Hart’s tongue fern

Dreamy fronds of hart's tongue fern

Hart’s tongue fern is a wonderful, refreshing fern to grow in the house and in the garden. It loves shade.

Hit list of Hart’s fern facts

NamePhyllitis scolopendrium
FamilyPolypodiaceae
Type – fern, perennial, indoor plant

Height – 16 to 20 inches (40 to 50 cm)
Exposure – part sun, shade
Soil – ordinary

Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – none

Planting Hart’s tongue fern

Fern on a wallAll year round for plants in containers, as long as it is neither freezing nor too hot.

Perfectly suited to indoor growing.

It sometimes appears on its own in unexpected places.

  • It grows just as well in full shade as it does in part sun.
  • It can grow on almost any type of soil as long as proper drainage is ensured.
  • It does best in neutral to lightly alkaline soils.

Pruning Hart’s tongue fern

They don’t need any pruning. Eliminate dead leaves after they’ve withered away, once they’re dry.

Removing invasive hart’s tongue fern

Removing a Phyllitis scolopendrium fern that has taken up too much space might be a bit difficult: roots are usually firmly wedged in nooks and crannies on walls and rocky terrain.

Just keep coming back at it for a few more times, removing any growth and coaxing a bit more roots out. Eventually the fern’s root ball will deplete its nutrient reserves and will die off.

Learn more about hart’s tongue fern

This small fern execrates full sun and will always prefer shaded, often more damp areas.

Its growth is relatively slow, and it won’t grow any taller than 20 inches (50 cm). Ideal for an indoor wall garden! As an indoor plant, water it regularly to ensure the soil doesn’t dry off.

The term “hart’s tongue” comes from the appearance of each leaf: like a little tongue of the male deer. The name for a male deer is “hart”.

To reproduce, hart’s tongue produces spores that are lined up on the underside of leaves. These lines look like small millipedes or centipedes: this is where the botanical name “scolopendrium” comes from. Indeed, it’s the old latin word for those two insects!

Hart's tongue fern with spore pods

Smart tip about Hart’s tongue fern

Indoors, if the leaves turn black, it’s usually because the air is too dry.
Dip the pot in a pail of water and place the plant in a cooler spot, away from heat sources.


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Shaded hart’s tongue fern by Walter Frehner under Pixabay license
Hart’s tongue on a wall by Dave Bonta under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Bearing spores by Sally Jennings under © CC BY 2.0