Japanese Holly Fern

Botanical Name: Cyrtomium falcatum

Holly Fern is eye-catching on its own. But long fronds with thick, shiny green leaflets make this a handsome addition to any indoor plant grouping.

cyrtomium falcatum, japanese holly fern

Combine this easy-care fern among variegated foliage plants, such as snow bush, colorful coleus -- or one of the prayer plants.

Broad, asymmetrical leaflets are about 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) long with sawtoothed edges. Although it resembles the holly plant, the two aren't related.

Less fussy about humidity than most common indoor ferns, it flourishes in the home with little care. It is better behaved, too. Unlike many ferns, Cyrtomium falcatum does not shed. 

Repot in spring because Holly Fern begins its most vigorous time of growth in summer. When repotting, make sure the crown of the plant is slightly above the soil line to prevent rot. Use a pot with drainage holes so that the soil won't get soggy. Now that you have your fern out of its container, this is a good time to divide it, if you want.

Something bugging your plant? Watch for scale insectsthat look like small, brown discs on leaflets. (Sometimes the brown spores on the undersides of leaflets are mistaken for scale. You'll recognize the spores because they appear in two rows under each pinnae.) To remove scale insects, scrape them off with your fingernails. Don't use insecticides on ferns because they are easily damaged by chemicals.

Keep it clean. Those green leaflets are naturally glossy. Keep them clean by wiping them off with a damp cloth. Or take it to the sink for a lukewarm shower.

Buy Holly Fern and Houseplant Supplies

You'll find Holly Fern for sale by its botanical name. Look for Cyrtomium falcatum to be sure you're getting this plant. It's well-worth seeking. This is one of the easiest ferns to grow indoors and makes a lush accent for your home.

Growing Tips for Holly Fern

holly fernPhoto credit: Helen Poirier

Origin: Japan and China

Height: Fronds grow to 2 ft (60 cm), but tend to sprawl out rather than up.

Light: Bright indirect light

Water: Aim to keep the potting medium lightly moist at all times, but not soggy which can lead to root rot. Use a pot with a drainage hole.

Humidity: Moderate (around 40-50% relative humidity). If the air is dry, mist the plant every morning or stand the pot on a tray of wet pebbles.

Temperature: Average to warm 65-80°F/18-27°C

Soil: Good-quality, all-purpose houseplant potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed monthly spring through fall with a balanced liquid fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) at half the recommended amount. Don't fertilize in the winter months when growth is slower.

Propagation: Divide in spring when it gets too big for its pot (probably every 5 years or so). To divide, cut rhizomes so that each piece has a growing tip and at least 3 fronds.

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