Delicate, luxuriant ferns add a tropical look to your home. To a young child, though, ferns may look tempting to touch or taste. Unfortunately, some species are toxic or can cause dermatitis on contact. Choosing only non-toxic fern species will help keep the children in your house safe. But even with non-poisonous ferns, avoid letting children handle or ingest the plant.
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exalta)
The Boston fern, or sword fern, is among the most common house ferns. This plant grows quickly, producing feathery, bright to light green arching fronds. At maturity, this fern generally reaches 2 to 3 feet wide. Naturalized in many areas of the U.S., it also makes a good outdoor fern. Frost kills the leaves, but they return in spring.
Staghorn Fern (Platycerium Sp.)
This fern takes its name from its long, antler-shaped leaves. Unlike most ferns, this one naturally grows on trees for support. It doesn't draw nutrients from its host, though, so you can safely grow it on your favorite tree. It can also grow mounted on a wooden plaque covered with moss or in a pot, if you prefer to keep it as a houseplant. The staghorn fern need bright partial sun and frequent watering.
Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum Pedatum)
The maidenhair fern is not only non-poisonous, it's also a folk remedy for strengthening hair, and treating asthma and rheumatism. One of the most delicate ferns, the maidenhair produces semicircles of narrow fronds on thin, black stalks. Preferring cool, damp locations, this fern needs indirect light, evenly moist soil and sufficient humidity.
Holly Fern (Cyrtomium Falcatum)
If you're looking for a plant to fill a large space, the holly fern is ideal. It grows slowly but at maturity can reach up to 4 feet across and 3 feet high. The glossy, deep green leaves resembling holly make this among the showier of the fern species. Tolerant of drought, heat, cold and drafts, holly ferns also make good outdoor plants.
Bird's Nest Fern (Asplenium Nidus)
Native to Hawaii and Polynesia, the bird's nest fern is equally happy growing in soil or on a tree or rock. The wide, wavy, sword-shaped leaves extend from a central point and grow up to 4 feet high. This tropical plant performs best in temperatures of 70 to 90 degrees F with high humidity.