Fern Tattoo Meaning

Tattoos of plants and flowers are popular in many cultures and designs, but a fern tattoo is an interesting symbol. It is not very common but carries great meaning to those who get it tattooed.

The meaning of a fern tattoo can be a life cycle, youthfulness, a new life chapter, marking a particularly trying time in your life, a flowing of life, relaxation, healing, or a battle won. In some cultures, a fern tattoo on the face represents a warrior or a person of great stature.

Which Fern Tattoos Are Most Popular?

In the plant kingdom, over 20 000 fern species have been identified to date, but not all of those will make a good-looking tattoo. The fern tattoos most likely to give the best results are

  • The Maidenhair Fern
  • The Holly Fern
  • The Cinnamon Fern
  • The Boston Fern
  • The Silver Fern
  • The Japanese Painted Fern

The fern as a plant is one of the more resilient plant species able to grow in semi-shaded areas, and even when treated fairly harshly, they can bounce back and grow vigorously. There are indoor and outdoor varieties, and they are not inclined to become disease-ridden easily.

Indoor ferns provide clean air and beautify a living space. Some people say that ferns are symbolic of life itself and represent growth and strength. All ferns love a degree of moisture, and some do well in humid climates. 

What Do Fern Tattoos Mean?

Getting a fern tattoo will be quite personal because it will symbolize something significant to the bearer. Some of the mentioned fern tattoo meanings are explained as follows –


A fern tattoo can symbolize your youth and free spirit. Few things are more fragile and resilient than a young fern leaf. Many new and exciting adventures await in your youth, and a fern tattoo is a great way to commemorate that. It is the promise of something new and exciting.

Life Cycles

The life cycle of fern leaves is interesting and complex. A young leaf shoot starts curled up tightly and is soft and fragile. It is typically full of soft hairs to protect itself and is light green.

As it unfolds, the leaf will harden and straighten out. The color will deepen and may have a shine to it. The dying leaf will become yellow and brown. It shrivels up and then falls off. This echoes the life cycle of humans and animals in birth, growth, development, and ultimately, death.


Ferns are determined plants and can grow in the most unlikely places. It is not uncommon to see ferns growing through the cracks in a rock, in very high trees, or on the sides of cliffs.

If you faced a life challenge that requires determination to go through it or have recently completed a degree, a fern tattoo symbolizes that achievement. It means you are not veered off course when it gets tough.


Imagine a tropical island holiday destination, and invariably, you might think of palms and ferns. Ferns are the perfect plant image to describe a relaxed state or a place where you go to relax, like a spa.

If you recently had a relaxing getaway, you may want to commemorate the time with a fern tattoo. It will have a special meaning reminding you of the time well spent.

Personal Growth

All of us will inevitably go through a period of personal growth at some point in our lives through studies, marriage, a new birth, death, or personal transformation. You may be fortunate to have a lot of support or no support.

A fern tattoo can symbolize you were going through that personal growth and can be great as a single piece or used in combination with another tattoo.

Healing or Good Health

If you are a sensitive person, an empath, or a healer, a fern tattoo may hold a lot of meaning for you and others that know the meaning. Many fern species are used as medicine in naturopathic or apothecary applications.

If you are a healer, a fern tattoo can show your skills to people who know what to look for if you combine it with other healer images in a tattoo design.

Where Is The Best Place For A Fern Tattoo?

A fern leaf is typically flexible and vertical in stature. These attributes allow the tattoo artist to apply it almost anywhere on the body. Some great places to have a fern tattoo include –

  • Hands
  • Forearm – inner or outer
  • Either side of the chest
  • Upper arm
  • Calf
  • Back of the shoulder
  • Neck
  • Face

What Is The Best Design For A Fern Tattoo?

If you closely inspect a fern leaf, you will notice they are quite detailed and exquisite. You can either get a tattoo with just the outlines of the fern leaf in a more tribal way, traditional, Americana, embroidered style, or very realistic.

The best advice is to show the tattoo artist what you have in mind and let them design the fern leaf tattoo best suited to your body area and taste.

What Size and Color Fern Tattoo Is Best?

A fern tattoo’s best size and color will largely depend on your taste, body area, and budget. Smaller tattoos are usually less expensive, and full-color tattoos may be more expensive than a black outline or black and grey shading.

A good size fern tattoo can be from 10cm to 30 or 40cm, depending on the area. There is more vertical space to tattoo on the arms, legs, and back than on the chest, stomach, and neck. Neck tattoos can be quite painful, especially if they are realistic and full color.

Fern tattoos In Culture

The Maori people from New Zealand place great meaning and symbolism on the fern plant and fern tattoos. To the Maori, a fern represents new beginnings and a new life.

To get a Ta Moko is not just a tattoo but a rite of passage for a young Maori. Fern tattoos are usually done as a face tattoo. There are Manawa lines representing your earthly journey and life, and they typically look like skin lines or wrinkles.

From the Manawa, they will add Koru lines that represent different groups of people or individuals in your life. They are extensions of you, just like the fern leaf has smaller extensions. These Koru represent new life.

Koru lines are typically representative of  –

  • Father
  • Mother
  • Spouse or partner
  • Sisters
  • Brothers
  • Children
  • Extended family
  • Dear Friends

Is A Maori Fern Tattoo Painful?

A traditional Maori tattoo will be very painful. Unlike the modern tattoo guns or machines or even hand tapping, a Maori tattoo was done differently. They used bone or shark teeth to chisel a deep cut into the skin, and after that, the ink-dipped instrument would tap the ink into the wound.

Using this method, it not only inks the fern tattoo but also leaves visible scarring, which adds to the tradition. The fern tattoo would typically be done on the face as a very visible message. The face tattoos are so painful, and they are done over several months or even years to allow proper healing.


The meaning of any tattoo is ultimately deeply personal, spiritual, and fulfilling. A fern tattoo is unusual and striking, giving the bearer a chance for great conversation regarding its symbolism and function.

Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Design and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):


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