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Pellaea rotundifolia - The Button Fern 

Pellaea rotundifolia - The Button Fern

A fern originating in dry climates such as are found in southern Africa, South America, and parts of New Zealand. The Button fern has a prostrate growth habit, with small, round, leathery leaflets borne on short arching stems. With age the leaflets elongate to a more oval-shape.

Its normal habitat is at the edges of desert or scrub land growing in the soil. This means that it is a perfect house plant for those who forget to water their plants or who are apt to be absent for lengthy periods. This is not to say that the fern needs no water whatever, but rather a fern that will tend to succumb to too much watering rather than too little watering.

Pellaea viridis is another form, maintaining a more ‘traditional’ fern-shape with longer fronds of pointed leaflets.

Its needs: The Pellaeas will tolerate semi-shade, in draught-free corners. Avoid direct sun. Gravel or pine bark should be added to the potting mix to encourage free-drainage.

The Button Fern Pellaea rotundifiolia - The Button Fern can also be grown outside in milder areas and is frost hardy - just - but not one for being permanently frozen through the winter. It also makes for a container plant with a difference. The cascading foliage can be quite spectacular with the small round leaflets - not unlike a string of buttons!

Care of the Button Fern

 The Button Fern is evergreen and likes to be kept moist through the winter, but not water-logged. Use a Foliage Houseplant fertiliser fertiliser once a month through the growing season , but cut the recommended dose to half strength. Increase humidity by misting the plants in summer.


It prefers a sunny position - even to the extend of mid day sun if grown outdoors. But if grown as a houseplant - avoid full sun through a window.

Good for: A very different foliage plant plant, the Button fern does look good when planted in a hanging basket or a shallow container.

Problems with the Button Fern

Trouble free generally with no pests or disease considered a problem. It can look a bit unkempt after a few seasons - easily remedied by cutting out the the straggly leaves back to the base of the plant in spring. New shoots will soon emerge.

Propagation of Button Fern

The accepted way for growers and fern enthusiasts is be sowing the spores on a damp organic based compost.

However, the fern can also be carefully divided in spring as active growth starts, with the divisions potted up separately. If basal growth is visible, then cut back the older fronds.


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