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Boston Fern Care: Discover the Secret to a Healthy Boston Fern

boston fern care

endeared themselves to plant enthusiasts worldwide. Celebrated for their versatility in various light conditions and their capacity to purify indoor air, Boston Ferns offer an impressive enhancement to any indoor garden.

With origins traced back to the subtropical and tropical rainforests, Boston Ferns have established a global presence, adding their lush, feathery fronds to interiors from Europe to the United States. But the appeal of Boston Ferns isn't just visual.

Valued for their robustness, Boston Ferns can tolerate a variety of care routines and are forgiving of occasional watering mistakes, making them a suitable choice for both novice and veteran plant caretakers. Their exceptional skill in filtering indoor air pollutants promotes a healthier living environment, which further boosts their attractiveness.

Regardless of whether you're an experienced plant enthusiast or a beginner stepping into indoor gardening, this guide aims to simplify Boston Fern care. Let's journey through each aspect together, ensuring you're armed with all the necessary knowledge to help your Boston Fern flourish.


Boston Fern Care Overview

​Common Names

​Sword fern, wild Boston fern, tuber ladder fern, or Boston Blue Bell fern

Scientific Name

Nephrolepis exaltata




Up to 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide


Bright, filtered light but can tolerate low light conditions


​Peat moss, one part sand or perlite, and one part garden loam


Water them whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch

Pests & Diseases

Mealybugs, Scale insects, Spider mites, Thrips, Root rot, Leaf spot

Decoding Boston Fern Care: Essential Guidelines

1. Boston Ferns exhibit remarkable adaptability, thriving in environments with indirect light and temperatures ranging from 65-75°F. They can, however, withstand warmer climates, as long as the humidity is high.

2. Boston Ferns are known for their need for consistent moisture. They should be watered regularly, making sure the soil remains damp but not soggy. Adjust your watering frequency based on ambient humidity and temperature to avoid over or under-watering.

3. To avoid waterlogging and root rot, Boston Ferns favor a well-draining soil mixture that keeps their roots moist without water saturation. A blend of peat moss and perlite works well for them.

4. While not a constant requirement, a balanced liquid fertilizer applied during the growing season (spring and summer) can enhance the overall health and growth of your Boston Fern.

5. As a relatively fast-growing fern, Boston Ferns may need repotting every year or two, depending on their growth. The best time to do this is in the spring, just before the growing season begins.

6. Boston Ferns can be easily propagated by division during repotting. This allows you to increase your plant collection and share the beauty of these ferns with others.

7. Pruning is not a necessity for Boston Ferns, but it can be done to maintain a particular size or to remove any brown or damaged fronds, enhancing its overall appearance and health.


Boston Fern Care

boston fern care

Light & Temperature

For optimal health and growth, Boston Ferns favor settings that provide bright, indirect light. Exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided, as it can lead to scorched fronds and may consequently diminish the plant's lush and full appearance. Settings that are too dim or receive low light could result in the fern growing spindly, less dense, and losing its rich fullness. An ideal location for a Boston Fern is near a north-facing window that receives plenty of ambient light but is shielded from intense, direct rays.

In terms of temperature, Boston Ferns are tropical plants and prefer a moderately warm climate. Maintaining an indoor temperature range between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal. It's important to note that these ferns are sensitive to abrupt changes in temperature and may react adversely to cold drafts. Therefore, positioning the plant in a location that's free from direct exposure to air conditioners, heaters, or drafty windows is crucial to protect it from thermal stress.

Providing a stable environment with minimal temperature fluctuations will help maintain the plant's vitality. Regularly monitoring the ambient temperature and making necessary adjustments will go a long way in ensuring your Boston Fern thrives and continues to contribute to the aesthetics of your indoor space.

Water & Humidity

Boston Ferns, true to their tropical origins, necessitate a consistently moist environment to flourish. An effective approach involves monitoring the soil moisture and ensuring it remains consistently damp without tipping into the realm of waterlogged or soggy, which could potentially lead to root rot and other moisture-related complications.

An effective technique to ascertain when your fern needs watering is to check the top inch of the soil. If it feels dry to the touch, it's time to water your plant. When watering, make sure to douse the soil thoroughly, ensuring moisture reaches the root zone. It's critical, however, to avoid overwatering, as standing water could lead to a hostile environment for the fern's roots.

Humidity is another critical aspect of Boston Fern care. These plants thrive in high-humidity conditions, reflecting their native tropical environment. Therefore, maintaining sufficient moisture in the air around the fern is essential for its well-being. Several methods can help elevate the humidity level. Regular misting of the plant is one way, providing the benefit of both leaf-cleaning and moisture addition. Alternatively, consider placing a tray filled with water near the plant. As the water evaporates, it'll create a microclimate with increased humidity. If you reside in an area with notably dry indoor air, you might also want to explore the option of a humidifier.

By effectively managing water and humidity levels, you can create a thriving environment for your Boston Fern, leading to a vibrant and lush plant that brings an essence of the tropics into your living space.


To replicate the Boston Fern's natural growth environment, selecting the appropriate soil composition is crucial. These plants favor nutrient-rich, well-draining soil that can support their vibrant foliage while also effectively managing water.

The preferred soil mix for Boston Ferns is one rich in organic matter, ideally incorporating peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Peat moss offers excellent water retention properties, helping to keep the soil consistently moist, an essential aspect of Boston Fern care. Perlite and vermiculite, on the other hand, contribute to the soil's well-draining characteristics. They help prevent water stagnation in the soil, reducing the likelihood of root rot.

It's important to monitor soil structure over time. Even with the ideal soil mix, soil can sometimes become compacted, especially if the plant is not repotted regularly. Compacted soil can restrict root growth and impair water drainage, creating an unfavorable environment for your fern.

One strategy to avoid compaction is to lightly loosen the soil with a fork or your fingers every few months, taking care not to damage the delicate roots. Another strategy is regular repotting, which not only refreshes the soil but also provides an opportunity to check the health of the roots and the general condition of your plant.

By investing in the right soil composition and staying vigilant about its condition, you can create an optimal growth medium that will help your Boston Fern to thrive.

Fertilizing a Boston Fern

Feeding your Boston Fern with appropriate nutrients is a pivotal aspect of its care, especially during the active growth season. Regular fertilization promotes vibrant, lush fronds and a healthier overall plant.

For Boston Ferns, a balanced water-soluble fertilizer is recommended. This ensures the plant receives an equal amount of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium - the three primary nutrients essential for plant growth. The ideal frequency for fertilizing Boston Ferns is every two weeks throughout the spring and summer.

It's crucial to dilute the fertilizer to half the recommended strength on the package. This is because Boston Ferns are sensitive to excess salts which can build up in the soil from over-fertilization, leading to root burn. Over-fertilization can also result in the browning and wilting of fronds.

Before fertilizing, it's also a good idea to water your fern thoroughly. Applying fertilizer to dry soil can cause the roots to absorb the fertilizer too quickly, potentially leading to damage. Similarly, it's beneficial to flush the soil with water every few months to leach out any accumulated salts from the fertilizer.

During the fall and winter months, as the plant's growth slows, it's recommended to reduce fertilization frequency or stop it altogether. During these periods, the fern's nutrient requirements are lower, and over-fertilization could do more harm than good.

By implementing a thoughtful fertilization routine, you can support your Boston Fern's growth and maintain its lush, verdant appearance.

Repotting a Boston Fern

Regular repotting is a crucial aspect of Boston Fern care, with the process serving multiple purposes - it provides your fern with fresh soil, rejuvenates its growth, and prevents the roots from becoming too cramped, thereby reducing the risk of root rot.

While Boston Ferns can usually handle being somewhat root-bound, a yearly repotting is still advisable. The ideal time to perform this task is early in the spring when the fern is starting its most vigorous phase of growth.

Before beginning the repotting process, prepare a slightly larger pot than the current one. Ensure the new container has ample drainage holes to prevent water logging and the associated risk of root rot.

To repot a Boston Fern, follow these steps:

Removing the Fern: Start by carefully extracting the Boston Fern from its current container. Be gentle during this process to minimize root damage.

Root Inspection and Loosening: After removal, examine the root ball. If you see any signs of disease or rot, remove the affected areas. Then, lightly tease apart the root ball. This promotes better root expansion and water absorption in the new pot.

Repotting: Place a small amount of your chosen potting mix at the bottom of the new pot. Position the fern so that the top of its root ball is level with the rim of the pot. Then, fill the pot with the rest of the soil, gently pressing down to eliminate any air pockets.

Watering: Water your newly repotted Boston Fern thoroughly, ensuring the soil is uniformly moist. This helps the fern to settle in its new home, reducing transplant shock.

Positioning: Return the fern to its original location. Keep an eye on it for a few weeks to ensure it is adjusting well to its new pot.

Remember, while repotting can be somewhat stressful for the plant, your Boston Fern is likely to rebound quickly, especially if repotted during its prime growth period in the spring. The long-term benefits of repotting far outweigh the temporary stress it might cause.

Propagating a Boston Fern

Boston Ferns lend themselves quite well to propagation, providing an excellent way to expand your indoor garden or share this graceful plant with fellow gardening enthusiasts. The most common and effective method of propagating Boston Ferns is through division. Ideally, this process should be performed in the spring when you're repotting the parent plant.

Here's a detailed step-by-step guide to propagating a Boston Fern:

Preparation: Prepare your new pots ahead of time, ensuring they have adequate drainage and are filled with the appropriate potting mix - a blend of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. Pre-water the soil to ensure it's adequately moist.

Remove the Parent Plant: Start by gently removing the Boston Fern from its current pot, taking care to minimize root damage.

Identify Divisions: Next, examine the fern's root system to identify the natural divisions in the plant. Boston Ferns grow from rhizomes, horizontal stems that produce both roots and fronds. These rhizomes will naturally separate into clusters, each with its own roots and fronds, and these clusters form the basis of your new plants.

Separate Divisions: Using your fingers or a clean, sharp knife, gently separate the rhizome clusters. Each division should have a healthy set of roots and several fronds.

Repot Divisions: Plant each division into a pre-prepared pot. Bury the rhizomes just below the soil surface, ensuring that the fronds are above the soil.

Aftercare: After repotting, water the divisions thoroughly and place them in a location that mimics the light conditions of the parent plant - remember, bright, indirect light is ideal.

Monitor Growth: Monitor the new plants closely for the next few weeks, maintaining consistent watering and humidity levels. Don't be alarmed if there's a period of seeming inactivity or slight yellowing; the plant is likely focusing its energy on establishing roots.

Remember, patience is key during propagation. While Boston Ferns may take some time to show new top growth, consistent care will eventually reward you with new, independent plants.

Pruning a Boston Fern

Boston Ferns do not necessitate an intense pruning regimen, but thoughtful trimming can significantly enhance the plant's visual appeal and overall health. Proper pruning can help maintain the plant's lush, full shape, encourage denser growth, and prevent the spread of disease.

Follow this comprehensive guide to effectively prune a Boston Fern:

Timing: Ideally, pruning should be performed in the spring, the beginning of the plant's active growing season. However, you can remove unhealthy fronds anytime they appear throughout the year.

Identify Fronds for Removal: Look for fronds that are yellow, brown, or showing signs of disease. These are the prime candidates for removal. Unhealthy fronds not only detract from the plant's visual appeal but can also be a drain on the plant's resources.

Prune Unhealthy Fronds: Use a pair of clean, sharp pruning shears or scissors to cut off the undesirable fronds. Always make clean cuts close to the base of the stem, but be careful not to damage the surrounding healthy fronds.

Shape the Plant: In addition to removing unhealthy fronds, you can also trim the fern to shape it. If you want a more compact fern, cut back the fronds evenly around the plant. If you wish for a fuller, bushier appearance, trim fronds back by only a third, allowing the tips to remain for continued growth.

After Pruning Care: After pruning, make sure to clear away all the cuttings and clean the area around the plant to prevent any potential pest or disease issues. Consider giving your Boston Fern a thorough watering and a feed with a balanced fertilizer to support its recovery and new growth.

Ongoing Maintenance: Continue to monitor your Boston Fern's health and growth. Regularly removing dead or dying fronds can help direct more energy into new growth, ensuring your fern remains vibrant and lush.

By adhering to these pruning practices, your Boston Fern will maintain its beautiful, dense foliage and thrive in its indoor environment.


Troubleshooting Boston Fern Health Issues: An In-depth Guide

boston fern care

When caring for your Boston Fern, occasionally you might encounter changes to the plant's appearance that suggest it isn't as healthy as it should be. This could manifest as yellow or brown fronds, or drooping leaves. Here's a detailed guide to help you identify the causes and remedies for these issues:

1. Yellow or Brown Fronds

When you observe yellowing or browning of your Boston Fern's fronds, the culprit can often be traced back to three main causes: underwatering, overwatering, or excessive exposure to direct sunlight.

Underwatering: Boston Ferns require a consistent supply of moisture. If the fronds start turning yellow, the plant might not be receiving enough water. In response, you should increase your watering frequency, ensuring the top inch of the soil gets moistened without becoming waterlogged.

Overwatering: Conversely, overwatering can lead to root rot, a condition that turns the fronds brown. If the plant's potting soil feels soggy or water pools on the surface after watering, you may be overwatering. Reduce your watering schedule and ensure the plant's pot has good drainage.

Excessive Sunlight: Although Boston Ferns enjoy bright light, they prefer it to be indirect. Direct sunlight can scorch their delicate fronds, leading to browning or yellowing. To rectify this, reposition your plant to a location that receives bright, but indirect sunlight.

2. Drooping Leaves

Drooping leaves can be a sign of two primary issues: insufficient watering or excessive heat.

Insufficient Watering: If the fronds are drooping or wilting, your Boston Fern might be dehydrated. Try increasing your watering frequency, taking care not to saturate the soil. Remember, Boston Ferns prefer consistently moist, but not soaked, soil.

Excessive Heat: Boston Ferns thrive in temperatures between 60-75°F. If the plant is exposed to temperatures higher than this range, the heat stress can result in drooping leaves. If this is the case, move your fern to a cooler location.

Regularly checking your Boston Fern for signs of distress, understanding the causes, and swiftly responding with the appropriate actions can ensure the longevity and vibrancy of your plant.