How to grow and care for Boston Fern Indoors

Houseplant, Boston Fern

Botanical name: Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'
Family: Nephrolepidaceae

Boston Fern is an attractive, hardy fern which bears gracefully arching fronds. The leaves are highly compound and the edges appear slightly serrate. The spores are warty and wrinkled. The fern spreads by means of an underground rhizome that is slim and tuberous. A mature plant can grow to 2-3 ft. This fern can be displayed on a pedestal, in a hanging basket, as a specimen plant or as a part of a grouping. Boston Fern is a mutation of Nephrolepis exaltata (Sword Fern), which was discovered in Boston about a hundred years ago and hence the name. The fern is native to the tropical regions in America, Polynesia and Africa. It can grow both terrestrially or epiphytically.

How to Grow Boston Fern


Bright indirect light is the best for Boston Fern. Keep it away from direct sunlight as it may scorch the fronds. Turn the pot regularly to ensure even growth. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.


For optimum growth of Boston Fern, keep the soil evenly moist at all times, never allow it to dry out. Reduce watering during cold months. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead to rotting. Learn more on how to water houseplants.


Average warmth between 15-250C is ideal for Boston Fern. Find out more on temperature for houseplants.


Boston Fern thrives under high humidity. The fern is suitable for humid areas like the bathroom and the kitchen. Employ these techniques to raise humidity for this fern.


Feed Boston Fern with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer once a month during the growing period. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is reduced. Find out more on how to feed houseplants.


Remove dead and damaged fronds. As the plant ages, the older fronds turn brown. Cut them off at the base to maintain the plant looking neat and tidy.


Repot Boston Fern annually at the beginning of the growing season to provide adequate room for the growth of the rhizome. One sign of an overcrowded fern is wilting leaves. Failure to repot an overcrowded Boston Fern can result in death of the plant. Use a pot that is 1 size larger and one that has drainage hole(s) to avoid waterlogging. Use loose, free-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. The plant can also be divided into several sections and potted individually.

How to Propagate Boston Fern

Boston Fern can be propagated by division at the beginning of the growing season. Carefully remove the fern from its pot and divide it into several sections. Ensure each section has adequate roots. Pot up these sections into individual pots. Place the pots in a warm shaded place and maintain the soil moist through out until the plants are well established. Boston Fern can also be propagated from spores but they are difficult to grow.

Common problems in growing Boston Fern

  • Brown dots or lines on the underside of fronds
  • These are spores which can be used for propagation. They indicate that the frond is mature and healthy. These spores drop to the soil and may grow into new plants.

  • Yellowing fronds, brown tips, no new growth
  • The cause of yellowing fronds, brown tips and no new growth in Boston Fern is too dry air. Employ these techniques to raise humidity.

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Waterlogging is the reason for yellowing leaves in Boston Fern. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining.

  • Wilting leaves
  • Wilting leaves in Boston Fern is an indication of overcrowding in the current pot resulting in underwatering of the fern. Repot the fern into a larger pot or divide it up for more plants.

  • Excessive leaf drop
  • Leaflets drop in Boston Fern is indicative of underwatering. Maintain the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Do not leave the soil to dry out.

  • Isolated brown and yellow leaves
  • Browning and yellowing in isolated areas of Boston Fern are a result of excessive salts in the soil either from watering or fertilizers. Flush out the salts by repeatedly running a steady stream of water thorough the soil and avoid overfertilizing in the future.

  • Brown shells scattered on fronds
  • Brown shells scattered on fronds in Boston Fern is an indication of a infestation by Scales. Isolate the affected plant to avoid spread to other houseplants.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Boston Fern are Scales and Mealy Bugs. Isolate the affected plant to avoid spread to other houseplants.


Boston Ferns are non-toxic to humans and pets. The plants are safe to grow indoors.

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