How to care for a kangaroo fern – A simple guide

If you are looking to add a plant with a lush, tropical vibe to your houseplant collection, look no further than the kangaroo fern. This fern has the “rainforest look” mastered! Plus, they are easy to care for, especially when compared to some other fussier fern species. In this article, I’ll share everything there is to know and love about the kangaroo fern and offer plenty of tips for its care, from watering and fertilizing to repotting and propagation.

What is a kangaroo fern.

Also known as the kangaroo paw fern or the kangaroo foot fern, the kangaroo fern ( Microsorum diversifolium ) reaches a height of 1 foot tall and a width between 3 and 4 feet. It’s in the family Polypodiaceae . A native of Australia and New Zealand, it’s easy to grow outdoors in the ground if you live in a warm climate without winter freezes. Most people, however, grow the kangaroo fern indoors as a houseplant.

In the wild, kangaroo ferns spread by underground rhizomes to cover large areas. Indoors, it grows far more slowly, but its unique appearance makes it a real stand-out in the fern family.

The graceful arching leaves are not feathery like some other species of ferns. Instead, they are “chunky,” and some say, shaped like a kangaroo paw, hence its common name. Each frond varies slightly in appearance, with some producing extended “toes” that reach out beyond the rest of the frond.

The foliage of kangaroo paw ferns is leathery and tough, making it a far more resilient plant than some other ferns that are typically grown indoors. When grown in a semi-shady spot outdoors, kangaroo paw ferns have a dusty blue hue, but when grown indoors as a house plant, they are deep green with a glossy shine.

Small, round, spore-producing structures called sori form on the undersides of the leaves from time to time. Eventually, they mature and release their miniscule spores (the genus name – Microsorum – means “very small sori”). Indoors, you may see a fine dusting of powdery spores beneath the plant. They do not typically stain furniture or fabric and are easily brushed off with a clean paint brush or makeup brush. You can even use the spores to propagate this plant.

The best light for a kangaroo fern

Moderate, indirect light is best for a kangaroo fern. A north-facing window is ideal if you live in the Northern Hemisphere (it will be opposite if you live in the Southern Hemisphere). An east-facing window works too. Avoid the hot, direct sun of a south-facing window or the direct afternoon sun that comes into a west-facing window.

If you live in one of the warmer growing zones (USDA zones 9-11) and this plant exhibits full hardiness, plant it outdoors in partial shade where it receives indirect sunlight. I’ve seen a gardener in Florida with a large coir-lined hanging basket filled with kangaroo fern hanging on their porch. Just be sure to choose a big pot size for your basket to give the fern plenty of room to grow for several years.

Optimum temperatures and humidity

The ideal temperatures for a kangaroo fern are between 65 and 75°F both day and night. Thankfully, that’s within the average temperature range of most homes, hence the successful results many plant parents have with growing this fern.

Like many other fern species, the kangaroo fern prefers higher relative humidity than is found in most home environments. Fine-leaved fern species often drop their leaflets if the humidity is too low. While that won’t happen with thick-leaved ferns like the kangaroo fern, keeping the humidity level elevated results in healthier, more lush growth. You can place the plant on a humidity tray or use a plant humidifier (this tabletop plant humidifier is my favorite).

Misting is often recommended to elevate the humidity levels around houseplants, but it is only temporary and lasts for just a few minutes after misting them. Humidity trays and humidifiers are a more useful option.

All that being said, you can still grow a lovely kangaroo paw fern without any extra humidity. Bathrooms and kitchens are typically more humid environments, so try placing your kangaroo paw fern in those rooms if they also receive the right light levels. This is especially important in the winter when forced heat makes the air inside your home much drier.

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