Button Fern Care

Pellaea rotundifolia care

The Button Fern has a delicate and graceful appearance. This easy-care houseplant adds loads of texture and a subtle pop of color to a space. Ferns have a reputation for being challenging, and the Button is not super easy, but it is more adaptable than many other fern varieties. Here is everything you need to know about Button Fern care.

Cute as a Button

Button Ferns are native to New Zealand and Australia, although they are quickly becoming popular houseplants due to their adorable appearance. Formally known as Pellaea rotundifolia, this plant is sometimes known as a round-leafed fern because it has round leaves called pinnae or leaflets. Each leaflet has subtly scalloped edges, adding a dainty texture.

The round leaves become more oval-shaped with time and are alternately spaced along super-thin stems. The wiry stems have a natural arch that nicely displays the greenery. The leaflets and stems are initially light green, but the leaves turn dark green, and the stems transition to a deep red hue with age. Mature plants grow 12 to 18 inches tall and wide.

Button Fern Care

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

It’s easy to confuse the Button Fern with the Lemon Button Fern based on their similar names, but these plants are not closely related. The botanical name of the Lemon Button Fern is Nephrolepis cordifolia, making it part of a completely different genus. Both the Button and Lemon Button Ferns are lovely plants with similar care needs, but they are different.

Light Needs

Select a spot with bright, indirect sunlight for the Button Fern. Direct light will burn the fronds, so keep the Button several feet away from south-facing windows. West- or east-facing windows make a good home for this fern.

Button Fern Water Requirements

Water the Button Fern when the top few inches of the potting mix are dry. This plant is not as thirsty as other ferns but still needs a solid watering routine. Drench the soil when it’s time to water and allow excess water to drain.

Wilting fronds indicate the plant is underwatered, while yellow fronds indicate too much water is present. Always check the soil before watering, and make sure to empty the saucer or cover pot of standing water.

Best Soil for Pellaea rotundifolia

Give this fern a rich, moist, but well-drained potting mix. Most general potting mixes are a good pick but avoid mixes that retain moisture. Amend a general mix with perlite to improve the drainage. 

Pellaea rotundifolia

Temperature for Button Fern

The Button likes warm temperatures and can handle 60° to 75° F. Drafts are trouble, so keep the plant clear from cooling or heating vents. A chilly air-conditioned breeze can kill the plant, while heated air from a forced air system tends to be dry and will dehydrate the leaflets.

Button Fern Humidity Needs

This fern is often described as having low humidity needs compared to other ferns. This statement is true, but don’t take it to mean this fern likes low humidity. Humidity should be at least 50% for proper Button Fern care. Increased humidity is acceptable and will help this plant thrive, but anything less than average will dry out the leaflets.

Brown, crispy fronds indicate that this plant needs more dampness in the air. Remove dried-out fronds and move the plant to a kitchen or bathroom where there is naturally more humidity. Give the fern a humidity tray or a humidifier when additional dampness is necessary.

Pellaea rotundifolia Fertilizer Tips

Fertilization keeps this fern thriving. Fed the Button Fern using balanced, water-soluble plant food. Apply fertilizer every two weeks during the spring and summer. Dormant plants don’t need fertilizer.

Does Button Fern Bloom?

The Pellaea rotundifolia does not flower. This plant is strictly grown for its lovely ornamental fronds.

Button Fern Care

Pruning Tips

Remove damaged growth as it appears; otherwise, Button Ferns do not need much pruning. These plants have a naturally compact size and will not outgrow a spot.

When to Repot Button Fern 

Repot this fern every two years or when you see signs of it being rootbound. Upgrade actively growing plants to a new container when repotting, allowing more space for the roots to grow. Shallow containers are a good fit for the Pellaea rotundifolia’s root system.

Button Fern Propagation

Propagate the Pellaea rotundifolia through division. It is often easiest to divide a plant when repotting. Remove a large, full plant from its pot and gently separate the root ball. This fern has a delicate root system, so separating the plant using a clean, sharp knife may be easier. 

Repot each new plant into a container with drainage and fresh soil. The container should be one to two inches larger than the root ball.

Is the Button Fern Pet Safe?

The Button Fern or Pellaea rotundifolia is safe for homes with pets. This fern is non-toxic and will not harm a cat or dog that nibbles on the foliage.

Button Fern Styling Tips

The Button maintains a compact size, reaching only 18 inches tall at most, making this a good choice for a desk or end table. It’s nice when a tabletop plant becomes so big it has to become a floor plant, but sometimes it’s nice when a tabletop plant stays a tabletop plant. This fern will not outgrow a space and will not need to be replaced in a few years.

Pellaea rotundifolia plant styling

This fern has a versatile appearance and can adapt to whatever vibe you create in your space. The long stems will somewhat cover a pot, and it will look stately in a monochrome container or a classic terra-cotta pot. The Button Fern can also easily handle a mirrored disco ball-inspired planter or a funky container that looks like a head with wiry stems and foliage acting as hair.

Button Fern Care Tips

The delicate leaflets of the Button Fern give this plant a charming appearance. This fern is easy by fern standards, but it is still picky about humidity. Still consider this plant if you are new to houseplants or, specifically, ferns, but be aware of the moisture levels in your home. A spot with increased moisture in the air is a must to grow this plant successfully.