, or drafts that could cause sudden temperature fluctuations.

Remember, brown fronds will not turn green again, but new growth should be healthy if you address the underlying problem.

Ferns Turning Brown

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The sight of browning ferns can be disheartening for any plant lover. However, understanding the causes and remedies can help you restore your fern to its vibrant green glory.

Always remember that ferns, like all living beings, require balance – balanced light, water, and nutrition. Pay close attention to your fern’s needs, and it will reward you with lush, healthy growth.


Why are the tips of my ferns turning brown?

The browning tips could be due to a lack of humidity or inadequate watering. Try increasing the humidity around the plant and ensure the soil remains consistently moist.

Are brown ferns dead?

Not necessarily. While browning is a sign of stress, it doesn’t mean the plant is dead. With appropriate changes in care, your fern can bounce back to health.

Can brown ferns turn green again?

Yes, they can. If the cause of browning is addressed in time, new growth should be green. However, the already browned parts won’t turn green again. You can trim these off to encourage new growth.

Can over-fertilizing cause browning in ferns?

Absolutely. Over-fertilization can lead to salt build-up in the soil, which can burn the roots, leading to browning fronds. Always use fertilizers as per instructions and avoid overdoing it.

What types of ferns are most prone to browning?

While all ferns can potentially turn brown under stressful conditions, some are more prone to it due to their natural habitat. Tropical ferns like Boston ferns and maidenhair ferns require high humidity and indirect light, making them more susceptible to browning in dry and overly bright conditions.