How to Revive a Dying Fern Properly

The reason a dying fern dies is due to water loss or humidity is too low , which reduces the amount of moisture in the leaves, causing the leaves to become brown and crisp. Indoor ferns require an average humidity of 50% and need the soil to remain damp to avoid the leaves becoming to brown, and then dying.

The majority of indoor ferns (such as Boston, Maidenhair, Birds nest, Rabbit foot, Asparagus ferns, etc.) originate from tropical regions, where they thrive in extreme amounts of moisture, constantly humid soils, cool steady temperatures, and under shady conditions in the canopy of a forest.

In order to revive a dying fern, it is essential to recreate the environment in which it was originally found by increasing the humidity, putting the fern in organic soil that is moist and placing it in a shaded zone with a steady and moderate temperature.

Read on to find out the reasons why your outdoor and indoor plant is dying, and how to use the methods to bring back your dying plant…

How to Revive Brown, Drying Out, Crispy Fern Leaves

In order to revive ferns that are becoming brown and drying out, it is essential to recreate the conditions that were humid in its natural habitat through the creation of a moist microclimate within the fern’s home.

  • Put your fern in a space which naturally has higher humidity, such as the kitchen or bathroom. The bathroom air is more humid than any other room in the home and the majority of the time, it resembles humidity of the fern’s natural environment, which helps to reduce the loss of water from the leaves and stops the leaves in drying.
  • Set the potted fern in an empty tray or saucer that is filled with water, but supported by pebbles. The water that is beneath as well as around it will evaporate creating a humid micro-climate around the fern’s leaves that mimics the humid environment and stops the leaves of the ferns from becoming brown. Make sure the pot is kept at a height above the waterline, to ensure that the soil doesn’t get saturated, which can cause root rot.
  • The ferns are water tolerant, which means that the soil remains damp, but not overly saturated. They thrive in soil that has plenty of organic matter that keeps the soil moist around the roots continuously, yet it is also well-drained to ensure that the roots don’t get sitting in a boggy soil. Plant ferns in a good compost with a loss of organic matter and watering frequently enough to ensure that the soil remains evenly humid (Exactly how often depends depending on the climate and the conditions however if your fern’s leaves are becoming brown and dying, and the soil is feeling a bit dry, then you may be submerged in your fern.
  • Always give ferns an adequate soak, not just a gentle watering. A generous amount of watering ensures that water reaches the roots of the ferns exactly where it is needed to allow the roots to carry moisture to leaves, ensuring that they don’t become brown and crisp. If you water too lightly, that the exterior of soil in the pot to become moist, but the water doesn’t reach the roots when it is needed. Be sure to water thoroughly to ensure that water drips out of the bottom in the pot.
  • The fern should be placed in a shaded area and keep the it away from full sunlight. The best thing about ferns is that they thrive in shaded areas so make sure you choose a spot in your house that doesn’t contain any direct light because this could burn the leaves and cause soil to dry out and cause brown leaves.
  • The fern should be watered with lukewarm water , not cold or hot water. The majority of in-door ferns can be described as tropical plants and drinking the lukewarm temperature mimics their natural environment. When the temperature of water becomes extremely cold, this could cause shock to their delicate roots, which could result in the leaves turning brown.
  • Find the fern in a place which is free of air currents or draughts from forced or air conditioning. When temperatures fluctuate throughout all of the time, switching between the on/off of air conditioning and heating conditions creates a variety of conditions for ferns, which causes the leaves to brown, which is a indication of stress. Put your plant in a dry space to prevent water loss to the foliage.
  • Create a more humid and comfortable environment by putting in more plants. By putting many houseplants with leaves near each other, and you will be able to create a moist micro-climate around your fern that can help in reviving your fern, and replicate the conditions for growth in the natural environment of the fern.

fern up close

  • The most effective option to revive ferns is purchase an humidifier. It is the most effective method to create humid conditions surrounding your fern that mimics the natural humidity. By using a humidifier, you can attain the ideal amount of humidity needed to allow ferns to flourish as you can set the humidity percentage to precisely match the preferences of your fern. A lot of humidifiers. While other methods to increase humidity could help revive your fern, the humidifier is more efficient.
  • Spraying ferns with a mist bottle may also be beneficial but it is crucial to remember that misting certain species of ferns may increase the chance of leaf spot diseases. If misting is done daily, the leaves remain damp. Therefore, a humidifier is usually recommended.
  • Prune down any brown growth back to green and healthy growth using the help of a sharp pair of pruning tools. The leaves that are brown of the fern will not recover, but trimming them back may aid in stimulating healthy green growth and enhance the appearance of the plant.

In creating a humid and humid environment by making some adjustments it is possible to recreate the natural fern environment that reduce water loss from the leaves. This also prevents leaves from turning dry and brown.

When the conditions are in the liking of the ferns, then the plants will begin to grow up. While some of the growth might be crispy around the edges, new growth will appear in the coming season.

(To find out more, read my article on what is the reason for my fern becoming brown?)

Fern Turning Brown, Drying Out and Dying (Indoors)

  • Symptoms. The leaves of ferns are drying out and have brown-colored appearance. Sometimes, just the ends of the fern’s leaves become brown and dry.
  • Causes. Low humidity and high temperatures, as well as excessive air flow (from convection or air conditioning circulation due to central heating) excessive sun, or due to the water level rising.

The reason ferns turn brown is due to low humidity, submerged and high temperature. Ferns require a humidity range of 50% – 70 percent, and temperatures of between 65degF and 75degF, and need the soil to be moist, but not overly saturated. The ferns become brown due to stress caused by low humidity, extreme warm or frigid temperatures, or dry soil.

The reason that low humidity is the main reason for ferns to turn brown is due to the fact that the ferns of every kind require a humidity of minimum 30%, whereas the air inside most homes has an average humidity of 10% and it is dried air which causes the leaves to change color.

The ferns of the woodland are plants which thrive under the forest canopy of woodlands and are not tolerant of dry, draughty or hot zones of your home, because this is in stark opposition to the natural environment where the relative humidity can be up to 70%..

Low humidity is typically caused by:

  • Too much sun
  • High temperatures
  • Air conditioning or forced air
  • Sources of indoor heat
  • Draughts from closing and opening doors or from heat convection currents in the home.

The ferns change color, usually around the tips , and leaflets (or blades) to become crisp and then die back. Certain species, like Boston ferns shed their leaves or change color in reaction to humidity that is lower than 30%..

In addition to the low humidity, submerging is another common reason for ferns to turn to brown, and then dying.

The soil must be evenly and consistently damp to stay green.

If the soil is dry between watering sessions, the leaves will turn crisp and brown with a wilting look.

The leaves of ferns require only small amounts of fertilizer if they are growing actively or if their leaves appear light green (which suggests a deficiency of readily available nutrition).

If fertilizer is applied frequently or in a high amount then it could burn the roots of the fern, that cause the fern’s tips to become brown and have the appearance of dying.

Fern Turning Yellow and Drooping

  • Symptoms. The leaves of the ferns turn yellow and dropping.
  • Causes. Too often watering, so that the soil becomes saturated instead of being constantly wet. Pots with drainage holes that aren’t at the base. Use of saucers or tray underneath the pot will prevent the excess water from escaping and causes water to collect at the bottom of the fern.

The reason a fern is changing color is due to the soil is damp due to excessive watering. The ferns like the soil that is consistently moist, but also draining. If the fern’s potting material is saturated, the leaves will turn yellow and drop with an appearance of dying.

The ferns thrive naturally in organic soils that hold water, yet they have a well draining structure that permits the excess moisture to flow away from the roots, ensuring that the soil around them is not left in a muddy.

The most frequent reason why ferns turn yellow and falling is because the soil in the pot is not moist enough around the roots of the ferns. It is usually due to three reasons:

  1. The fern should be watered more often to ensure that the soil is completely saturated, not just constantly wet.
  2. The use of trays and saucers under the pot causes water to collect on the base of the container, and that the ground around it becomes boggy.
  3. The use of decorative pots that do not have drainage holes can result in excess water pooling within the fern’s roots.

When the ground around roots are always boggy around the roots of the ferns The water obstructs oxygen in the soil. This hinders the root’s respiration, which hinders the ability of the roots to absorb water and nutrients.

If the roots of the fern are unable to absorb the nutrients and moisture they need to transfer to the leaves, then the leaves of the fern turn to yellow and drop in an indication of stress.

If the roots of ferns are stuck in a boggy soil over a long period of time, then this can lead to root rot. The plant turns yellow, shrinks and then dies.

However, it must be noted that although roots rot and boggy soil are among the most frequent causes of the ferns’ leaves to turn yellow because of the variety in indoor ferns (most of which are tropical) yellow leaves could also indicate stress caused by low humidity.

How to Revivify Dying Indoor Ferns that have yellow, drooping Leaves

For ferns to be revived with the yellow, drooping leaves it is essential to restore the soil conditions that drain well of the native fern habitats and make sure that the roots of the ferns aren’t buried in moist soil that causes root decay.

  • You should water your fern as frequently as you need to ensure that the soil remains damp but not completely saturated. The frequency at which you water your ferns will depend on the dimensions of the fern, the humidity in the room , and the extent to which the soil in your pots holds water. Do not soak your ferns every day since this could release the soil’s oxygen and deprive roots of oxygen, which can hinder root respiration.
  • Potting soil for ferns that is rich in organic matter. A good quality potting soil that has plenty of organic matter helps to hold in moisture, providing the roots of the fern with the constant moisture they require, yet have an open structure that allows the excess moisture to go away efficiently to ensure that the soil does not get waterlogged. If you find that your soil draining slow after watering, make sure that the drainage holes in your pot aren’t blocked, and think about replacing your potting soil.
  • Plant ferns in pots that have drainage holes at the bottom. While ferns can be adapted to constantly moist soil, they require a good drainage system to prevent root rot. Select a pot that has drainage holes at the base, allowing the excess water to drain away.
  • Make sure that the trays and saucers underneath the potted fern don’t hinder the drainage of water out of the soil, thereby preventing yellowing leaves. Ferns require a high level of humidity, which is the reason it is suggested to put your indoor fern on a tray that is filled with water. Then, raise the pot above the water line using pebbles. It is essential that you leave enough an adequate space between the line of water and the bottom of the pot for the fern to ensure that water is able to drain easily through the drainage hole to ensure that the water doesn’t accumulate on the roots of the fern.
  • Empty decorative pots with excessive water following watering. One common error when it comes to indoors is to place your fern inside a suitable pot that has drainage holes in the base, and then put the pot in a bigger and more attractive outside pot that appears more elegant. The issue is that the outside pot is usually not equipped with drainage holes, and the excess water dries out around the roots, causing the leaves to become yellow because of root decay.
  • Make sure the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot aren’t blocked by soil that has been compacted. If the soil is compacted in the bottom of the pot, this could cause the drainage to slow enough to lead to root decay. If it appears that the soil seems slow draining following irrigation and drain holes have become blocked, then I suggest repotting your fern in a new pot using fresh soil that allows for proper drainage after the watering.
  • Remove any leaves that are yellow using a sharp pair pruning tools as this growth will not grow back. Pruning stimulates growth, reduces fungal issues and enhances the appearance of the plant. Pruning encourages healthy new growth. Clean the blades of pruners using a cloth that has been that has been soaked in disinfectant following each cut to stop the spread of fungal pathogens onto otherwise healthy growth.

If your fern is losing its grip and becoming yellow, then altering the way you water it to ensure that the soil remains always moist, but not completely overly saturated, and making sure that there is no pooling of water around the roots could aid in reviving the fern.

If the roots of the fern have been in soil that is boggy for too long, it’s likely to get root rot and begin to die.

Why is my Indoor Fern Losing Leaves?

  • Symptoms. Leaflets or leaves dropping, possibly turning brown and crisp.
  • Causes. Insufficient humidity, underwatering, and extreme cold or hot of tropical Ferns.

The reason that ferns lose leaves is due to low humidity and the possibility of drowning. Indoor Ferns are tropical ferns which require an average humidity of 50% and prefer humid soil. When the atmosphere is not high enough in humidity, or the soil too dry, the fern sheds its leaves in order to conserve the moisture.

The majority of ferns that are houseplants (Boston Ferns Maidenhair Ferns Rabbits foot ferns, Holly ferns.) are native to subtropical or tropical areas of the globe in which the humidity is more than it is in our homes.

Dry air sucks its leaves, usually faster than moisture can be drawn up by roots.

The plant responds by drooping its leaflets or leaves which decreases the loss of water in order to preserve resources.

Low humidity that is consistent is among the main reasons for dying ferns.

High or low temperatures that are out of the fern’s preferential temperature range, which is 65degF up to 75degF is usually an element that contributes to the ferns’ leaves being lost.

The sign of the fern dropping leaves or leaflets usually occurs associated with the edges of the leaves of the fern turning brown, as the reasons are typically similar and could suggest an environmental issue.

How to Revive a Fern Losing Leaves

The three main reasons for ferns to lose their leaves is underwatering as well as low humidity and temperatures that are either too hot or cold.

To revive the fern that has lost its leaves, it is essential to rectify the environmental conditions by bringing in more humidity and watering more frequently to ensure that the soil remains humid and the temperature in a range of 65-75 degrees F and the new leaves will begin to develop.

  • The humidity can be increased by 50% using the help of a humidifier. The most effective method to increase the humidity of your fern is to use humidifiers as they are the most efficient method, and certain humidifiers permit you to regulate the humidity to precisely replicate the high humidity levels of your natural environment of the fern. This helps reduce water loss from the leaves and creates an ideal environment for your fern to begin developing new leaves and begin recuperating.
  • Set your fern in a place near other potted plants and mist it every throughout the day. If you place multiple plants close to one another it can create a moist micro-climate that favors the dying fern. Misting can help reduce the loss of water from leaves, and your fern shoulder will begin to re-grow.
  • The fern should be watered as frequently as needed to ensure that the soil remains evenly damp. There isn’t a universal rule of thumb regarding the best time to water ferns since the amount of water needed varies according to the size of the fern as well as the humidity in the room. But I would suggest rubbing the soil to about a finger depth regularly to make sure that the soil is moist but not overly saturated. Make sure to water the soil with a thorough soak, so that any excess water drains out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot to make sure that the water is reaching the soil in the areas that it is needed.
  • Maintain a temperature range of 65-75 degrees and slightly cooler in the evening to help revive your fern. A higher temperature causes more evaporation, which increases the chance of the leaves falling and lower temperatures can cause stress on the ferns of tropical regions. Keep the temperature within the ideal range to mimic the natural habitat of the fern for the leaves of the fern to repopulate.
  • Make sure your fern is protected from sources of heat, air currents , and Draughts. A healthy amount of humidity is crucial for your fern’s revival So keep your fern away from drafts or artificial heat sources that can drain the leaves of moisture.

If the environment is in good shape the fern will reseed and new leaves will emerge in the springtime.

Why is My Fern Dying Outside?

  • Symptoms. Leaves becoming brown, crisp and dying back.
  • Causes. Sun exposure, soil drains too fast, there isn’t enough water, or the area is too windy, which drains the fern of moisture.

The reason a fern dies fern outside is due to cold temperatures or too much sun. insufficient water, or the soil drains too fast for the roots of the fern to absorb moisture, that causes the fern to dry out and change brown, with a dying look.

Ferns are trees which grow under a shaded forest, with maybe only dappled light or indirect light that is bright.

Fern leaves are extremely sensitive to direct sunlight , which can cause them to dry out and become crisp.

Direct sunlight can also increase the rate of evaporation from the soil, and water loss from the leaves, and reduces the humidity, which creates a hostile environment the ferns that grow outdoors.

The soil must remain moist and develop naturally in soils that has a high organic content because of the leaves falling each year and forming an organic mulch.

The woodland soil help retain a lot of water around the roots of the ferns, but also is porous, which lets excess water be able to drain away, to ensure that the soil doesn’t get boggy.

If the soil in your garden is too dry and stony or sandy then the roots of your ferns will not evaporate enough moisture to causes the leaves to turn brown because of drought stress.

The ferns that grow outdoors are not always evergreen, and their leaves change color and have faded appearance in winter months as a result of the changing seasons.

While the leaves may fall back in Winter Rhizomes are protected by the soil, and new healthy green leaves may appear in the spring.

How to Revive a Dying Outdoor Fern

The most effective way to revive the dying ferns in outdoor gardens is to move the dying fern into an area in the garden with more favorable conditions , such as dappled sunlight and moist soil that has been amended with the compost that has been discarded as well as protection from wind, and watering as frequently as required to ensure that the soil remains damp.

  • Transfer the fern to an area in the garden that has been amended. When replanting, sprinkle a lot of leaf manure, compost or mold to the soil up to an approximate depth of 12 inches wide and 12 inches long to allow for roots. This mimics the soil conditions of fern’s natural habitat and holds plenty of moisture. It also allows the excess moisture to evaporate, to avoid the soil from becoming overly sloppy.
  • Plant the plant in a shaded spot which is protected from the winds. One of the most appealing characteristics of ferns is that they are able to be found in the shaded areas in your yard. Shade helps lessen the loss of water from leaves as well as evaporation from the soil as well as the surrounding trees, plants or structures that provide the shade can also function as wind breaks that stops excessive water from being sucked out of the leaves by strong winds.
  • The soil will be watered according to the need, so that it remains evenly damp. Once established and under ideal conditions, ferns usually require no additional irrigation, but if the plant is dying or becoming brown, make sure to keep the soil damp to aid in its revival.
  • Spread a 2 inch layer of mulch on the fern during the spring. A mulch made of leaf mold, compost and well-rotted manure that is placed on the soil’s surface around the fern can help enhance soil’s structure and hold in moisture , and enrich the soil. Applying the mulch prior to the beginning of Spring can help to maintain the soil at a high moisture level throughout the dry and hot weather of summer.
  • In winter, trim back any dying foliage in order to maintain your yard neat. Fern leaves tend to become brown by the end of fall when you are able to trim them back using pruning tools and then compost the. The application of a mulch on top of the fern will aid in protecting the rhizomes from frost as well as cold, which can give the plant a head start for the next year. The green growth will begin to emerge in the spring.

Why is My Fern Turning Light Green?

The reason why your fern’s leaves are turning light green is due to the lack or nutrients present in your soil. The fern needs to be repotted every year or so, with fresh pots and fertilizers during the growing season in order to remain a healthy dark green, not a light green. A lot of light can make ferns appear light green.

If your fern’s leaves turn lighter green, it isn’t a sign that it is dying, but it’s suffering from the deficiency of nutrition in soil.

It could be due to the fact that the fern was in this pot too long, and the roots have drained the soil in the pot of nutrients, or due to the absence of fertilizer.

Verify that the fern’s roots are pot bound , to determine if you should pot the fern. If yes, select a pot that is that is the next size and then repot the fern using high-quality pot soil.

Make use of a liquid for all purposes home plant fertilizer in half strength (ferns are susceptible to greater doses) every two weeks during the growing season to rejuvenate your fern.

Key Takeaways

  • A dying fern usually occurs due to underwatering or low humidity caused by the air flow inside. The humidity inside is usually about 10%, whereas the ferns require a greater humidity of 40percent. The leaves that aren’t humid enough to turn brown, crisp and dry with the appearance of dying.
  • The reason ferns in the indoor environment change color is due to low humidity or high temperatures, or because the soil is dry. Ferns require a humidity at least 40%, a constant moist soil, and temperatures of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is too hot or the soil and air is too dry, the fern leaves will become brown, dry and crisp.
  • Fern leaves become yellow and drop due to overwatering. The soil must remain moist but not overly saturated. When the soil becomes not moist enough, it blocks oxygen from the soil, and stops the roots of the ferns from absorbing water and nutrients from the soil, which results in the leaves turning yellow and drop.
  • The reason that ferns lose their leaves is due to poor humidity, dry soil and low levels of moisture. Indoor ferns are tropical species which require good humidity as well as consistently humid soil. When the moisture is low or the soil too dry, ferns shed their leaves in order to prevent further loss of water.
  • The reason outdoor ferns die is typically due to water loss or too much sun or soil that is draining too fast. Outdoor ferns thrive in the shade of trees since they need protection from the wind and sun. The soil should be that has been amended with compost to ensure that there is enough water to stop the leaves from becoming to brown, and then dying.
  • The ferns’ leaves turn green due to a deficiency of soil nutrients. If the fern has used up all nutrients present in the soil in which it is growing, leaves change to light green , and the growth slows. A lot of sun can make the leaves light green.
  • To revive dying ferns mimic the natural habitat of the fern by increasing the shade, humidity, and then water the fern every time necessary to ensure that the soil remains humid. Cut off any yellow, brown or dying leaves to encourage new growth and rejuvenate the fern.


Went from a bad gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)