By Jennifer Poindexter
Blue star ferns (also known as Phlebodium aureum) are a common houseplant that many people enjoy having around their home due to their unique blueish, green foliage.
This type of fern is different from other varieties, aside from its coloring, due to the rounded nature of the fronds. It’s also a somewhat forgiving plant.
Just because the blue star fern allows some grace when it comes to correcting issues you may run into when growing it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do a little research prior to bringing it into your home.
This is where I come in. I’m going to share basic information on how to care for this plant. Here’s what you should know about caring for a blue star fern:
What You’ll Learn
- The unique characteristics of blue star ferns.
- The optimal lighting conditions for blue star ferns.
- The correct method and frequency of watering these ferns.
- The importance of humidity balance and how to achieve it.
- The role of consistent temperatures in the growth of blue star ferns.
- The necessity of nutrients and the correct timing for their application.
- Methods to protect your blue star ferns from common pests.
- How to provide the right growing conditions for your fern.
- The importance of selecting the right container for your plant.
- When and how to repot your blue star fern.
- Effective propagation techniques for blue star ferns.
Caring for a Blue Star Fern
Blue star ferns are beautiful plants that start their life with a disorganized appearance but become graceful, beautiful plants as they mature.
Take these tips into consideration, to encourage your blue star fern to have a healthy life which allows it to meet its full aesthetic potential:
1. Select a Location with Adequate Lighting
Blue star ferns prefer to grow in a location which receives bright, indirect light. If the light is too direct it can lead to scorching the plant’s leaves.
It can also handle areas with some low light. However, you must be mindful not to place the plant in a dark location as this will also have a negative impact.
When the plant receives too little light, the foliage will droop. Watch your plant closely to determine if it’s receiving too much or too little lighting in its growing space.
2. Water Your Blue Star Fern Correctly
Blue star ferns grow best when they’re watered deeply. This means that you’ll place the plant in a sink (or shower) and water it until there’s water draining out the bottom of the container.
Allow the plant to finish draining completely before returning it to its growing location. This way of watering allows the plant to receive moisture without being left in an overly soggy state.
Be mindful to water the soil directly and avoid getting the leaves wet, when possible. If you keep a saucer beneath your planter and some excess water drains into it, be sure to dump it.
Leaving the plant in standing water can lead to root rot. You should also test the soil before watering deeply again.
When the soil is dry to your first knuckle, it’s time to water. If not, wait a day or two before testing the soil again.
If your plant dries out too much between waterings, water the plant well upon noticing the situation and trim away any browning portions of the plant. This should help it make a full recovery if caught in time.
3. Provide the Right Balance of Humidity
Some gardeners say blue star ferns don’t need added humidity, while others claim they do. I think it may have more to do with your physical location or the conditions of your home as to why there’s mixed emotions here.
If you have a home where you find the fern starts to look crunchy and brown, there’s a good chance it needs more humidity.
It could also be that the plant isn’t receiving enough water or it’s in too bright of a growing location. However, if you’re watering deeply, your growing location isn’t too bright, and the fronds are still brown, it’s most likely caused by lack of humidity.
Don’t be discouraged. Instead, move your plant to a naturally humid room in the house such as a kitchen or bathroom.
You could also spritz the plant with a spray bottle of water a few times each day. You may also place a tray with pebbles beneath the planter and pour water over the pebbles.
The water shouldn’t reach the base of the growing container to avoid issues with root rot. Yet, this bit of added moisture beneath the plant could increase humidity enough around it to keep the fern satisfied.
If your fern develops brown or droopy fronds before you correct the humidity (or any other issue which may have similar effects on the plant) trim away the damaged portions. This should encourage new growth.
4. Select a Location with Consistent Temperatures
Blue star ferns are native to tropical climates. Therefore, they don’t handle drastic swings in temperatures well.
Avoid this by keeping your fern in a growing space with temperatures between 55- and 80- degrees Fahrenheit.
Don’t place the plant in an area where the temperatures will fluctuate such as in front of an air conditioner, a doorway during the winter, or even near a wood stove or fireplace.
By placing your plant where the temperature can remain steady, you’re encouraging a healthy growing environment.
5. Provide Nutrients As-Needed
Blue star ferns do benefit from consistent feedings. However, it’s important to go about feeding them in the right way. To begin, you shouldn’t need to fertilize the fern for the first six months after planting.
By six months, the fern should have pulled all the nutrients from the soil in which it was originally planted. At this point, you can fertilize the plant with an all-purpose option at 25% potency.
Be sure to fertilize once per month during the growing season, once you begin the process. Don’t fertilize the plant over winter as this can burn the roots and cause the fronds to turn brown.
6. Protect Your Blue Star Fern from Pests
The most common pest to impact the blue star fern is the spider mite. This pest can have a negative impact on the overall health of your plant.
However, these pests are extremely small, making them hard to spot. Chances are you’ll see their homes forming around your plant, which look like small webs, before you notice the pest.
When you notice any sign, be sure to spray the plant forcefully with soapy water. You may also treat the issue with an insecticide.
Remain alert to spot issues with spider mites in their early stages. Early detection should reduce the amount of damage to your blue star fern.
7. Provide Adequate Growing Conditions for the Blue Star Fern
You can water correctly, fertilize, prune, and even watch for potential threats. Yet, if you don’t provide your blue star fern with the right growing conditions, none of it will matter because you aren’t setting your plant up to thrive.
As we discussed earlier, blue star ferns are unique ferns due to their shape and color. These plants typically reach heights around two feet.
When growing this type of plant, be sure to provide soil that’s well-draining and amended to provide necessary nutrients in the early stages of growth.
Temperatures should remain consistent in the growing location but ensure your fern is never exposed to temperatures below freezing as this can be a death sentence for the plant.
Supply the right lighting, soil, and temperatures from the start to encourage a healthy blue star fern.
8. Select the Right Growing Container
At this point, we’ve discussed a great deal about providing the blue star fern with the right growing conditions and other processes to care for this plant properly.
However, some of the smallest details can make all the difference with this plant. One basic decision is selecting the right type of growing container.
You must select a growing container that drains adequately. However, as much as you don’t want your plant left in soggy conditions, you also don’t want it to dry out too quickly.
Therefore, don’t grow blue star ferns in terra cotta pots. They dry out too fast. Instead grow this plant in a glazed or plastic container.
By selecting the right type of planter, it could encourage greater growth from your blue star fern.
9. Repot When Necessary
Blue star ferns need to be repotted approximately one time every two years. When you begin seeing the roots grow from the bottom of the pot or the soil become compacted, it’s a sign that the plant needs fresh soil and a bigger container.
When you remove the plant from the container, you can either propagate new plants (which we’ll discuss in a moment) or plant the entire thing in a larger pot with fresh soil.
Whichever method you choose, ensure the new container is large enough to support the plant’s root system and supply fresh soil to encourage further growth from your blue star fern.
10. Propagate Effectively
The final thing to discuss when growing blue star ferns is propagation. When you’re repotting the fern, it’s wise to divide it.
Remove the plant from the container and split the entire plant into sections with a spade or by hand. Ensure each division has a piece of the root system.
Place each division into its own container with fresh soil and add plenty of water to encourage the new plants to develop strong roots.
Be sure not to fertilize the plant until all nutrients are depleted from the soil. This can take up to six months, as we discussed previously.
This concludes our discussion on how to care for the blue star fern. If you follow these tips, it should help alleviate many of the problems people face when raising this plant.
Be mindful to provide optimal care to your plant. In return, hopefully, it will thrive and make your home a little more enjoyable.
- Lighting: Blue star ferns prefer bright, indirect light, but can tolerate some low light. Avoid dark locations to prevent drooping foliage.
- Watering: Deep watering ensures the plant receives enough moisture without becoming soggy. Monitor the soil moisture levels and water when dry to the first knuckle.
- Humidity: Depending on your home’s conditions, your fern may require additional humidity. If the fronds turn brown and crispy, consider increasing humidity.
- Temperature: Consistent temperatures between 55- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for the blue star fern. Avoid locations with drastic temperature fluctuations.
- Nutrition: Fertilize your fern monthly during the growing season, but avoid fertilizing over winter to prevent root burn and brown fronds.
- Pests: Stay vigilant for signs of spider mites, the most common pest for blue star ferns, and take immediate action if detected.
- Growing Conditions: Ensure your fern has well-draining soil, the right lighting, and consistent temperatures for optimal growth.
- Containers: Choose a container that provides adequate drainage but doesn’t dry out too quickly, such as a glazed or plastic pot.
- Repotting: Blue star ferns generally need repotting every two years or when the roots start to outgrow the pot or the soil becomes compacted.
- Propagation: Propagate your fern by dividing it during repotting, making sure each division has a part of the root system.
Quick Reference Chart for Blue Star Fern Care
|Leaf||Grey-Blue, Deeply Serrated|
|Light||Medium, Bright Indirect|
|Soil Condition||Moist, humusy, well-drained soils with a peaty, soil-based potting mix|
|Watering Instructions||Water after top inch of soil has dried out; avoid watering center directly; avoid soggy soil|
|Fertilization||Dilute to 1/2 to 1/4 suggested rate; only when actively growing|
|Special Characteristics||Easy to care for, has orangey brown hard rhizomes at the base, prefers high humidity|
|Watering Technique||Water close to the edge of the pot or from underneath; avoid getting rhizomes wet|
|Repotting||When plant outgrows its pot, move to pot a couple of inches larger; suitable potting mix is one sold for orchids|
|Common Problems||Root decay from overwatering leading to yellowed foliage; avoid overwatering and over-fertilizing|
|Garden Uses||Indoor plant with simple elegance and natural grace; long-lasting with deeply serrated grey-blue leaves|