why is fern losing leaves

Why Is Fern Losing Leaves And How to Prevent It.

In Plant Problems by Ana M

If your beautiful fern is losing leaves, it’s trying to tell you something. The plant might be unhappy about its environment. So, the best way to get your attention is to drop some leaves on the floor. However, the plant may also just be entering its normal time of leaf drop and you have nothing to worry about.

So, why is fern losing leaves?

The most common reasons why fern is losing leaves are inadequate amounts of light and water the plant is receiving. If the fern is exposed to direct sunlight, the leaves will develop sunburn and fall off. Overwatering causes leaves to turn yellow and, as a result, the fern is losing leaves.

A leaf drop is not always cause for alarm. However, you should always monitor your plant to keep the fern healthy regardless of the reason for the leaf drop. Read on to discover the potential reasons for the leaf loss and what you should do for your plant!

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why is fern losing leaves and how to prevent it

Why Are The Leaves Falling Off The Fern?

#1 – Fern is not receiving enough light or is exposed to direct sunlight

Ferns prefer a southern exposure that provides them with bright light but no direct sunlight. If a southern exposure location is not possible, shield the ferns from direct sunlight or the leaves will develop sunburn and fall off.

If the plant is not receiving enough sunlight, it will become leggy and produce long fronds with few leaves.

Around 6-hours a day of indirect light is ideal for these plants.

#2 – Overwatering leads to leaf drop

If the fern is drowning because it’s being overwatered, the leaves will turn yellow before falling off. So, all you need to do is to reduce the amount of water given to the plant to stop the leaf drop.

Why Are The Leaves Falling Off The Fern?

Ferns are native to wooded areas that stay shady and moist most of the time. That is the environment they will thrive in at your home. Always keep the soil moist but not soggy. Mist the fern daily and/or place in a shallow tray filled with pebbles and water.

Ferns can be double potted with peat moss or vermiculite stuffed in-between the 2 containers. Place the potted fern inside a larger container and stuff peat moss or vermiculite into the gap between the containers. Keep the peat moss or vermiculite moist at all times to increase the humidity around the fern.

Should You Cut The Dead Leaves Off The Fern?

Ferns can be evergreen or deciduous, but even the deciduous will lose their leaves at a certain time each year. Whether should you cut the dead leaves off the fern depends on its type.

Deciduous ferns lose their leaves in the late fall and winter months, with new leaf growth emerging in the spring. Evergreen ferns lose their leaves at the end of the winter to make room for new leaves to grow in the spring.

Allow the dead leaves to fall off deciduous ferns naturally and wait until the early spring to prune plant. Cut the dead leaves off evergreen ferns and prune off dying fronds at the end of the winter months just as the new growth begins to appear.

To tidy up the plant and remove dead leaves, use a sharp pair of scissors, and cut the frond back to the base. The fronds can be trimmed around the ends to give the plant a uniform length. Cut back any dead fronds as they appear.

Cut The Dead Leaves Off The Fern

The leaves will grow back, and the plant will produce new fronds if the fern is healthy and happy. Any time a fern is transplanted the leaves should be cut back by one-half. This allows the plant to focus more attention on getting its roots settled instead of putting on new growth.

Can You Prevent The Leaf Loss From The Fern?

As stated previously, if a fern is losing leaves it’s trying to tell you it’s unhappy. Keeping the fern happy in the best way to prevent leaf loss and that usually requires some trial and error. Here are my go-to tips to prevent the leaf loss:

Find the right location that provides the fern with enough sunlight but not too much. Give the plant the right amount of water and humidity. Remove any plants that are diseased or pest-infested immediately from the same area of a fern so that the fern will not become infected.

Ferns will lose their leaves so new growth can develop and that can’t be stopped. But if the leaves begin to drop at the wrong time of year, there’s a problem with the plant.

Why Is Staghorn Fern Dropping Leaves?

Staghorn ferns are unique in appearance and in the way they grow. These ferns are Epiphytes in tropical climates, and they can grow to massive proportions. Their roots hold them in place, and they absorb water and nutrients through their fronds.

Why Is Staghorn Fern Dropping Leaves?

Staghorns are not parasitic and will grow in containers of growing medium, but not in soil. The fern can be grown in a container or tree bark or on a piece of tree bark, in sphagnum moss, or other soil-less growing medium.

The staghorn fern has leaves that resemble the horns of a deer, moose, elk, and other similar horned animals. If this fern loses leaves, there’s usually a serious problem.

So, why is Staghorn fern dropping leaves?

A loss of few leaves is totally normal, but if Staghorn fern is dropping more leaves, the most likely cause is overwatering. Also, if the fern has yellow or brown spots, the plant has a pest problem. Pest infestation often provokes leaf loss.

Staghorn ferns do occasionally replace their old leaves with new growth, but all other leaves should look healthy and the roots plump. A staghorn survives on very little water in its natural environment and lots of humidity.

Allow the growing medium to dry out between watering and soak it thoroughly when watering. Create a humid environment around this fern by keeping a bowl of water nearby so water will evaporate close to the fern.

Why Is Boston Fern Losing Leaves?

Boston ferns are one of the most popular types of ferns and they can be seen throughout the summer on porches everywhere. Their long, graceful fronds are covered with tiny leaves and sway in the summer breeze. Boston ferns look fantastic until they develop leaf drop!

Why Is Boston Fern Losing Leaves?

If you don’t stop it quickly, the Boston fern will lose all of its leaves. The problem is usually minor and can be remedied very easily. Let’s see what are the most common causes for Boston fern leaf loss and how to avoid it.

#1 Underwatering. Although Boston ferns tolerate drier conditions than other ferns, you need to add water when the soil surface just starts to dry. Soak the soil completely, until water is running out the bottom, each time you water the plant.

Tip: if you are watering enough and the plant still seems to be dehydrated, the fern has outgrown its container. You need to divide the plant and repot it.

#2 Low humidity. Boston ferns love humidity and you need to mist them daily. However, it might not be enough for the plant. If that is the case, place the plant in a larger container that is lined with peat moss or vermiculite. Always keep the peat moss or vermiculite moist.

#3 Old leaves. Older leaves will eventually die and fall off. So, if just a few leaves are dropping off, it’s probably old leaves. Redirect some of the long, thin stolons back into the pot so they start to root and produce new leaves.


Ferns are fun to grow and there are 1,000‘s of varieties to choose from! So, you can definitely find some that are just right for your environment. Leaf drop is the main issue to be mindful of when growing ferns and it typically is an easy problem to solve.

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Happy Growing 🙂

With Love,


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