For decades, Boston ferns have been grown as a tropical accent plant indoors and on patios. Either way, this robust fern maintains its lush good looks with minimum care. Give it high humidity and consistent moisture and it will reward you with long arching stems of spring-green foliage.
This easy-to-grow plant has long, sword-shape green fronds that arch gracefully as they get older, which is why this fern looks so good on a pedestal or hanging in a basket. This foliage consists of numerous small leaflets that, if allowed to dry out, fall off and leave wiry stems behind.
You can also find this plant in bright gold and a green-and-gold variegated variety, as well as with curly, wavy, twisted, drooping, and overlapping fronds. Some Boston ferns feature finely dissected leaflets that create a loose and airy feel.
Boston Fern Care Must-Knows
Boston ferns are relatively easy to grow as long as you stay on top of two things. Like most ferns, Boston fern needs high humidity to thrive. Misting and setting the plant on a tray of wet pebbles are beneficial. Ignore the need for humidity and you will end up sweeping up small brown leaflets shed by a struggling plant. Keeping your Boston fern's soil (a peaty, soil-based potting mix) consistently moist at all times is key. If the soil dries out, the plant will crisp up and drop many of its leaves. Fertilize potted ferns with a houseplant formula at half strength every month from spring to early fall.
When growing Boston fern as a houseplant, place it in bright, indirect light. When grown in too much shade, a plant's fronds will become dull and sparse. Too much sun, though, and fronds will burn. When growing Boston fern outside, make sure it is sheltered from direct sun to prevent burning.
As cool weather approaches, an outdoor plant can be brought indoors for the winter. If the fern loses lots of its foliage, cut it back to about 2 inches and it will eventually regenerate to form a lush plant. Boston fern can be divided. If you have to cut it back, that's the time to divide it, too.
More Varieties of Boston Fern
Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis' is the standard type, grown as an elegant houseplant since Victorian times.
This variety of Nephrolepis exaltata was developed to tolerate lower light and drier air conditions than the common Boston fern. It is a compact plant, with fronds only about half the length of the species.
'Kimberly Queen' Fern
Nephrolepis obliterata is a closely related species that is less sensitive to low humidity, so it holds up well in average room conditions.
This type is a variegated Boston fern with erratically marbled foliage in gold and green. This variety has large leaves that can get quite long.