The Button Fern – Pellaea Rotundifolia [Pe-LEE-uh Ro-tun-dih-FOH-lee-uh] is native to New Zealand with distinctive foliage that offers an excellent variety to typical ferns.
Even beginner gardeners can successfully grow Button fern plants with a bit of caution during its initial settling stage.
Once this fern’s settled, it’s an easy-going plant requiring very little care compared to its delicate relatives.
The button Pellaea fern makes an ideal house plant, especially for those who often neglect to water their plants.
This certainly doesn’t mean this fern doesn’t need watering. It’s more of a fern that would wilt with overwatering than less watering.
NOTE: Common names are confusing in the plant world. Don’t confuse the button fern (Pellaea rotundifolia) with the Lemon Button fern (Nephrolepsis cordifolia). They are two different plants.
Pellaea Button Fern Care
Size & Growth
Button Rotundifolia is a relatively tiny fern with fronds growing up to 10″ inches long.
The fronds of the New Zealand button fern are lined with dark, round, and larger green leaves shaped like buttons.
The branches grow quickly, but they still stay small. They have a gentle slight arch to them making them wonderful hanging basket plants.
Flowering and Fragrance
This plant doesn’t flower.
Light & Temperature
The button fern prefers bright indirect light, especially during the cold weather and subdued light during the summer season.
They have a high tolerance to the colder climate but dislike frost.
The ideal room temperature for it is between 65° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit (18° – 24° C).
However, the temperature shouldn’t be lower than 55° degrees Fahrenheit (13°C).
Watering and Feeding
Even though the button fern is a house plant, it likes the soil dried out between the watering.
Avoid getting the soil soggy and limit misting and keep in mind it needs a different care schedule as compared to other plants.
This means getting the ideal water balance might become a little tricky initially.
Watering mostly depends on the kind of container, soil mix, drainage, season, as well as the humidity and temperature.
Just don’t over water the plant, this will give you a chance to experiment a bit to find the right water balance.
Feed this plant every two weeks during April and September with a slightly diluted liquid houseplant fertilizer.
This will enhance new growth and result in healthy leaves.
Soil & Transplanting
Button ferns like a moderately moist, fertile yet well-drained soil and placed in a bright location with no direct sun but also in partial shade. Provide sun protection during the hot midday sun.
If growing this fern in a frost-prone area, protect the crown using dry winter mulch.
It requires a peat-based potting mix, with one part perlite and two parts peat moss.
Grooming and Maintenance
This fern’s evergreen and prefers to stay moist during winter, but not waterlogged with soggy soil.
Place it in a sunny position, but avoid full sun through a window if growing it as a houseplant.
If placed outside, make sure it’s protected in the midday sun.
If the fronds start turning yellow or begin wilting, it is an indication of the plants being overwatered.
This situation requires decreased watering and give the fronds some trimming.
Button Fern Propagation
Pellaea ferns propagate by sowing spores. This can seem a bit tricky for a beginner indoor grower, but it isn’t impossible.
The majority of the ferns can easily be propagated through the process of division, but not with this fern.
The Button fern does not require repotting too often because of its small roots.
Change the pot after two years for the mature species and every year for the young plant.
Typically, this fern doesn’t face any issue becoming root bound but can face a problem maintaining its stability in the pot because of its tiny roots.
If you start noticing the plant becoming unstable, move it to a bigger pot.
Rotundifolia Pest Or Disease Problems
The Pellaea fern is usually a trouble-free plant, with no disease or pest problems.
However, it might start looking slightly unkempt after a few seasons pass.
Quickly deal with it by trimming out wilting and untidy leaves right back to the plant base. High temperatures can cause brown leaf tips.
Do this during the spring season, and soon new shoots will begin emerging.
Remember do not overwater – the button rotundifolia hates soggy soil! Use a pot with a drainage hole to reduce overwatering issues.
Suggested Uses For Button Ferns
With this New Zealand fern being small, it makes a useful and pleasant addition to a shady, humus-rich stumpery.
These ferns go rather well with the other ferns by bringing out the beauty in the overall setting.
They look great when used in along borders and beds, in an informal or cottage setting, in rocky areas, foliage only setting, a plant stand and even indoors in a hanging basket.
They’re also great as terrarium plants.