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Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis'
Boston Fern

Boston FernThe Boston Fern has a great history of being one of the Victorian parlor room tropicals. Along with the parlor palm and snake plant, it took its place on the front porch for the summer. Hanging in the night's breeze and creating all sorts of romantic evenings on the porch swing.

Today we still see that same fern on front porches.

It originates from tropical and semi-tropical regions of the world. Often covering rain forest floors, it quickly spreads. It can be used in landscapes as great fill-in and backdrops for smaller annuals.

Ferns, in general, thrive in rich humus soil, partial shade, and high humidity. The Boston fern is no different.

In baskets it hangs for several seasons before becoming pot bound.

With about 30 species there can be an interest for everyone.

Boston FernClay pots are an excellent way to grow the plant.

Misting is ideal for it creates the tropical and semi-tropical conditions that the plant loves best.

Watering and sunlight

Ferns need and require indirect good bright light to grow well. Although there are always exceptions to this rule. They also like humidity. Misting will help along the way. I would also summer them outside for the season.

Drying fronds means exactly that. They are getting too dry. Water a little at a time to let the water absorb and then second time a little at a time and then a third time. By dong this the roots will absorb more. Be sure the water is not flowing right through.

Once the frond is dry and brown trim it out, it will not come back.


Propagation can be done from spores, runners, or by division.


Too many roots all crammed in the bottom of a pot is 'root bound'. Potting it into a size 1- 1/2 times bigger will do just fine. It will thrive !! And love you for it. After potting it wait a couple of weeks and then fertilize your fern.


You can bring in the ferns to save them from the winter cold temperatures.

You will need some light but maybe a basement will be sufficient. I know in the southeast people put them under their porches and cover them with pine straw and that seems to work. However, if you get below freezing temperatures you will need to bring them inside. I would try the basement. If they get especially dry, water them every so often but do not get them wet or soggy. They will probably drop many their leaves. That is ok.

When the last frost date has passed in the spring start acclimating them outside in the shade and slowly bring them to their new location for the summer moths.

If they are pot bound we usually take them out of the pot in the spring and use a serrated knife and cut the plant into half or quarters and plant each section in a new pot with more soil.

Also, once, in the spring, we usually dunk the entire plant into a tub of water (big pot, large sink, bathtub, whatever) and hold it under until the air bubbles stop percolating out of it. Drowned it, in other words. That will assure that water is getting to all of the roots. Sometimes it gets so dried out in the winter or is so pot bound that when you water it the water just takes the path of least resistance to get out the bottom of the pot, so you are not really watering it. Of course, if we did repot it, we do this after we repot, not before.


Pay close attention for aphids, mealy bugs, or the red spider. Do not use pesticides for they are a tad strong on ferns. Use soap and water, drenching and repeating the process several times.

Enjoy the era of days gone by with this plant.

Other Ferns: Ferns in Northern Florida

Emily: Is the Boston Fern poisonous?

Dear Emily: My mother asked me to get online and see if I could find out if the Boston fern plant is poisonous to dogs or not. We have a 1 year old Yorkie that likes to chew and swallow anything she can get hold of. Do you know anything about this?

A: I'm pretty sure the Boston fern is non-toxic.

Tip: Soil amendments and double digging are the key to new beds.