Ferns are a class of plants that include about 12,000 species in 150 different families. In their native habitats, most types of ferns grow on the moist, nutrient-rich forest floor where they receive little light. Some are epiphytes, nestled on the branches of tall trees.
Just a dozen or so make their way into our homes. Their diverse forms offer plenty of variety to choose from, and make them fascinating to grow indoors in hanging baskets or perched on pedestals.
In Victorian times, Boston fern could be found in many parlors and porches. Today, it's still a hands-down favorite in the home.
Caring for Boston ferns is easy. Just place your fern where it'll get indirect light (some direct morning sun is fine) and keep it moist. No pampering is required.
Intricately patterned leaflets make maidenhair fern (Adiantum raddianum) one of the most stunning ferns anywhere.
It's also one of the fussiest, preferring high humidity that's difficult to maintain in most homes. However, those dainty leaflets will thrive in a terrarium, surrounded in moist air.
Handsome textured fronds lend this Australian fern its common name. Crocodile fern also happens to be easy to please indoors -- as long as you give it the humidity it craves. Set a small humidifier near this rain forest native and you'll make it feel right at home.
Trailing fronds densely covered with leathery, button-shaped leaflets make button fern a spectacular accent among other tropical plants. Put one on a multi-level plant stand with flowering plants -- or other ferns.
Its care is easy -- just put this New Zealand native in a bright location and water regularly. It's adaptable to average home conditions.
Fronds that unfurl from the center of the plant give birds nest fern its common name. Lush and bold, the deeply veined fronds are spectacular, reaching 2 ft (60 cm) long or more.
Less finicky about humidity and light, this is one of the easier-to-please indoor ferns.