Blue Star Fern Care | Phlebodium Aureum

If you love ferns for their whimsical touch they add to any room, but you can’t seem to keep them from crisping up, it’s worth trying epiphytic ferns, as they tend to be easy to care for.

Phlebodium aureum, also known as the Blue Star Fern, is a great option. 

It is easy to grow, and it will tolerate some lower light situations, but what makes it special is its blue-green fronds that can quickly become densely packed in a pot.

Not sure if this plant will survive in your home? Here’s what you need to know.

Phlebodium Aureum At A Glance

Sometimes called Golden polypody or hare-foot fern, this evergreen fern makes a dramatic statement in any home.

It’s native to South America, where you’ll find it growing on trees and other taller plants, so it can reach the light.

The blue star fern is grown in many other parts of the world as a houseplant, and if you get the conditions right, the leaves can reach 1 meter long, adding an effortless jungle vibe to any space.

While it’s easy to care for, it’s not a plant you can leave to its own devices for long. If it dries out too much, it will die.

A Note On Toxicity

Phlebodium aureum is reported to be non-toxic if cats or dogs eat a part of the plant. 

How To Grow The Blue Star Fern

Like most ferns, the blue star fern does need some humidity, so grow it above other plants in a hanging pot to make a fabulous display, or grow it in a light bathroom.

If you can raise the humidity – which is the harder aspect for most plant care regimes – the blue star fern is very easy to grow.

Where To Grow Phlebodium Aureum

Sunlight And Position

Phlebodium aureum needs somewhere with indirect sunlight. This plant will scorch in anything more than this!

However, that’s not to say that this plant will do well in a dim room. It still needs to be within a couple of feet of a window for the growth to be healthy.

A Northern-facing window (provided that you live in the Northern Hemisphere, or a Southern-facing window in the Southern Hemisphere) is perfect for this plant, providing it with everything it needs without burning the delicate fronds.

While most plants that are sensitive to prolonged direct sunlight would do well in some morning sunlight, ferns like the blue star fern will not appreciate this as it is too strong for them, and they are likely to dry out much more than they should.

Ideal Temperature And Humidity

Average household temperatures are fine for the blue star fern, provided that you keep the plant away from sources of heat and drafts, and the temperature remains stable.

What you will need to do is to keep this plant in a humid environment. If you have lots of plants already, this is much easier, as you can put the blue star fern near them to create a microclimate.

If not, a humidifier, or, keeping this plant in a kitchen or bathroom that gets used often will be fine.

In a pinch, you could sit the planter on a tray of water and pebbles, making sure that the plant cannot wick up the water.

This isn’t nearly as effective as running a humidifier, but it will take the fierce, dry edge off the indoor air.

Soil, Water, And Fertilizer Needs

Epiphyte-Suitable Compost

Epiphytes grow on other plants rather than in the ground, so they are used to lots of air circulation and very sharp drainage.

This means you need to be careful what kind of soil you give this plant. Normal houseplant compost doesn’t provide the kind of drainage or oxygen this plant needs.

The best way of giving the blue star fern what it needs is to use a third of houseplant compost, one-third perlite, and one-third orchid bark.

Mix it up thoroughly, and this will give the plant the drainage, nutrients, and oxygen it needs to thrive.

When To Water The Blue Star Fern

It’s a good idea to keep checking the blue star fern every few days to see if it needs water. Aim to keep the soil damp, but not water-logged.

Depending on the growing conditions, including light, temperature, size of the plant, and humidity, this may be roughly once a week.

Once the top of the soil starts to dry out, the plant needs another drink.

The rhizomes of the plant stay above the soil line, and you need to avoid getting these soaked, otherwise, the plant will rot.

Water around the edge of the pot, or you could bottom water it for about half an hour until the top of the compost is damp.

If you decide to bottom water, don’t leave the plant sitting in water for longer than that, otherwise, it can rot the roots.

If your area has hard water, it’s a good idea to use rainwater or distilled water instead.

Should You Feed A Blue Star Fern?

Blue star ferns are not hungry plants, but it is a good idea to feed the plant every fifth watering or so in spring and summer to give them a boost of nutrients.

Use half the recommended amount on a general, all-purpose houseplant feed.

Repotting A Blue Star Fern

It’s a good idea to repot your blue star fern every year or two, giving it fresh compost and moving up one planter size.

As the plant has such thick rhizomes, it’s very easy to tell when it needs a new pot, as it can push the sides of a plastic pot into a weird shape as the rhizomes get too big for the pot.

When it comes to pot material, always choose plastic over terracotta pots for ferns. Terracotta pots are very porous and will lose moisture rapidly, which can make it harder to keep this plant hydrated.

Growing Phlebodium Aureum: Common Problems And How To Fix Them

Leaf Drop On A Blue Star Fern

If only one or two leaves are dropping from the plant, it’s likely that your plant is just adapting to its new environment, if you’ve just gotten it home or moved it elsewhere.

More than this suggests that something in the growing conditions is very wrong, such as temperatures that are far too cold.

This is a tender plant, and cannot do well in colder rooms, even if that’s just a cold draft.

Blue Star Leaves Turning Yellow

If the gorgeous leaves on your blue star fern are yellowing, there are a couple of things you need to rule out.

It could be that you’re getting the watering levels wrong, either by watering the plant too much or not enough.

If you’re sure that the watering regime is not the issue, make sure you’re not feeding the plant too much (and flushing it occasionally with distilled water to get rid of the fertilizer salts).

You may also want to switch to distilled water or rainwater, as these plants can be sensitive to the chemicals in tap water.

Brown Leaf Tips On A Blue Star Fern

If the leaf tips are crisping up, the plant is probably too dry, either in terms of watering or humidity.

Try to maintain higher humidity levels where possible, whether that’s through using a humidifier or keeping the plant on a water and pebble tray.

Do not let the plant dry out, and water when the surface is nearly dry.

Crown Rot

This is usually a watering issue. If you water the rhizomes instead of the soil, and there’s nowhere for the water to go, this will make the plant rot!

Try watering at the very edges of the pot, or, bottom water the plant to stop this from happening.

Pests To Look Out For

If you’re seeing more than a few issues at once, this can be a pest infestation.

Blue star ferns are susceptible to quite a few pests, but the most common ones in drier conditions are spider mites, which will attack the plant when the humidity is too low.

You may also see fungus gnats or thrips when the soil is damp for long periods, and it’s worth getting rid of them as soon as you see them using a horticultural soap on the leaves, rinsing the leaves with tepid water in between applications.

How To Propagate The Blue Star Fern


One of the best ways to propagate the blue star fern is not through stem cuttings, but by dividing the plant when it becomes bigger, preferably when it’s time to repot it.

Dividing the plant means that the divisions will already have everything they need to survive, with roots, stems, and leaves.

Take the plant out of its pot, squeezing it at the bottom to loosen the roots.

You can either use a sharp, clean knife, or your hands to separate the plant into two, making sure that both divisions have some rhizomes, leaves, and roots.

Pot both divisions up separately, using a fresh compost mix like the one above, and water.


If you fancy a challenge, you can propagate your blue star fern through the spores found on the undersides of the leaves.

This method does take significantly longer than dividing the plant, and you may not see results for a couple of months, so it’s not for the impatient!

When the spores crisp up and turn brown, you can treat them like seeds. Gently coax them from the fronds, and lay them on the surface of damp soil, preferably in a tray with a clear lid to lock in humidity.

Keep the compost damp, and put the tray somewhere warm and in indirect light. You should see new growth within a few months.

Final Thoughts

The blue star fern is a unique epiphyte with beautiful foliage, but to get the healthiest plant possible, you need to get the conditions right from the get-go, as this plant can decline quickly in the wrong conditions.

Do not allow the plant to dry out, and keep it in indirect light, somewhere warm and humid.

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