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Leatherleaf Fern

Growing and Caring for Leatherleaf Fern | A Comprehensive Guide for Indoor and Outdoor Gardeners


Leatherleaf fern (Rumohra adiantiformis) is a popular indoor and outdoor ornamental plant that is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The plant is prized for its attractive, glossy, and leathery fronds, which make it a perfect choice for use in floral arrangements, as well as in gardens and landscapes. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide to growing and caring for leatherleaf fern plants.

Botanical Description

Leatherleaf fern is an evergreen perennial fern that belongs to the family Dryopteridaceae. The plant can grow up to 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide, with fronds that can reach up to 3 feet in length. The fronds are bipinnate, meaning that they are divided into numerous leaflets, which are further divided into smaller leaflets. The leaflets are oblong and leathery, with a dark green color and a glossy appearance. The plant produces spores on the underside of the fronds.

Growing Requirements

Light: Leatherleaf fern prefers bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves, while low light can lead to poor growth and yellowing of the fronds.

Temperature: Leatherleaf fern thrives in temperatures between 60-75°F (15-24°C). Avoid exposing the plant to temperatures below 50°F (10°C) or above 85°F (29°C).

Humidity: Leatherleaf fern requires high humidity to thrive. If the air is too dry, the fronds may turn brown and crispy. You can increase humidity by placing a humidifier near the plant or by placing a tray of water near the plant and allowing the water to evaporate.

Watering: Leatherleaf fern prefers moist soil but does not tolerate waterlogged soil. Water the plant when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, and avoid allowing the soil to dry out completely.

Soil: Leatherleaf fern prefers well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. A soil mix consisting of equal parts peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite is ideal.

Fertilizer: Leatherleaf fern benefits from regular fertilization during the growing season. Use a balanced fertilizer with an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20, and apply it every 2-3 weeks.


Leatherleaf fern can be propagated by spores or by division.

Spores: To propagate leatherleaf fern from spores, you will need to collect the spores from a mature frond and sow them in a container filled with a moist soil mix. Keep the container in a warm and humid location, and mist the soil and the spores regularly to keep them moist. It may take several months for the spores to germinate, and several years for the plant to mature.

Division: To propagate leatherleaf fern by division, you will need to carefully separate the plant into smaller sections, making sure that each section has roots and fronds. Plant the sections in individual containers filled with a moist soil mix, and water them regularly until they become established.

Pests and Diseases

Leatherleaf fern is generally resistant to pests and diseases, but it can be susceptible to certain problems under certain conditions.

Pests: The most common pests that affect leatherleaf fern are spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects. To control pests, use a gentle insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, and make sure to apply it thoroughly to the undersides of the leaves.

Diseases: Leatherleaf fern can be susceptible to fungal diseases, such as root rot, if the soil is too wet or if the plant is overwatered.

To prevent fungal diseases, make sure to water the plant only when the top inch of soil feels dry, and avoid allowing the plant to sit in standing water. In addition, make sure to provide good air circulation around the plant, as stagnant air can encourage the growth of fungi.

Maintenance and Care

Pruning: Leatherleaf fern does not require much pruning, but you may need to trim back any damaged or dead fronds to improve the plant's appearance. Use a clean and sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears to make the cuts, and make sure to sterilize the tools before and after use to prevent the spread of disease.

Cleaning: Leatherleaf fern can attract dust and debris, which can make the fronds appear dull and dusty. To keep the plant looking fresh and clean, wipe the fronds regularly with a damp cloth or sponge, or mist the plant with water to rinse away any debris.

Repotting: Leatherleaf fern can outgrow its container over time, which can lead to root-bound conditions and poor growth. To prevent this, repot the plant every 2-3 years, or when you notice that the roots are beginning to emerge from the drainage holes at the bottom of the container. When repotting, use a slightly larger container filled with fresh soil mix, and make sure to water the plant well after transplanting.


Leatherleaf fern is a beautiful and easy-to-care-for plant that is perfect for use in indoor and outdoor settings. By providing the plant with the right growing conditions, regular fertilization, and proper maintenance, you can enjoy the glossy and leathery fronds of this plant for years to come. Remember to watch out for pests and diseases, and to take prompt action if you notice any signs of trouble. With a little bit of attention and care, your leatherleaf fern can thrive and become a stunning addition to your home or garden.

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