Spleen ferns come into their own when it is a question of lavishly greening twilight corners in the bed and living room. The multifaceted plant genus comes up with more than 750 magnificent species of ferns, which are more popular than ever as relics of prehistoric fauna in modern garden and interior design. Without any care, however, the imposing charisma of Asplenium is gone in a short time. In fact, the successful cultivation of the lush green archetypes requires the hobby gardener to rethink in some respects. However, spleen ferns are not complicated, as the following care tips show.


  • Plant Family: Spleenworts (Aspleniaceae)
  • Genus: Spleen ferns (Asplenium) with 750 species
  • Perennial foliage plants with pinnate or undivided fronds
  • Growth partly terrestrial (on the ground) or epiphytic (on trees)
  • Evergreen or evergreen
  • Native species are hardy, tropical spleen ferns are not frost-resistant
  • Growth heights from 10 cm to 100 cm and higher

The sporangia are located on the underside of the leaves and are covered with a delicate veil until maturity. Their mostly linear, strip-like arrangement prompted the botanists to name them.

Caring for tropical species in the home

So that popular spleen ferns from tropical regions, such as nest fern (Asplenium nidus), breeding fern (Asplenium bulbiferum)
or delicate spleen fern (Asplenium daucifolium) thrive in living rooms or conservatories, the site conditions are just as important as a species-appropriate water and nutrient balance. The following care tips show in a compact and clear manner what is really important.


Native to the rainforests of the tropics, spleen fern species thrive there mainly epiphytically. With this growth behavior, the plant settles on the branches of mighty trees in order to get a minimum of light on the one hand and at the same time to enjoy the protection of the dense canopy of leaves. Valuable conclusions can be drawn from this for the ideal location behind glass:

  • Partly shaded to shaded location
  • Neither blazing sunlight nor permanent darkness
  • Temperatures of 18 to 25 degrees Celsius all year round

Ideally place spleenworts on the west, north or east window of the house or in close proximity. In addition, the primeval decorative leaf plant provides lush abundance in room niches with little light, where other plants give up.

Tip: Spleen ferns form a congenial partnership with orchids, as both plant species have similar location requirements. You can create a fantastically beautiful appearance with epiphytic varieties, cultivated on a large branch in a partially shaded flower window.


A constant, cozy room temperature alone is not enough to provide Asplenium with adequate care. Only in combination with a humidity of more than 60 percent does growth reach its optimum. The following measures are available to create a warm, humid atmosphere:

  • Set up commercially available humidifiers or indoor fountains
  • Fill the coaster with water and pebbles
  • Place bowls filled with water on the radiators

Prudent hobby gardeners like to choose the bathroom, a partially shaded window in the indoor pool or in the sauna area as a location for spleen fern.

Tip: In the conservatory, LED-lit foggers act as decorative humidifiers for Asplenium when placed near the plant.

watering and spraying

The primary gardener’s duty in the water supply of nest ferns, breeding ferns and conspecifics is constant moisture without swings in one direction or the other. Spleen fern does not want to be bothered with waterlogging or drought. How to water the green plant correctly:

  • Check the soil daily with a thumb test and water when the surface has dried
  • Spray the fronds with lukewarm water every 1-2 days
  • Only use lime-free water, such as collected rain or soft tap water

So that water from the tap is suitable for the care of Asplenium, it is enough to leave the filled watering can in the room for a few days. If you also hang a cotton bag filled with peat in it, hard water will quickly become soft enough to care for a tropical houseplant.

Note: On hot summer days, nest ferns and other potted ferns look forward to a dip in lukewarm water in the morning or in the evening. Leave the root ball in the water until no more air bubbles rise.


Spleenwort is frugal in terms of nutrient supply. If you apply a liquid fertilizer for green plants every 3-4 weeks during the growing season from March to September, the need is covered. Since the foliage plant pauses in growth during the cold season, a booster fertilization every 6-8 weeks is sufficient from October to February.

Asplenium signal a lack of nutrients by brown colored leaf edges. If drought can be ruled out as the cause of this damage, the fertilizer dosage is gradually increased until the green plant recovers.

To cut

Don’t be tempted to cut off a green frond, because it won’t grow back on spleenwort. Only cut off completely dead leaves. Use a sharp knife or scissors previously disinfected with high-proof alcohol. A small strip of dead plant tissue should remain at the bottom.


The majority of hobby gardeners favor cultivation in pots for tropical spleenwort species. In view of the leisurely growth, the change to a larger planter is only on the care program every 2 to 3 years. If the root strands peek out of the bottom opening or reach beyond the edge of the pot, it’s about time. Repot spleenworts in early spring, before the new growing season begins. Commercial bog bed soil or peat culture substrate (TKS2) can be used as a substrate. If you prefer to mix it yourself, bark leaf soil in combination with peat and sand meets the expectations of a good quality substrate.

  • The new pot is 1-2 cm larger in diameter
  • Clay shards or expanded clay act as drainage above the water outlet
  • Fill in a third of the recommended substrate and make a well in it with your fist
  • Plant the potted fern in the middle while maintaining the previous planting depth

Press the substrate so far that there is a pouring edge of 2-3 cm. Finally, water extensively and place the plant in its usual place.

Maintain spleen fern in the bed

Outdoors , wintergreen species such as deer ‘s tongue or brown spleen fern rule in partially shaded beds, poorly lit stone joints and twilight locations along ponds and streams. Native to Europe, Asia and North Africa, these Aspleniums boast sufficient hardiness to last in the garden. The main differences to cultivation behind glass are shown in detail in the following care tips:

location and soil conditions

For species and varieties native to European regions, the requirements for the location in terms of temperature and soil conditions are more flexible than for tropical spleenwort. This is where the ornamental leaf plants thrive:

  • Partly shaded to shaded areas
  • No tolerance for blazing sunlight
  • Nutrient-rich soil, humic, permeable and fresh and moist
  • Neutral, slightly acidic to alkaline pH

The majority of these plants feel at home wherever humid air prevails. There are well-chosen locations near the garden pond, along the course of the stream, as long as there is no waterlogging there. In terms of soil acidity, the species planted defines the best value. The popular deer tongue and brown spleenwort like to grow in sandy-loamy and calcareous soil with a pH of 8 to 10.

watering and fertilizing

Since Mother Nature contributes to the water supply outdoors with the rain, only water Asplenium if the amount is not sufficient. Ferns should not dry out. Ideally, you sprinkle the plants with collected rain or pond water from the spray head of the watering can and also avoid bombarding them with ice-cold water from the garden hose.

Note: Deer’s Tongue, Brown Spleenwort and other native ferns adorn the garden in large and small troughs. There is a higher watering requirement here than in the bed. Check the moisture content of the substrate every 1-2 days with a thumb test and water as soon as the top 2-3 cm has dried.

Planted in nutrient-rich, humus-rich soil, the green relic from prehistoric times requires little additional care. If you fertilize spleenwort in the garden every 3-4 weeks with compost and a handful of rock flour or vital lime, the ornamental plant will be satisfied. By the end of August at the latest, stop giving fertilizer so that the fern can prepare for the winter. In the planter, apply a liquid fertilizer for green plants every 30 days during the growing season.


Asplenium species suitable for the garden thrive in evergreen or evergreen. Do not cut off green fronds during the year, because no new leaves will grow back. Only withered leaves are cut off at the base if the visual appearance is affected. Cut only deep enough into the tissue to leave a 1mm brown stripe on the plant. This prudence prevents rot and infection.

Note: Before winter, spleen ferns should never be cut off outdoors, because the fronds serve as a natural protective coat. Before budding, the plant sheds its stalks on its own to make room for this year’s budding.


The outdoor specialists among the spleen ferns tolerate temperatures down to – 23 degrees Celsius. Protection against frost is therefore unnecessary. In rough locations, a light cover with brushwood prevents the frond tips from freezing back. In contrast, the following precautions should be taken when cultivated in buckets:

  • Place small pots under 30 cm in diameter in a frost-free, bright winter quarters
  • Don’t let the root ball dry out
  • Place large tubs on wood and cover with bubble wrap
  • Push mobile planters in front of the protective south wall of the house

Wintergreen and evergreen ferns do not stop evaporating water during the cold season. Therefore, water the plants on mild days when it freezes and there is no snow cover to provide moisture.

diseases and pests

You will rarely have to complain about illnesses with Asplenium. However, some common pests do not spare the spleen ferns. The most important pests and possible control methods at a glance:

Frequent watering and spraying of a plant usually carries the risk of an infestation with leaflets. The tiny roundworms get to the ferns via infected water, penetrate through stomata and finally suck off the plant sap. The presence of the pests can be diagnosed based on glassy spots on the otherwise light green fronds. In the later stages of infestation, the spots turn brown until the entire leaf dies as a result. So far, hobby gardeners have been waiting in vain for immediately effective pesticides. To prevent spread, heavily infested ferns should be discarded. To prevent this, boil the irrigation and spray water, which will definitely kill the nematodes.

To drive away aphids from spleenwort, you can save yourself the use of chemical preparations. Two environmentally friendly means have proven to be effective:

  • Mix fresh milk and water in a ratio of 1:2 and use every 2-3 days until the plague is over
  • Dissolve 1 tablespoon of pure soft soap in 1 liter of water and use repeatedly

At the first signs of aphids on the pretty fronds, consistently showering them with clear water has good results. However, there must be no ants nearby that would piggyback on the aphids and carry them back onto the plant.

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