Pteris cretica: Brake Fern Houseplant

Botanical Name: Pteris cretica

Brake Fern adapts well to average indoor conditions, earning it another common name: Table Fern.

brake fern, pteris creticaVariegated leaves make Brake Fern a handsome plant. ©Claudiaholzmann

Pteris cretica is easier to please indoors than some other ferns. It does require bright light, so don't put it in a dark corner. Set this handsome foliage plant on a table or plant stand near a window to give it the sunlight it craves. Its fronds are somewhat fragile, so it's a good idea to keep this fern where passersby won't brush against its foliage.

Repot in spring, only when it gets too crowded. Brake Fern is slow-growing and prefers to be pot-bound. Keep the crown of the plant above the soil line when repotting, and use a pot with a drainage hole to avoid soggy soil.

Prune it. Keep it compact by cutting off tall fronds at the base. New ones will grow to take their place.

Keep it cool. Cool nights and moist air will keep this small fern healthy indoors. Hot, dry air will make the fronds turn yellow. Cut off yellow fronds at the base.

Pteris cretica is long-lived and gaining in popularity as a house plant. This decorative fern has an interesting fountain shape and unusual foliage, making it a beautiful addition to any brightly lit room.

Brake Fern Varieties

Many different varieties are available and they vary in leaf shapes and variegations. There are dozens of cultivars to choose from. Pteris cretica 'Albolineata' sports creamy white stripes down the center of its leaves. P. Cretica 'Victoriae' has silvery white stripes, giving it the common name Silver Brake Fern. P. Cretica 'Cristata' has frilly tips. All make attractive accents for a room.

Brake Fern Care Tips

Origin: Southern Mediterranean

Height: 6 in to 2 ft (15 cm - 60 cm), depending on the variety

Light: Give your fern bright (indirect) light year-round. It also thrives under fluorescent light.

Water: Keep the potting mix lightly moist at all times. This Mediterranean fern needs slightly less water than its rainforest cousins, so take care not to overwater.

Humidity: Prefers 50% relative humidity. When air gets dry in winter, set pot on a tray of wet pebbles or use a cool-mist room humidifier.

Temperature: Cool nights (50-55°F/10-13°C) and warm days (60-70°F/16-21°C) will make Pteris cretica feel at home.

Soil: Any good-quality potting mix with added perlite for good drainage.

Fertilizer: Brake ferns aren't heavy feeders, but they do need a regular weak water-soluble fertilizer during the growing season. Feed every 2 weeks spring through fall with a balanced house plant fertilizer at half the manufacturer's recommended strength. 

Propagation: Division. Divide large plants in spring only when crowded -- this fern is slow-growing and rarely needs divided.

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