How to Grow and Care for the Blue Star Fern- Full Guide!   

Potted Phlebodium aureum (golden polypody, golden serpen, cabbage palm, gold-foot, blue-star fern, hare-foot) on wooden table. - How to Grow and Care for the Blue Star Fern- Full Guide!   
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Ferns are among the most beautiful plant groups on earth. If you have not had any luck growing ferns and want to try again, the Blue Star Fern is a promising option. It is fast growing in popularity because it is easier to grow and care for than many other ferns and typically not finicky. 

This full guide to the growth and care of the Blue Star Fern includes Planting, Soil Requirements, Light, Temperature, Humidity, Watering, Fertilizing, Pruning, and Propagation requirements: plus, Re-Potting, Pests & Diseases, and Common Problems of the Blue Star Fern.

How to Grow and Care for a Blue Star Fern

Ferns are one of the trickier species for houseplants. The Blue Star Fern though is a smash hit. 

Here are the basic requirements and care of the Blue Star Fern to ensure its success. 

Planting the Blue Star Fern

The Blue Star Fern can be grown in a container or pot with drainage holes to prevent standing water. You can use a standing pot or if you want your plant to be slightly higher, you can use a hanging planter. 

Use a glazed ceramic or plastic pot instead of terra cotta (clay) pots. Terra cotta pots dry out too quickly and are not suitable for your blue star fern. 

Soil Requirement of the Blue Star Fern

Using the right soil is key to the success of your blue star fern. This fern grows well in a peat-based houseplant potting mix added with a few perlites for improved drainage. 

Unlike in its natural habitat where it is an epiphyte, in a home environment, it prefers moist soil. 

Light  Requirements of the Blue Star Fern

Like other ferns, the Blue Star Fern can tolerate low light levers, but it will thrive better in bright, indirect sunlight. Too much exposure to bright direct light may scorch and burn its leaves. Too little light, on the other hand, will make the leaves look pale. 

It is ideal to place this plant about three feet away from a north-facing window. 

Temperature Requirements of the Blue Star Fern

The Blue Star Fern is a warm-weather plant. It stays green year-round indoors with a temperature range of 570F to 810F. 

This plant does not tolerate frost. It goes dormant when the temperature drops. Being a potentially deciduous plant, it typically sheds its leaves until the return of warm temperatures. 

Humidity Requirements of the Blue Star Fern

It is not a big surprise that this fern plant loves humidity. It is native to rainforests and like many houseplants it prefers a humid environment. 

You can create a humid environment by placing your plant on a pebble tray with a little water. You can also place some seashells on the surface of the soil. A little misting will also increase the ambient humidity a bit around the plant.  

Placing the Blue Star Fern beside other moisture-loving plants can also raise humidity. Your fern plant can also thrive in steamy bathrooms and kitchens. 

You need to increase humidity if leaves become crisp with brown tips. 

Watering Requirements of the Blue Star Fern

You need to keep the soil of the Blue Star Fern moist but not wet. It has little tolerance for dry soil. It is an epiphyte, so it likes to have moisture without overwatering. 

Here are some simple tips on the correct way to water your blue star fern. 

  • Wait for the soil to dry out before watering your fern plant. 
  • Do not water the leaves of the plant. Water only the sides of the pot. 
  • The crown of the fern plant should not be left with water. 
  • Water the plant thoroughly. Soak the soil and allow excess water to drain out. 
  • Use distilled or filtered water because the plant is sensitive to fertilizer residues, chemicals, minerals, and salts.
  • The water should be at room temperature to prevent the roots from chilling.  

The key to proper watering is to avoid soggy soil. You should allow the pot to thoroughly drain. The rhizome is especially prone to rotting in wet conditions. 

Blue Star Fern Big - How to Grow and Care for the Blue Star Fern
Blue Star Fern Big

Fertilizing Requirements of the Blue Star Fern

Your fern plant gets the nutrients it needs for the first six to eight months after planting from the new potting mix. After this period, the nutrients in the potting mix will be depleted and it is time to fertilize your plant. 

The Blue Star Fern is a light feeder and will only need a once-a-month application of general houseplant fertilizer during its growing season (spring to summer). 

Fertilize your plant during the warm season when it is growing well and healthy. Never add fertilizer when your plant is languishing or is dormant. 

This plant has a sensitive root system, so it is best to use a well-diluted formula. Any granular or liquid fertilizer for houseplants will work for your plant. 

If you are using granular fertilizer, sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of the fertilizer on top of the soil every about 8 weeks. 

If you are using a liquid fertilizer, mix it with water so you can have only half the strength of the fertilizer.  

Never over-fertilize your Blue Star Fern because doing so will lead to burned roots and front tips. 

Pruning Requirements of the Blue Star Fern

Pruning is crucial in caring for your Blue Star Fern. It is done using a sterilized cutting tool. 

When you remove damaged or dead leaves and unruly stems, the energy of the plant gets diverted to new growth.

Getting rid of these nuisances can also protect your plant from pests and diseases. 

Propagation Requirements of the Blue Star Fern

You can propagate your Blue Star Fern via rhizome cuttings, division, or spores. 

Rhizome Cuttings. This method can be done during spring to early summer. You can use two to four fronds (a leaf of a fern) with a rhizomatous section. 

Make sure the rhizome you are going to propagate is at least 8 cm long to ensure it has sufficient stored energy for continued growth. 

1.     Choose the most established and healthiest rhizomes – one that does not show any signs of disease or damage. 

2.     Use a clean knife to cut below a node to separate the roots systems from the root ball. 

3.     Plant the rhizome into a moist houseplant potting mix. This will prevent root rot. 

4.     Sprinkle a little soil onto the rhizome. This is to lock in moisture while waiting for new growth. New plant growth will usually take up to several weeks. 

5.     Place it in a spot without direct sunlight and with high humidity for greater success. 

        When the second new leaf appears, follow the care tips mentioned above for your new plant. 

Division. The best time to propagate your plant via division is when you are repotting it. 

1.     Gently shake off some of the soil to separate the fleshy rhizomes with some parts of the original roots and several leaves. 

2.     Plant the separated plantlets in a moist houseplant potting mix. 

3.     Place it in a spot without direct sunlight and prolonged droughts. 

4.     Moisten the soil 24 hours after division to prevent shocking the root system. 

This is an easy method of propagation, but you should be careful it does not experience transplant shock (that means any stress the plant goes through that involves failure to root well and become well-established). 

Rhizomes are modified stems. They contain the leaves and roots of the plant. Division is the easiest method to propagate the blue star fern. 

Spores. These are the little brown spots found under the leaves. You can propagate reproductive spores, in the same manner, you propagate seeds when matured.  

These zygotes develop on the undersides of each leaf. They are crisp and brown when they are ready for propagation. 

1.     Choose a houseplant potting mix with compost. This type of potting mix is a good balance of water retention and aeration. 

2.     Place the potting mix into a plastic pot with drainage holes. The diameter of the pot should be wider than the span of the leaf. If you have a small pot, you can cut
the leaf sideways so it can fit the container. 

3.     Separate the spores from the under-leaves using your hands. Cut the entire frond off if the spores are crispy and brown but cannot be removed. 

4.     Place the spores or leaf on top of the compost.  

5.     Mist the top layer of the soil after you have separated the spores. Avoid submerging it into the compost.  If the spores have entire leaves, place them on top of the
dry foliage.
This will allow the spores to separate from the leaf and settle below on the soil.

6.     Place the potted spores/leaves into a transparent bag. Place it in a spot with bright, indirect light and a temperature above 640

7.     The spores should always be moist so mist the top layer of the soil every other day while keeping the leaves dry or until there are missing spores from the
under-leaves. 

Once most of the leaves have detached, throw them away and mist the soil to help it hydrate. 

The locked-in moist air inside the transparent bag makes sure it is in high humidity. High humidity and good soil moisture ensure the beginning of the germination process. 

The germination process takes up to about two months but when it does not, wait until five months before deciding to discard the spores/ leaves. 

After the spores develop their first leaves, carefully remove them from the transparent bag and transfer them to a pot to allow them to grow. 

Repotting Requirements of the Blue Star Fern

PHLEBODIUM AUREUM (BLUE STAR FERN) in yellow pot.
PHLEBODIUM AUREUM (Blue Star Fern) in yellow pot.

The Blue Star Fern dislikes the repotting process so do it only when absolutely necessary. Ideally, you can repot a healthy plant every two years or even longer. 

Repotting should only be done when your plant has outgrown its original pot. Rhizomes typically creep and do not climb over the rim of their pot so this is not a sign that repotting should be done. 

Here are some repotting considerations you need to keep in mind: 

  • Yellowing leaves and having to water your plant every day or every other day is a sign repotting is necessary. 
  • Springtime is the best time to repot to give the plant time to recover. While you can repot anytime you want to, it will take longer for the plant to respond. 
  • Check the roots of your plant by gently removing the plant from the pot. If the soil is still fine, your plant may only need a larger pot. 
  • Do not use a much larger pot when repotting. The new pot should only be about 1 or 2 inches wider than the old pot. 
  • Always make sure the new pot has sufficient drainage. 
  • Never bury the rhizomes in soil. 

As a rule, never replace the soil your Blue Star Fern arrived in. It has already adapted to the soil it has been in the nursery. Replacing the soil with a different potting mix may shock its root system. 

Pests  

When caring for your blue star fern, you will need to deal with some pests and diseases. This fern though is less susceptible to pests such as spider mites, aphids, scale, meaty bugs, and thrips than many ferns. 

Leaf spots, browning, leaf curl, or leaf deaf are signs your fern plant has been infested by pests. 

The main problem of this fern with regards to pests, is these invaders settle down in the hairy coatings of rhizomes for protection. 

You can use light horticulture oils, neem oil spray, a water and dish soap mixture, insecticidal soap, or a houseplant pesticide to effectively get rid of them. Make sure these treatments get into direct contact with the pests. 

Repeat the treatments every four to seven days until you have completely gotten rid of the pests. You can use harsher pesticides as a last resort. 

Make sure to keep your Blue Star Fern away from infested plants. Isolate your infected plant to prevent further infestation. 

If you notice some white spots on the rhizomes and leaves of your plant, this is normal and does not mean your plant has been infested by pests. 

Diseases 

Most diseases of the Blue Star Fern are related to moisture. This means moisture is the cause of the disease, specifically overwatering. For most diseases that get into your plant, prevention is often the only cure. 

Here are some of the common diseases that could affect your fern plant: 

  • Root Rot. This is the most common and serious disease that can affect your fern plant. It will hit your plant only a few hours after the soil turn soggy. It becomes more serious when your fern is planted in heavy soil. 
  • Mildews. Powdery mildew and rust are also common and triggered by moisture. To prevent this disease, always keep the leaves of your fern plant dry. It also helps if your plant gets good air circulation.   
  • Southern Blight. This is a deadly root fungus because the Southern Bright loves the moist and warm conditions favored by your Blue Star Fern. There is no effective fungicide that can treat this disease. The best way to prevent this disease from hitting your fern plant is to always use sterile potting media and sterilized tools.  
  • Non-Flowering

The leaves are the most important part of the blue star fern. This plant does not produce flowers, but its blue-green leaves provide a gorgeous backdrop in creating a flowering scene. 

The closest this fern plant can get to producing flowers is about 2 rows of bright orange dots that produce spores on the underside of the leaves. 

Growth Zone

The Blue Star Fern is hardy in zones 9-11. You can still grow this fern plant even if you live in cooler zones if you do not keep it outdoors on cooler days. You should also maintain a suitable temperature for this fern plant. 

Common Problems with the Blue Star Fern

The Blue Star Fern is not the most challenging fern to grow, but there will always be instances that you will need to deal with some issues. 

Look at some of the most common issues that can affect your Blue Star Fernand and how you can deal with them. 

  • Losing Leaves. This usually happens when you repotted or moved your new plant. Give your new plant some time to adjust to its new environment. Avoid exposing it to cold temperatures because it can cause the leaves to die fast. 
  • Yellow Leaves. Your fern plant having yellow leaves can be due to many causes. Your plant only requires very light feeding and too much fertilizer will cause its leaves to turn yellow. 

          Overwatering and under-watering will also make the leaves of your plant turn yellow. Too many salts from tap water is another cause although it can be remedied by flushing out the soil. 

  • Dying leaves in the crown of the plant. Your Blue Star Fern is sensitive to crown rot so make sure to always water from the sides of the plant. If your fern plant has dying leaves in the crown, check its roots if it is developing root rot. 
  • Brown tips on the leaves. This could again be due to under-watering. It could also mean that the air in your home is dry. You can get a cheap humidity meter to check on the dryness of the air. 

Your fern plant likes to have some humidity and a humidifier can be helpful.  Avoid having a watering schedule. Water your fern plant only when the soil is dry. 

Blue Star Fern Overview

The Blue Star Fern (Phlebodium aureum) is an epiphyte which means it is attached and grows on trees. It is naturally found in the tropical rainforest of South America and North America. As such it thrives in a humid, warm environment without direct sunlight. 

Welcome to Green Garden Tribe
Welcome to Green Garden Tribe

The Blue Star Fern does not grow in the soil, instead, it has a rhizome that grows on trees. It is not a parasite, though. If you are growing this plant indoors, you should keep its natural growth pattern. 

This plant has a mature height of 60 inches. It has a shrub-like body with its long leaves joining at the base. 

Its attractive and relaxing blue-green color is the standout feature of the Blue Star Fern. It has thin texture leaves that are shaped like fat fingers make the length of the plant. 

Its slightly curly bluish-grey leaves. The leaves branch out into fingers as they mature while maintaining their attractive color. Each leaf is about 15 to 50 inches long. 

It has furry, golden-brown rhizomes providing a contrasting color as they spill over the rim of the pot or spread underground.  

Because of these features, the Blue Star Fern has become known by these common names: 

  • Bear’s Paw Fern
  • Cabbage Palm Fern
  • Gold Foot Fern
  • Golden Poly Body
  • Golden Serpent Fern
  • Palm Boot Fern 

The Phlebodium is not called the Blue Star Fern for nothing. Its air purifying properties combined with its stunning looks makes this plant a priceless addition to your home interior. 

This fern, when small and young, is excellent for terrariums. The amazing color of this plant makes it contrast well with your other houseplants. It also stands out on its own when grown in a pot or hanging basket. 

The Blue Star Fern is a natural air purifier. Its bluish curly leaves can get rid of toxins from the air. This fern plant combines the benefits of being beautiful while providing clean and healthy air to your home. 

This fern pant is not toxic. It is safe to have in your home even if you have children and pets. 

Its rhizomes are believed to be effective treatments for kidney problems and cough. 

Knowing how to correctly grow and care for the blue star fern, you can effortlessly preserve your fern. 

Final Thoughts on How to Grow and Care for the Blue Star Fern 

The Blue Star Fern plant is an easy-to-grow fern. It can tolerate different levels of light. Its bluish-grey leaves get elongated instead of falling off from the plant when it gets old. 

The best way to care for your Blue Star Fern is to plant it in moist well-draining soil and allow it to receive indirect light. 

The Blue Star Fern is a gorgeous selection to grow in pots and hanging baskets. It can thrive indoors and outdoors. As a final reminder, always keep your fern plant in warm spots, especially during fall and winter.

There are hundreds of different fern species to choose from but give the Blue Star Fern a try. This fern can provide a remarkable contrast to your other houseplants and make you happy with the results. 

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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