Why Is My Fern Wilting? (9 Causes and Solutions)

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Fern plants are beautiful, delicate additions to any home. They’re known for their graceful, lacy leaves and ability to prosper in low-light conditions.

But what do you do when you notice your fern wilting?

There are several reasons your fern plant may be wilting; thankfully, there are just as many solutions.

Here we’ll explore the most common causes of fern wilting and what you can do to revive your plant.

Why Is My Fern Wilting and What Can I Do About It?

There are a few reasons why your fern may be wilting.

You should first identify the problem and take the proper steps to revive your plant.

The most common causes of fern wilting and their solutions are:

1. Underwatering

Ferns are sensitive to drought conditions and will begin to wilt if they’re not getting enough water.

They need to be in soil that is constantly moist but not soggy.

Ferns should generally be watered once a week or when the top two inches of soil are dry.

How To Tell If Your Fern Is Wilting From Underwatering

There are a few telltale signs that your fern is wilting from lack of water.

In addition to wilting, on an underwatered fern you may also see:

  • Leaves that turn yellow or brown
  • Leaves that are dry or crispy to the touch
  • Leaves that are dry and brown at the edges
  • Leaves that are papery and brittle
  • Soil that is dry and crumbly
  • Stunted growth

How To Treat a Wilting Fern That’s Underwatered

If you think your fern is wilting from lack of water, the first thing you should do is give it a good watering.

Water the plant until water begins to flow out of the bottom of the pot.

Then, check the soil every few days to ensure it stays moist.

If the soil dries out quickly, you may need to water more often.

2. Overwatering

Ferns are also sensitive to too much water. If the roots are sitting in water for too long, they will begin to rot.

An overwatered fern can be the result of:

  • Using a pot that’s too small
  • Not draining the water after watering
  • Watering too often

This can lead to several problems, including yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and root rot.

How To Tell If Your Fern Is Wilting From Overwatering

There are a few signs that your fern is getting too much water.

In addition to wilting, you may also see:

  • Waterlogged soil
  • Mushy or rotting leaves
  • Mold or mildew on the leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • Yellowing leaves
  • Leaves that are brown and mushy at the edges

How To Treat a Wilting Fern That’s Overwatered

If you think your fern is wilting from too much water, you should first stop watering it.

Let the soil dry out completely before watering again.

Then, water the plant less often, making sure the soil has a chance to dry out between waterings.

You may also need to repot the plant in a pot with drainage holes to help prevent overwatering in the future.

You also need to be careful not to let the plant sit in water. After watering, empty any water collected in the saucer under the pot.

3. Low Humidity

Ferns are native to tropical climates and need high humidity to thrive.

If the air in your home is too dry, it can cause the fern leaves to turn brown and crisp.

In general, ferns need humidity levels of at least 50%.

How To Tell If Your Fern Is Wilting From Low Humidity

There are a few signs that your fern is not getting enough humidity.

In addition to wilting, you may also see:

  • Dry or crispy leaves
  • Leaves that are brown and dry at the edges
  • Leaves that are papery and brittle
  • Stunted growth

How To Treat a Wilting Fern That’s Suffering From Low Humidity

If you think your fern is wilting from low humidity, you can do a few things to increase the moisture around it.

You can place the plant on a pebble tray, which is a tray filled with pebbles and water.

The water will evaporate and increase the humidity around the plant.

You can also mist the plant with water a few times a day.

If the air in your home is very dry, you may need to use a humidifier to increase the humidity around your plant.

Grouping plants together can also help increase the humidity, so consider placing your fern next to other plants.

4. Lack of Light

Ferns need bright indirect light to thrive. If they don’t get enough light, they will begin to wilt.

The lack of light can also cause the fern leaves to turn yellow or brown.

Light is essential for the plant to photosynthesize and create food for itself.

If the plant isn’t getting enough light, it will begin to starve and wilt.

How To Tell If Your Fern Is Wilting From Lack of Light

There are a few signs that your fern is not getting enough light.

In addition to wilting, you may also see:

  • Leaves that are yellow or brown
  • Stunted growth
  • Leaves that are smaller than usual
  • Slow growth

How To Treat a Wilting Fern That’s Not Getting Enough Light

If you think your fern is wilting from lack of light, the first thing you should do is move it to a brighter location.

Ferns need bright indirect light to thrive, so find a spot near a window where the plant can get plenty of light. An east- or west-facing window is ideal.

If you can’t move the plant, you may need to supplement the natural light with artificial light.

You can use fluorescent grow lights or LED grow lights to provide the plant with the light it needs.

5. Too Much Direct Sunlight

While ferns need bright light to thrive, they do not like direct sunlight.

If the plant is getting too much sun, the leaves will begin to turn brown and crispy.

The plant may also wilt as direct sun can cause the soil to dry out quickly and the plant to become dehydrated.

How To Tell If Your Fern Is Wilting From Too Much Direct Sunlight

There are a few signs that your fern is getting too much sun.

In addition to wilting, you may also see:

  • Leaves that are brown and crispy
  • Leaves that are dry and papery
  • Stunted growth
  • Slow growth

How To Treat a Wilting Fern That’s Getting Too Much Direct Sunlight

If you think your fern is wilting from too much sun, the first thing you should do is move it to a shadier location.

Ferns need bright indirect light to thrive, so find a spot where the plant will be out of direct sunlight.

If you can’t move the plant, you may need to provide some shade for it.

You can use a sheer curtain or blind to filter the sunlight and protect the plant from the harsh rays.

You can place the plant in an east- or west-facing window where it will get plenty of light but won’t be in direct sunlight.

6. Overfertilizing

Ferns don’t need a lot of fertilizer to thrive. Too much fertilizer can be harmful to the plant.

If you overfertilize your fern, the leaves will begin to turn yellow or brown.

The plant may also start to wilt as the fertilizer burns the roots. This can cause the plant to become dehydrated and ultimately die.

How To Tell If Your Fern Is Wilting From Overfertilizing

There are a few signs that your fern is being overfed.

In addition to wilting, you may also see:

  • Leaves that are yellow or brown
  • Stunted growth
  • Leaves that are smaller than usual
  • Slow growth
  • Burned or dying roots
  • Fertilizer build-up on the leaves

How To Treat a Wilting Fern That’s Been Overfed

If you think your fern is wilting from being overfed, you should first flush the soil with water.

This will help to remove any excess fertilizer from the roots and prevent further damage.

Once you have flushed the soil, cut back on the fertilizer you use.

Fertilize your fern every other week during the growing season with a half-strength solution of liquid fertilizer or slow-release pellets.

7. Excessive Heat

Ferns prefer cool, moist conditions and can be sensitive to excessive heat.

If the temperature gets too high, the leaves will begin to turn brown and crispy.

The plant may also start to wilt as the soil dries out quickly and the plant becomes dehydrated.

Excessive heat can also cause the plant to go into shock, which can be fatal.

How To Tell If Your Fern Is Wilting From Excessive Heat

There are a few signs that your fern is wilting from excessive heat.

In addition to wilting, you may also see:

  • Leaves that are brown and crispy
  • Leaves that are dry and papery
  • Stunted growth
  • Slow growth

How To Treat a Wilting Fern That’s Suffering From Excessive Heat

If you think your fern is wilting from excessive heat, the first thing you should do is move it to a cooler location.

Find a spot where the temperature stays below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you can’t move the plant, you may need to provide some shade for it.

You can use a sheer curtain or blind to filter the sunlight and protect the plant from the harsh rays.

You can also mist the leaves with water to help keep them cool and hydrated.

8. Pest Infestation

Ferns are susceptible to various pests, including aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale.

These pests can cause the leaves to turn yellow or brown and the plant to wilt.

Pest infestations can also lead to stunted growth and slow the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.

How To Tell If Your Fern Is Wilting From a Pest Infestation

There are a few signs that your fern is wilting from a pest infestation.

In addition to wilting, you may also see:

  • Leaves that are yellow or brown
  • Leaves that have holes or are chewed on
  • Stunted growth
  • Webbing on the leaves or stems
  • A sticky residue on the leaves
  • Egg sacks on the undersides of the leaves

How To Treat a Wilting Fern That Has a Pest Infestation

If you think your fern is wilting from a pest infestation, you should first isolate the plant.

Move it to a different room or location, so the pests don’t spread to other plants.

Then, inspect the plant carefully and remove any pests that you see.

You can use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to kill aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites.

For scale, you can gently scrape them off with your fingernail or a credit card.

Once you have removed the pests, you can treat the plant with an insecticidal soap or neem oil to prevent further infestations.

9. Root Rot

Root rot is a fungal disease that can affect ferns.

It is caused by overwatering or planting the fern in waterlogged soil.

The fungus attacks the roots, causing them to rot and die.

As the roots die, they can no longer absorb water and nutrients from the soil, which causes the plant to wilt.

Root rot can also lead to stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and leaf drop.

How To Tell If Your Fern Is Wilting From Root Rot

There are a few signs that your fern is wilting from root rot.

In addition to wilting, you may also see:

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Leaf drop
  • Stunted growth
  • Mushy or blackened roots
  • Soggy, waterlogged soil

How To Treat a Wilting Fern That Has Root Rot

If you think your fern has root rot, the first thing you should do is remove the plant from the pot.

Carefully inspect the roots and remove any that are mushy or blackened.

Then, replant the fern in a new pot with fresh, well-draining soil.

Don’t water the plant until the soil is dry to the touch.

Once the plant is established, water it deeply, but only when the soil is dry.

Overwatering can cause the roots to rot, so let the soil dry out completely between watering.

How To Prevent Ferns From Wilting

The best way to prevent your fern from wilting is to provide the plant with the proper growing conditions.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Grow your fern in an area that receives indirect sunlight. Ferns exposed to too much direct sunlight will quickly dry out and wilt.
  2. Keep the soil around your fern evenly moist. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering again.
  3. Use a peat-based potting mix when growing ferns in containers. This type of soil holds moisture well and helps prevent the roots from drying.
  4. If you live in a hot, dry climate, consider growing your fern in a terrarium or greenhouse. This will help to create a more humid environment for the plant.
  5. Avoid placing your fern near a heat source, such as a radiator or fireplace.
  6. Water your fern with distilled or rainwater if the tap water in your area is high in minerals. These minerals can build up in the soil and cause the leaves to turn brown and wilt.
  7. Take care not to overwater your fern. Soil constantly wet will cause the roots to rot, leading to a wilted plant.
  8. Fertilize your fern regularly during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer formulated for use on houseplants. This will help ensure that the plant gets the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and vigorous.
  9. Inspect your fern regularly for pests like spider mites, scale, or mealybugs. These pests can suck the moisture out of the leaves, causing the plant to wilt. If you find any pests on your fern, treat the plant with an appropriate insecticide.
  10. Do not allow the temperature around your fern to fluctuate too much. Sudden temperature changes can cause the plant to go into shock, leading to wilting.

If you follow these tips, you should be able to prevent your fern from wilting.

Final Thoughts

Regarding houseplants, ferns are some of the most popular options. They’re relatively easy to care for and add a touch of greenery to any space.

However, even the most experienced plant parent may run into issues with their fern from time to time.

If your fern is wilting, it could be for several reasons.

The good news is that, in most cases, wilting ferns can be saved with a little TLC.

By taking the time to understand the root cause of the problem, you can take the necessary steps to get your fern back to good health in no time.