Underwatered Fern: How To Identify, Treat and Prevent It

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Ferns, like the boston fern, the asparagus fern, the lemon button fern, and many others, are popular houseplants.

They’re relatively easy to care for, look great, and help purify the air.

A fern plant can brighten up any room, making it feel more lush and tropical.

But as with any indoor plant, they can sometimes run into problems.

One of the most common problems ferns face is underwatering.

Here’s how to identify, treat, and prevent an underwatered fern.

Why Is Underwatering A Problem?

Water is essential for all plant life, and ferns are no exception.

Ferns need water to move nutrients and minerals from the soil to the leaves.

They also need water to help them create energy and food through photosynthesis.

If a fern doesn’t get enough water, it will experience problems.

In severe cases, an underwatered fern will stop growing and eventually die.

How Does Underwatering a Fern Occur?

There are a few different ways that underwatering can occur.

Here are some of the most common causes:

1. Not Enough Water

This is the most obvious cause of underwatering.

If you’re not watering your fern enough, it will naturally start to experience problems.

Ferns need at least 1-2 inches of water per week. This means watering them deeply and allowing the soil to dry between waterings.

Indoor ferns may need even more water than this, especially in a dry environment.

You can tell if your fern is getting enough water by checking the soil.

The soil should be moist but not soggy. If it feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water.

2. Inconsistent Watering

Another common cause of underwatering is inconsistent watering.

This means that you sometimes water your fern deeply, and other times you don’t.

Ferns prefer a consistent watering schedule.

In general, ferns need to be watered about once a week. But this can vary depending on the plant and its environment.

In hot, dry weather, ferns may need to be watered more often.

The best way to tell if your fern needs water is to check the soil.

If the soil is dry to the touch, it’s time to water.

Be careful not to overwater your fern, however.

An overwatered fern is just as susceptible to problems as an underwatered one.

Allowing the soil to dry out between waterings is just as important as watering deeply.

3. Poor Drainage

Another common problem that can cause underwatering is poor drainage.

Ferns need well-draining potting soil to thrive.

If the potting soil doesn’t drain well, the roots will start to rot.

When this happens, the roots can’t take in water and nutrients properly, and the plant will start to experience problems.

Also, if the pot doesn’t have drainage holes, the water will sit in the bottom, and the roots will start to rot.

You can tell if your fern has poor drainage by checking the potting mix.

If the potting soil is soggy or has standing water in the pot, it’s a sign of poor drainage.

4. Hot Weather

Hot weather can also lead to underwatering, even if you regularly water your fern.

The hot weather will cause the soil to dry out more quickly.

The best way to combat this is to water your fern more often during hot weather.

You can also try misting the leaves or placing the pot in a water tray.

This will help keep the plant cool and hydrated.

5. Too Much Sun

Ferns need indirect light to thrive.

The leaves will scorch and turn brown if they get too much sun.

This can lead to underwatering because the plant will lose water through evaporation.

You can tell if your fern is getting too much sun if the leaves are brown or scorched.

If this happens, move the plant to a shadier spot.

6. Root-Bound

Another common problem that can cause underwatering is being root-bound.

This happens when the plant roots fill up the pot and start to crowd out.

When this happens, the roots can’t take in water and nutrients properly, and the plant will start to experience problems.

You can tell if your fern is root-bound if the roots grow out of the drainage holes.

If this happens, you’ll need to repot the plant in a larger pot.

7. Diseases

Diseases can also cause underwatering.

A few diseases can damage the roots and prevent them from taking in water properly.

These include root rot, fusarium wilt, and phytophthora root rot.

These diseases are caused by fungi or bacteria that attack the roots.

They can be difficult to treat, so it’s important to catch them early.

The best way to prevent diseases is to water your fern properly and keep the plant healthy.

8. Pests

Pests can also cause underwatering.

A few pests can damage the roots and prevent them from taking in water properly.

These include nematodes, fungal gnats, and mealybugs.

If you suspect your fern has pests, isolate the plant and treat it as soon as possible.

How To Tell If Your Fern Is Underwatered

It is essential to catch underwatering early, as it can quickly lead to the death of your fern.

This is why it’s essential to know the signs of an underwatered fern.

Signs of an Underwatered Fern

There are a few signs that you can look for to tell if your fern is underwatering.

The most common signs are:

1. Drooping Leaves

One of the first signs of underwatering is drooping leaves.

When the plant doesn’t have enough water, the plant is unable to support the leaves.

This will cause the leaves to droop and eventually fall off.

2. Yellow Leaves

Another common sign of underwatering is yellow leaves.

When the plant doesn’t have enough water, the leaves will start to turn yellow and eventually brown.

This happens because the plant cannot transport nutrients to the leaves, leading to leaf discoloration.

3. Dry or Cracked Soil

If the soil is dry or cracked, it’s a sign that the plant isn’t getting enough water.

When the soil is dry for too long, it will start to crack and pull away from the pot.

This will make it difficult for the roots to absorb water and nutrients.

4. Brown Spots on Leaves

If the leaves have brown spots, it’s a sign that the plant isn’t getting enough water.

The brown spots are caused by the plant’s inability to transport nutrients to the leaves.

This will cause the leaves to turn brown and eventually die.

5. Slow Growth

If the plant’s growth has slowed down, it’s a sign of underwatering.

When the plant doesn’t have enough water, it will be unable to grow properly.

This will lead to stunted growth or no growth at all.

The plant will also be smaller than it should be.

6. Curling Leaves

If the fern leaves are curling, it’s a sign of underwatering.

When the plant doesn’t have enough water, it will start to dry out.

This will cause the leaves to curl up and eventually die.

7. Brown Leaf Tips

If the tips of the leaves are brown, it’s a sign of underwatering.

When the plant doesn’t have enough water, the leaves will start to dry out.

This will cause the tips of the leaves to turn brown and eventually die.

8. Leaf Drop

If the plant is losing leaves, it’s a sign of underwatering.

When the plant doesn’t have enough water, the leaves will start to fall off.

This is because the plant can’t support the leaves, and eventually, the leaves will die.

9. Wilted Leaves

If the fern leaves are wilted, it’s a sign of underwatering.

When the plant doesn’t have enough water, the leaves will wilt.

This is because the plant can’t transport water to the leaves.

The leaves will eventually die if the plant doesn’t get enough water.

How To Save an Underwatered Fern

Ferns are very sensitive to underwatering, so it’s crucial to catch it early.

If you think that your fern is underwatering, here’s what you need to do:

1. Water Deeply and Thoroughly

The first thing you need to do is water deeply and thoroughly.

Water the plant until the water starts to run out of the pot.

This will help to saturate the soil and reach the roots.

2. Use Room Temperature Water

When watering, use room temperature water.

Cold water can shock the plant and damage the roots.

3. Let the Soil Dry Between Waterings

After watering, let the soil dry out completely before watering again.

Ferns don’t like wet feet, so letting the soil dry out between waterings is essential.

This will help to prevent fern root rot.

4. Use a Humidity Tray

If the air is too dry, it can cause the plant to dry out.

To help increase the humidity around the plant, use a humidity tray.

A humidity tray is a tray filled with water and pebbles.

Place the pot on top of the tray so the plant can benefit from the increased humidity.

5. Move the Plant to a Shady Area

If the plant is in direct sunlight, it will dry out quickly.

To help the plant retain moisture, move it to a shady area.

Ferns need indirect sunlight to thrive.

6. Move the Plant to a More Humid Area

If the air is too dry, it will cause the plant to dry out.

To help the plant retain moisture, move it to a more humid area.

This could be a bathroom or kitchen, for example.

7. Mist the Plant

If the air is too dry, misting the plant will help to increase the humidity around it.

Misting the plant with water will also help to cool it down in hot weather.

8. Group Plants Together

Grouping plants together will help to create a microclimate.

This will help to increase the humidity around the plants and protect them from drafts.

Ferns are very sensitive to drafts, so protecting them from any cold air is essential.

9. Check the Drainage

If the plant is not draining correctly, it will cause the roots to rot.

To prevent this, ensure that the pot has drainage holes and that you use well-draining soil.

Ferns like to be moist but not wet, so it’s essential to ensure that the pot drains appropriately.

10. Be Patient

Ferns can take a while to recover from underwatering.

They are very sensitive plants, so it’s essential to be patient.

Sometimes, it can take a few days or even weeks for the plant to recover.

How To Prevent Underwatering a Fern

Underwatered ferns are a common problem for gardeners.

There are several things you can do to prevent underwatered ferns, including:

  • Check the moisture level of your soil regularly. Use a moisture meter or your fingers to check the soil moisture before watering.
  • Water your ferns profoundly and regularly. Water ferns in the morning so they have time to dry out before nightfall.
  • Mulch your ferns. This will help to conserve moisture in the soil.
  • Group ferns together. This will create a microclimate around the plants that will help to retain moisture.
  • Use a Humidity Tray. A humidity tray is a shallow dish filled with water and pebbles. Place the tray under your ferns to increase the humidity around the plants.
  • Use a Mist Bottle. Regularly misting your ferns will also help to increase the humidity around the plants.
  • Check for drainage. Make sure that your ferns are planted in a pot with good drainage.
  • Avoid excessive heat. Ferns prefer cooler temperatures and will suffer in hot, dry conditions.
  • Protect your ferns from the wind. Wind can cause the soil to dry out quickly and damage the plant’s leaves.
  • Check for pests. Aphids, mealybugs, and scale can all cause stress to your ferns and make them more susceptible to drought. Regularly check your plants for signs of pests and treat them accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Ferns are beautiful, delicate plants that can add a touch of elegance to any home.

However, they are also very sensitive and require special care.

Underwatered fern plants are a common problem for gardeners, but there are several things you can do to prevent it.

Following the tips above, you can keep your ferns healthy and thriving.