Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis') Indoor Care, Propagation and Problems

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis') is an attractive, hardy fern which bears gracefully arching fronds and leaves which are highly compound whose edges appear slightly serrate.

The spores in Boston Fern are warty and wrinkled. The fern spreads by means of an underground rhizome that is slim and tuberous.

Boston 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.

Boston Fern, Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'

Botanical name: Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'
Family: Nephrolepidaceae


Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis' is native to the tropical regions in America, Polynesia and Africa. It can grow both terrestrially or epiphytically.


Boston Fern is a fast growing fern which can grow to a height of to 2-3 ft and upto 3 ft wide.


Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis') are non-toxic to humans and pets as outlined by ASPCA. The ferns are safe to grow indoors.

Where to Buy

Boston Ferns are a pleasant addition to your plant collection, you may obtain them online.

Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis' Indoor Care

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis') does well in bright, indirect light, warm and humid conditions and consistently moist, fertile, well-drained soil coupled with fortnightly feeding during the growing season.

Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis' requires repotting every 2-3 years to provide adequate space for the growth of the rhizome and prevent plant death.

Regular pruning is necessary to keep it neat and tidy as well as discourage pest and disease infestation. Keep reading for a detailed account on these growing conditions and how to provide them.

Boston Fern, Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'

Light Requirements

Boston Fern grows best in bright, indirect light. Keep it away from direct sunlight as it may scorch the fronds.

Boston Fern can also grow under grow lights where natural lighting is insufficient. Check out these full spectrum grow lights on Amazon.


For optimum growth of Boston Fern, water it thoroughly during the growing season to keep the soil evenly moist at all times.

Cut down on watering during cold season as growth is minimal at this time to keep the soil slightly moist but do not allow it to dry out completely.

Ensure the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can result in root-rot.

Temperature and Humidity

Average warmth between 15-250C is ideal for Boston Fern. Keep it away from drafty situations as sudden drops in temperature can cause leaf drop and reduced growth.

Boston Fern thrives under high humidity. The fern is ideal for humid areas like the bathroom and the kitchen or set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity.

Potting Soil

The best soil for Boston Fern should be rich in organic matter and free-draining to prevent it from getting soggy while providing the required nutrients.

Allpurpose potting mixes are ideal for this plant. Buy quality allpurpose potting mix from Amazon.


Feed Boston Fern with a liquid, water-soluble fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during the growing period. Do not feed during the cold season as growth is reduced at this time.


Repot Boston Fern every 2-3 years 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 fern can result in death of the plant.

Repot it into a pot that is 1 size larger and one that has drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to rotting. Check out these Pots with Multi Mesh Drainage Holes on Amazon.

You can also be divide the Boston Fern into several sections during repotting and pot the sections individually to propagate new plants.


Pruning Boston Fern is easy. Remove dead and damaged fronds to keep the fern neat and tidy. As it ages, the older fronds turn brown. Cut them off at the base to maintain the fern looking neat and tidy as well as discourage pest and disease infestation.


Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis') propagation can be done by division at the beginning of the growing season. It can also be propagated from spores but they are difficult to grow.

How to propagate Boston Fern by plant division

Carefully take out your Boston Fern from its pot and divide the rhizome into several sections. Ensure each section has adequate roots.

Pot these sections into individual pots while ensuring that you do not bury the rhizomes too deep but maintain the soil level that they were at in the previous pot.

Place the pots in a warm, brightly-lit place away from direct sunlight and maintain the soil moist through out until the new Boston Fern are well established after which routine care can begin.

Boston Fern, Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'

Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis' Problems

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis') problems include brown leaf tips, wilting, yellow leaves, leaf drop, brown leaves, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems and how to fix them.

Brown dots or lines on the underside of fronds

These are spores which can be used for propagation of new Boston Ferns.

They indicate that the frond is mature and healthy. In their natural environment, these spores drop to the soil and grow into new Boston Ferns.

Yellowing, brown leaf tips and no growth

The cause of yellowing fronds, brown tips and no new growth in Boston Fern is dry air.

To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray. Learn more on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Yellowing fronds

Soggy soil is the reason for yellowing leaves in Boston Fern. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining to prevent the soil from getting soggy.

Wilting leaves

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

Excessive leaf drop

Leaflets drop in Boston Fern is indicative of too dry soil. Maintain the soil slightly moist and do not allow it to dry out completely for an extended period of time.

Isolated brown and yellow leaves

Browning and yellowing isolated areas in Boston Fern are a result of excessive salts in the soil either from watering or fertilizers.

Regularly 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 the fronds

Brown shells scattered on fronds of Boston Fern is an indication of a infestation by Scales. Isolate the affected fern to avoid spread to other houseplants and treat appropriately.


Boston Fern pests; Scales and Mealy Bugs. Isolate the affected fern to avoid spread to other houseplants and treat appropriately. Read more on how to identify and control houseplants pests.

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