Frosty Fern Selaginella martensii

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Non-toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
Martens club moss


The plant known as frosty fern (not actually a true fern) has a distinctive and attractive appearance. Its foliage is fine and dense, featuring small, scale-like leaves that are intricately placed along slender, branching stems. The leaves often exhibit a light green color with tips that appear as though they’ve been dusted with a touch of white frost, hence the name. The overall form of the frosty fern is bushy and compact, with a feathery texture that adds softness to its look. It often assumes a spreading habit, gracefully arching and cascading as it matures. The frosty fern is commonly used in indoor settings, decorated as holiday plants due to their seemingly frosted tips that complement festive decor. The lush greenery of this plant is reminiscent of a miniature coniferous forest, with a whimsical charm that makes it popular among gardeners and houseplant enthusiasts alike.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Frosty Fern, Frost Fern, Winter Fern, Martens's Spike Moss, Variegated Spikemoss

    • Common names

      Lycopodioides martensii, Selaginella glomerata, Selaginella laevis, Selaginella martensii var. laevis, Selaginella martensii var. glomerata.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Selaginella martensii, commonly known as frosty fern, is not known to be toxic to humans. There is no significant evidence suggesting that ingestion of frosty fern parts causes poisoning or adverse health effects in humans. Consequently, accidental ingestion is unlikely to result in symptoms of toxicity.

    • To pets

      Frosty fern is not considered toxic to pets. It does not contain known toxins that would pose a risk to cats, dogs, or other household pets if ingested. As a result, ingestion of this plant should not cause poisoning or serious health issues in pets. However, ingestion of non-food items can sometimes lead to mild gastrointestinal upset in pets, such as vomiting or diarrhea.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Height

      1 foot [30 cm]

    • Spread

      1 foot [30 cm]

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Value: Selaginella martensii, commonly known as Frosty Fern, is often appreciated for its unique and attractive appearance, adding aesthetic value to gardens and indoor spaces.
    • Low Maintenance: Frosty Fern is relatively easy to care for, requiring minimal maintenance, making it suitable for busy gardeners or those with limited gardening experience.
    • Adaptability: It is adaptable to a variety of conditions, able to thrive in terrariums and as a houseplant, offering versatility in its use and placement.
    • Soil Erosion Control: In outdoor settings, Frosty Fern can help in controlling soil erosion due to its ground-covering nature.
    • Humidity Tolerance: This plant is tolerant of high humidity, which can be beneficial in creating a more comfortable microclimate in certain indoor or outdoor environments.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Antioxidant activity: Selaginella martensii exhibits antioxidant properties which may help in scavenging free radicals in the body.
    • Anti-inflammatory properties: The plant has been reported to contain compounds that may reduce inflammation in certain conditions.
    • Antimicrobial effects: Some studies suggest that extracts of Selaginella martensii have potential against certain bacteria or fungi.
    • Hepatoprotective potential: There are indications that this plant might help in protecting the liver against certain types of damage.
    • Neuroprotective effects: Research indicates possible benefits in protecting nerve cells, which may be relevant to neurodegenerative diseases.
    However, concrete evidence and further studies are needed to fully establish the medical applications of Selaginella martensii, and these uses should not be interpreted as endorsements for self-treatment. Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any medicinal plant.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Selaginella martensii, commonly known as "frosty fern," can be used as a living decoration in terrariums because of its small size and preference for high humidity environments.
    • The plant can serve as an educational tool for botany students studying spore-bearing plants as it showcases life cycles different from the seeded plants.
    • Frosty ferns can be used in model landscaping, such as for model train setups, because their small size and scale-like leaves provide a realistic miniature landscape aspect.
    • Due to its unique texture, the frosty fern is sometimes incorporated into floral arrangements to add contrast and visual interest.
    • This plant can be used in moss gardens, also known as mossariums, to create variations in height and texture among predominantly moss-based displays.
    • Frosty fern is sometimes used in holiday decorations, particularly in Christmas arrangements, as its name suggests a wintery appearance.
    • The plant can serve as a natural green backdrop for photographing small objects or other plants, providing a lush background that enhances the color and detail of the subject.
    • In hobby crafts, the delicate fronds of the frosty fern can be used to create pressed plant art or included in scrapbooking projects.
    • For those practicing fairy gardening, the frosty fern is a popular choice to simulate forest-like environments within tiny garden scenes.
    • It can be grown as a companion plant in potted arrangements to fill in gaps and add diversity to the composition of indoor plants.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Frosty Fern is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Frosty Fern is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Resilience: Selaginella martensii, commonly known as Frosty Fern, can withstand changes in its environment and can revive itself from a desiccated state when exposed to moisture, symbolizing the ability to recover from difficult conditions.
    • Eternal Life: The revival characteristic of the Frosty Fern is often linked to the concept of eternal life or immortality, as the plant seems to "come back to life" after being completely dried out.
    • Adaptability: Frosty Ferns can adjust to varying climates and conditions, representing adaptability and flexibility in life's circumstances.

Every 3-4 days
500 - 2500 Lux
Every year
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    Frosty ferns prefer consistent moisture and should not be allowed to dry out completely. Water the plant thoroughly once the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, which typically means watering every week. Use lukewarm water to avoid shocking the plant's roots and make sure to provide enough water so that it seeps out of the drainage holes, indicating that the soil is saturated. Depending on the size of the container and the humidity levels, this could be around 8-16 ounces of water for small pots, and up to a gallon for larger ones.

  • sunLight

    Frosty ferns thrive in bright, indirect light. Direct sunlight can scorch their delicate foliage, so it's best to place them in a spot where they'll receive diffused light, such as near a north or east-facing window. If the only available light is direct, use a sheer curtain to filter the intensity.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Frosty ferns are comfortable in a typical indoor temperature range, thriving best between 60-75°F. They should be protected from temperatures below 50°F and from extreme heat over 80°F as these conditions can stress the plant. Keeping the fern in a room within this ideal temperature range will promote healthy growth.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning is not essential for frosty ferns, but it can help maintain a desired shape and remove any brown or damaged fronds. It’s best to prune in the spring before new growth starts. Simply use clean, sharp scissors to trim away the unwanted fronds, doing so sparingly to avoid over-pruning.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    For the Frosty Fern (Selaginella martensii), the best soil mix is one that is light and well-draining, consisting of peat moss, perlite, and some pine bark fines. The ideal soil pH for this plant should be slightly acidic to neutral, ranging between 5.5 and 6.0. It is important to keep the soil consistently moist but never soggy.

  • plantRepotting

    Frosty Ferns (Selaginella martensii) should be repotted every 1-2 years to refresh the soil and accommodate growth. It is best to repot in spring before the new growth starts, using a slightly larger pot and the appropriate soil mix to maintain healthy roots and foliage.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Frosty Fern (Selaginella martensii) thrives in high humidity environments, ideally between 60% and 80%. To achieve these conditions, use a humidifier, place a tray with water and pebbles underneath the pot, or group with other plants to create a more humid microclimate.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place Frosty Fern in indirect light, keep soil moist, and maintain high humidity.

    • Outdoor

      Keep Frosty Fern in shaded area, shield from direct sun, ensure high humidity.

    • Hardiness zone

      10-11 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Selaginella martensii, commonly known as the Frosty Fern or Winter Frost, begins its life as a spore released from a strobilus, the reproductive structure. These spores germinate to produce a tiny, green, heart-shaped gametophyte that is mostly underground and bears both male and female reproductive organs. Upon fertilization, the female gametophyte produces an embryo that develops into a new sporophyte, emerging as a small stem with scale-like leaves. The plant then grows by branching and forming new stems with a creeping or ascending growth habit, thriving in humid environments. As a mature sporophyte, it forms new strobili at stem tips, which in turn release spores to repeat the life cycle. Frosty Fern's life stages involve alternating between a gametophyte and sporophyte generation, a characteristic feature of the life cycle in ferns and their allies.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time


    • The Selaginella martensii, commonly known as Frosty Fern, is typically propagated through division, a method that is both popular and effective for this species. This process is best done in the spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. To propagate by division, carefully separate a clump of the plant, ensuring that each section has a portion of the roots attached. The divisions are then potted into individual containers filled with a well-draining soil mix. It's important to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged and to place the new pots in a location with indirect light to encourage root development and minimize stress on the new plants.