Pteris cretica: A Complete Guide to the Silver Ribbon Fern

Pteris cretica ‘Albolineata’ is a beautiful evergreen fern with sharp, uniquely shaped fronds and a stripe of creamy variegation. 

Hence its common name – the Silver Ribbon Fern. 

Its scientific name is a little more Mediterranean, though… “Pteris” derives from the Greek word for fern, and the “Cretica” comes from the Latin word for the beautiful Grecian island of Crete. 

Though its origins are practically mythological (as in hard to pin down the primary source), it could be where this lovely plant emerged from.

I mean, the fronds are practically trident-shaped!

With each frond consisting of a forked set of pinna, with a larger central pinna and a colored core running through each – Poseidon would be proud.

Native to several continents, the Cretan Brake Fern (yep, another common name) is a hardy species and makes a great houseplant or an easy addition to any terrarium environment.

Shall we dive in?

Pteris Cretica Albolineata (Silver Ribbon Fern) in pot

Where to Buy Pteris cretica

See the links below to purchase from reputable terrarium plant shops and marketplaces (may include affiliate links). 

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Where to Buy Pteris cretica

Plant TypeFern
LightingMedium – high indirect light
Temperature65-75°F (18-24°C)
WateringRegular, even moisture
HumidityHigh humidity (60-90%)
Growth8-20 inches

Lighting

Pteris cretica is a terrestrial fern, so in nature, it’s found on the forest floor, where it receives filtered, dappled rays beneath the forest canopy.

To mirror the conditions it’d receive in its natural environment, give it plenty of bright indirect light in the home. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, a North or East-facing windowsill is ideal. If you only have a South or West facing window, keep it a good few feet away from the light source.

It has really thin fronds – so to avoid scorching, avoid direct sunlight.

Thankfully, it will be able to withstand lower light conditions fairly well, but the variegation will fade if it’s too low.

Pteris cretica frond close up
My “silver ribbon” hasn’t had a lot of bright light, so it’s more of a light green than silver – but I like the color. 

Watering

The Silver Ribbon Fern is a typical fern and needs consistent, even moisture to thrive.

This is the main thing to watch for – the Achilles heel – if you like. Unfortunately, it has very little drought tolerance and will quickly suffer if planted in a dry substrate.

It will need topping up with water regularly, so as a houseplant, make sure it’s in a pot with good drainage so you can water it freely without risking root rot.

Pteris Cretica Albolineata (Silver Ribbon Fern) in pot
I don’t recommend keeping it in a terracotta pot as I have here – it will wick away too much moisture.

If you’re popping yours in a terrarium build, pair it with other moisture-loving ferns and mosses. 

Substrate

As seen by its widespread natural cultivation, Pteris cretica is capable of growing in a variety of soil conditions.

So, if you’re keeping your plant as a houseplant, I wouldn’t worry too much about specifics. 

It will grow well in any typical tropical or fern substrate that provides adequate water retention and drainage.

👉 If in doubt, our tropical substrate mix is a well-balanced option for terrariums and pots alike.

substrate for terrarium build in hand
If you’re building a terrarium, it’s a little more important to get a quality mix. I like to add earthworm castings for a long-term natural fertilizer.

Temperature & Humidity

As you’d expect to see with a plant that thrives across Africa, Asia, and Europe, the Cretan Bake Fern is a fairly hardy plant and can tolerate lower temperatures.

Even Crete itself can get nippy in the winter months! 

That being said, warmer temperatures will definitely be appreciated, and it’ll be far less forgiving on the humidity front.

I’d aim for a bare minimum of 50% humidity, but ideally higher.

pteris cretica in terrarium build with syngonium and peperomia
If you can’t reach high enough humidity levels in the home – a closed terrarium is the perfect solution!

Growth

Mature Silver Ribbon Ferns can get fairly large (up to around 20 inches), but it won’t get there in a rush.

Pteris cretica grows at a pretty average speed, taking several years to reach full maturity.

New fronds develop from the base. Each frond grows longer and taller over older fronds, giving the plant a sharp sense of volume.

If it ever gets too big for your liking, you can snip the taller fronds off or divide it.

So let’s take a look at that…

Propagation

Propagating Pteris cretica is easily done through division, which is helpful if you need a smaller section of plant for a terrarium build. 

Grab your plant, ease it out of the pot, then tease the fronds and roots into two with your fingers.

dividing pteris cretica with fingers
She might look like a pretty face, but she’s quite the tough cookie, so don’t be scared to go for it.

If the roots are too dense or the rhizome too tough, and you can’t get through, grab the scissors and snip through it. 

cutting through pteris cretica roots with scissors
You’ll likely lose a few fronds, but your plant will recover just fine.

Allow at least a few fronds on each rhizome section to give new plants the best chance of thriving.

Varieties & Similar Plants

The Pteris genus contains a huge variety of tropical ferns with plenty of different characteristics.

When I say huge, I mean it; we’re taking around 300 species of Brake Ferns! 

That’s completely unhelpful, I know, so a nice place to start if you want something similar is the Silver Lace Fern, Pteris ensiformis.

pteris ensiformis at plant market with other plants in background
Pteris ensiformis is a cutie! This photo was taken outdoors at a Thai plant market, but I think it gives a nice idea of how it could be styled with smaller plants in a terrarium.
pteris quadriaurita tricolor at plant market with bronze fronds
Or, why not try the Autumnal, bushy Pteris quadriaurita ‘Tricolor’?

Pteris cretica itself only has two common varieties, the  ‘Albolineata’ as we’ve covered today, and the ‘Mayii,’ which is somewhat similar but has a further forked terminal leaf. It’s relatively uncommon to find, and honestly, it looks a bit weird for my taste.

Toxicity

Pteris cretica isn’t known to be toxic to humans and pets, but it’s not edible either and could cause irritation or other unwanted symptoms when ingested. If you have little paws or hands around your home, a terrarium is a great way of keeping this plant out of the way.

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