Hart’s tongue fern, a fern for the home

Harts tongue fern

Hart’s tongue fern is a wonderful, refreshing fern to grow in both house and garden.

Hart’s tongue fern facts

NameAsplenium scolopendrium
FormerlyPhyllitis scolopendrium
Type – fern, perennial, indoor plant

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

Soil: ordinary   –   Foliage: evergreen   –   Flowering: none

It loves shade, and will excel in decorating those hard-to-grow dark spots of the garden.

Planting Hart’s tongue fern

All year round for plants in containers, as long as it is neither freezing nor too hot.

Dreamy fronds of hart's tongue fernPerfectly 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.

It won’t need much soil, and is a great addition to a flowered stone wall.

Harts tongue fern in a pot

To grow this fern in a pot, indoors, you’ll simply need to make sure it gets enough water.

However, at the same time, the soil must drain extremely well. A great option is to grow it as a hanging fern and to dunk it in water twice a week, then letting it drip dry.

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

invasive harts tongue fernRemoving 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.

Hart's tongue fern with spore podsThe 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!

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.

Images: adobestock: Mid Tran Designer, CC BY 2.0: Sally Jennings, CC BY-SA 2.0: Dave Bonta, Pixabay: Walter Frehner