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Button Fern Care

Button Fern Up Close

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If you enjoy ferns as much as I do, but you’re a gardening beginner, I strongly recommend the button fern, also known as the round-leafed fern (Pellaea rotundifolia). This is an easy-to-grow fern which isn’t as demanding and sensitive as some other ferns.

Button ferns are small and keep low, remaining manageable in size. Being smaller than other ferns, it grows between 12 and 18 inches in height and around 12 inches in width, so it’s ideal for smaller homes.

Its arching fronds have impressive and round, velvety dark green leaflets that grow on a thin stem.

This fern originates from New Zealand and Australia, but it’s now available worldwide. This fern isn’t the same as the lemon button fern. This is an entirely different plant!

The button fern loves humidity and will reward you with a cleaner air indoors. Ferns filter out xylene, toluene, and formaldehyde – pollutants associated with cancer and headaches. It’s an awesome way to bring some green vibes to areas of your home or office that are partially shaded or have indirect light exposure.

I’m also a fan of this fern because it’s not toxic to kids, dogs and cats. I have dogs and small kids around, so knowing they’re safe in case of accidental ingestion, means a lot!

Interesting Fact:

Plants from this genus are also known as cliff brakes. They tend to grow on rocks and limestone worldwide.

Button Fern Care Basics


The perfect temperature for button fern ranges between 60 and 70 degrees F.

It can do well in lower temperatures and colder climates too and even better than some other tropical ferns. However, it can’t survive freezing temperatures, so be cautious.

Water & Humidity

Button ferns want just enough water and dislike growing in a soggy soil.

This is why it’s best to water it only when the top part of the soil has dried out. If the plant’s fronds aren’t wilted and green, the plant is doing well.

It’s also known as a humidity-loving plant; it needs at least 50 percent humidity to grow happy and healthy. During the winter, because of the fire and extra heat inside, I always mist it from time to time, especially when the leaves begin to drop.

Button Fern Light Requirements

My button fern is thriving in a partially shaded part of my living room. It can also do well in bright, indirect light, in a part of your home like the kitchen.

Avoid placing it near drafts or ACs because dry and hot air can lead to browning of the foliage.


Button ferns need to grow in soils with good amount of drainage. This is why a peat-based potting mix enriched with perlite would be the best option.

Also, remember that this fern likes a shallower pot rather than a deeper one.


Button ferns like to be fertilized in the spring and summer. I use an all-purpose fertilizer for houseplants diluted to a quarter of its strength.


This plant should be repotted if you notice the roots have overgrown the pot and are coming out of the drainage’s holes on the bottom.

Choose a bigger pot from the current one, but only slightly. Ensure that it has drainage holes on the bottom. At this point, you can also divide the plant for propagation.

Button Fern Propagation

Propagating button ferns is easy. Do it in the spring when the fern is actively growing.

Divide it at the roots and pot each of the parts into separate pots. To divide the root ball, use a sharp knife to cut through it.

Best Button Fern Species

1. p.rotundifolia or the regular button fern

Pellaea Rotunifolia

Pellaea rotundifolia is the most common button fern. It’s native to Australia and New Zealand. It’s compact in size and has dark green foliage and it’s equally beautiful in hanging baskets and regular pots.

2. p.andromedifolia or the coffee fern

Pellaea Andromedifolia

Pellaea andromedifolia is native to California and Mexico. Its foliage is oval shaped. New leaves are green and turn brown, red, or purple once they mature.

3. p.falcata or the sickle fern


This is a common and widespread fern in eastern Australia and very common in eucalyptus forests and rainforests.

It’s often grown as an ornamental plant. It likes to be well watered when kept inside and prefers bright light areas without direct sun.

Other Button Fern Care Tips

Regular pruning of your button fern will help maintain its beautiful look and proportional growth.

I regularly prune my button fern because it helps it preserve moisture, especially during drier season.

Ferns like plastic pots that don’t dry out as fast as the clay ones. Avoid the latter for your ferns indoors. Ideally, it would be a clay pot surrounded by moss and then the plastic pot on the inside.

Trouble Shooting- Common Button Fern Care Issues

Problem: plant is wilting and turning yellow

Cause: Overwatering (root rot).

Solution: Remove the plant from the pot and check the roots. If there are any black ones, they’ve rotted.

If there are unaffected roots, cut the black ones and pot the healthy remaining plant into fresh soil. If the whole root is black, it’s best to dispose of it.

Problem: wilted leaves.

Cause: Not enough humidity/ dry air.

Solution: Mist the plant more regularly if the air indoors is drier. You can also opt for a plate with water placed nearby.

Problem: leaves are yellowing and falling off.

Cause: Mealybugs /white pests.

Solution: Remove visible mealybugs using a cotton swab coated with rubbing alcohol; spray the plant with 10 percent rubbing alcohol and 10 percent water; apply neem oil.

Like to see more indoor ferns? 

Checkout these easy to care for beauties;

Rabbit Foot Fern: rabbit-foot-fern-care

Foxtail Fern: foxtail-fern-care

Button Fern: button-fern-care

Birds Nest Fern: bird’s-nest-fern-care

Boston Fern: Boston-fern-care

Frosty Fern: frosty-fern-care

Maidenhair Fern: maidenhair-fern-care


Christine Mattner

What started out as purely a desire to keep my indoor plants alive has turned into a full-blown passion for sharing what I have learned over the years about selecting, growing and caring for indoor plants with those who may be new to the wonderful world of houseplants.

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