Encyclopedia of Houseplants

How to Grow a Lemon Button Fern, the Hardy Fern You’ve Been Searching for

updated Sep 15, 2022
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Lemon Button Fern
Credit: LindaLee777/Shutterstock

Many people find that they can’t keep ferns alive, and there are many many fern varieties out there. If you haven’t been able to keep a fern alive in your home but haven’t tried a lemon button fern yet, this plant is for you. The lemon button fern (Nephrolepis cordifolia “Duffii”) is a beautiful plant, suited for both a novice and a professional collector.

It’s easy to care for and is one of the more affordable houseplants you can buy. It also gives off a very slight lemony scent during the active growing months. And, on top of all of that, it’s completely non-toxic for your pets.

The lemon button fern checks a lot of marks on the “must have” plant lists. It can withstand a lot of neglect and come back swinging stronger than it was before. And with all that, this beauty has a similar look to its extremely finicky cousin, the maidenhair fern. Read on to learn more about how to care for this easygoing but striking fern.

What kind of soil and container does a lemon button fern need?

Lemon button ferns can grow in basic houseplant soil. If you want to get more specific, they would benefit from a loose, peaty mix of soil.

As far as containers go, the sky’s the limit. Your lemon button fern will thrive if it has room to grow. Glazed, un-glazed, hanging, or stationary—any pot will do! These ferns are also wonderful additions to larger terrariums. 

The lemon button fern is a plant that doesn’t mind being in a container with no drainage. It will be fine if you’re careful about not flooding it (which promotes root rot). If you choose a pot with no drainage, simply layer rock or pebbles on the bottom to keep the roots from standing in water. 

Many folks also use lemon button ferns in their vivariums and animal terrariums. They make great companions for amphibians and other tropical animals! 

Credit: Shing Wong/Shutterstock

What kind of light should a lemon button fern get?

The lemon button fern can live in anything from bright, indirect light to lower light, making it one of the most versatile plants.

There may be a few naysayers who will argue that a lemon button fern can only thrive in an indirect light situation, but I’ve successfully grown this plant in a very bright environment, a very gloomy corner, and somewhere in the middle—all over the course of a few years. That whole process simply proved to me that this plant is almost as hardy as a snake plant or ZZ plant. Of course, the one main difference is the amount of water each plant needs.

How much water does the lemon button fern need?

A lemon button fern can survive in a very damp environment, but it will also be okay if you let it dry out occasionally. It’s a plant that’s easy to streamline to your other plants’ watering schedules. Whether you’re watering it more often or just once a week, it will perform for you. Mist your plant multiple times a week for good measure.   

Credit: eyore28/Shutterstock

Should you fertilize a lemon button fern?

This plant grows a little on the slower side, so don’t measure it every day looking for progress. It’s a bit like watching water boil. If you’re looking to give your plant a little boost, fertilize it a few times a year. Be sure to follow the directions on the bottle!

Is the lemon button fern toxic to animals?

This plant is nontoxic for dogs and cats. This fact is what really makes it an all-around wonderful plant. It’s hardy, easy to care for, and won’t harm your fur babies!