Lemon Button Fern Care Guide

Lemon Button Fern Care Guide

The Lemon Button Fern, scientifically known as Nephrologist cordifolia ‘Duffi’, is native to Asia and Northern Australia. The ‘lemon’ in the name is said to come from its golden green color and the citrus scent emitted when its leaves are crushed, though I have never been able to bring myself to crush any of its leaves. ‘Button’ comes from the adorable round leaves that are very unique for a fern. These ferns are actually the smallest species of the Boston Fern and certainly are one of the easiest and cutest ferns to grow indoors.


Lemon Button Ferns prefer their soil to be consistently moist, but not sopping wet. To maintain this, the fern should be watered once the top inch of soil is dry. Slowly water it until water comes out of the drainage hole to ensure a thorough watering. If the leaves appear limp and droopy, this is a likely indicator that the fern could use a drink. If foliage is turning yellow, this may indicate that the soil is consistently soggy, leading to root rot. If this occurs, cut back on watering and the plant will likely bounce back.

Sunlight and humidity

As with the majority of ferns, Lemon Button Ferns are a plant that naturally grows under the protective foliage of trees. In the wild they are partially shaded, receiving mostly filtered light peaking between trunks, branches, and leaves of trees. To emulate this lighting in your house, it is best to keep this plant a few feet away from a South or West facing window. That being said, this is a plant that will likely do well in any direction of light. If placed near a bright window, adding a sheer curtain is a good way to filter light to avoid burning the leaves.

As for humidity, lemon button ferns enjoy the moisture just like other fern varieties. However, lemon button ferns are not as reliant on humidity to thrive as some other ferns. Unless your home is especially dry, a more common issue in the wintertime, your lemon button fern should be fine without any humidity modifications. Spritzing the fern once or twice a day never hurts though. If your house is on the dryer side, you can meet the lemon button fern’s humidity needs by simply placing it in a bathroom or on top of a pebble tray. To make a pebble tray under your fern, cover a small plate or saucer in pebbles and place your planted pot on top of this. Pour water over the pebbles, but make sure the bottom of the pot is not making contact with the water level as this can lead to root rot. As the water evaporates from this tray, it will raise humidity in the surrounding area.


The easiest way to propagate Lemon Button Ferns at home is through division. This can be done by taking the plant out of the soil and using clean shears or a knife to cut the plant into two or three sections, ensuring that each has both roots and fronds. The other way to propagate is through fern spores, but this method is tedious and takes months. If you wish to propagate your lemon button fern at home, I strongly recommend the division method.

Benefits and toxicity

Ferns filter airborne pollutants including formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air. Boston ferns specifically, which include lemon button ferns, also help to raise indoor humidity levels which can prevent illness and dry skin, especially in the colder months.

Cleaning and Pruning

Ferns often require some periodic tidying up to look their best. Some unsightly and dead growth may be found on the underside of the plant, the site of the oldest growth, and can be clipped with clean pruning shears or scissors. This process only needs to be done every couple of months.

Fertilizer and type of soil

Lemon Button Ferns should do well in any well-draining potting soil. Fertilizing every 2 to 4 weeks with a half strength mix of fertilizer designed for house plants (20-20-20) will give it a boost during the growing season. Lemon button ferns should do fine in neutral potting soil but will grow fastest in soil that is slightly acidic. To make your soil more acidic you can mix in some sphagnum peat or coffee grounds before potting with it, but this is by no means necessary to keep your lemon button fern happy and healthy.

Pests and problems

Lemon button ferns are susceptible to both mealy bugs and spider mites, but fortunately they are unlikely to get either pest. Signs of mealy bugs include stunted growth and wilting. To

check for mealy bugs, look at the underside of fronds and stems for white, oval looking bugs that should easily be visible to the naked eye. Signs of spider mites include small and tightly packed yellow spotting on the leaves, and thin white webs stretching between parts of the plant. To get rid of either pest you should thoroughly rinse the fern with a study stream of water to dislodge and wash away any bugs. Then it is best to spray the plant down with a mixture of soapy water or Neem oil. Both the rinsing and spray treatment should be repeated every 3 to 4 days until there are no more signs of the pests.


Lemon button ferns are not particularly picky about the pot you give them to call home. Given their small size, there is not much of a reason for them to ever be homed in anything bigger than a 6-inch pot, but it will not harm them if you choose to do so. They also are an amazing terrarium plant as they love the humidity.


The perfect bathroom, terrarium, or side table plant, lemon button ferns add a dashing touch of yellow green color and fluffy foliage to any room. Commonly sought after for their small size and ease of care, these ferns are cute as a button anywhere.

Check out our Lemon Button Fern  :)

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