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6 Nifty Steps on How to Divide a Boston Fern

6 Nifty Steps on How to Divide a Boston Fern

I still have my very first Boston Fern, which was a birthday gift. It adds a pop of green to my patio that ties in perfectly with my decor.

But one plant wasn’t enough. I needed a few more.

To the nursery, I went and nearly fainted when I saw the price tag. A Boston fern is not a cheap plant.

Did I really want to fork out money for a second plant, or was there a way to propagate my then one and only fern?

I learned that I could easily divide my Boston fern to make more, and with proper care, the newlings thrive just like the mother plant.


How to Divide a Boston Fern?

Firstly, water your Boston fern 2 days before you divide it. Next, remove it from the soil by inserting a shovel 6 inches (15 cm) from and around the fern for garden-grown ferns. Grab hold of the leaves near the crown and pull if grown in a pot. Use sanitized blades or garden forks to divide the root ball into 4-8 sections before repotting it in well-draining soil.


Steps to Divide Your Boston Fern

Follow our step-by-step guide to successfully divide your Boston fern to propagate it:


Step 1: Water

Two days before I divide my Boston fern, I generously water the soil.

This helps ensure the root system can more easily deal with the stress of being cut and dislodged from its bed in the soil.


Step 2: Start Digging or Removing From the Pot

Since I’ve watered, two days have passed. It’s now time for me to dig out my Boston fern if it is planted in my garden.

I also have a few of these plants that I keep in the house, and these are planted in pots.

For those ferns in my garden:

  • I place my shovel about 6 inches away from the Boston fern so I make sure not to cut off any roots while I dig out the plant.
  • Next, I stick the shovel into the ground. This should be done straight down.
  • Do the same thing around the fern.
  • Lastly, I push the shovel in and lift the Boston fern out of the ground.

For those ferns in a pot:

  • I like a clean environment after dividing and repotting, so I lay out newspapers or a plastic tarp on the floor of my patio where I divide my Boston fern houseplants. I do, however, sometimes just split these on the grassy area in my garden.
  • Once my work area is ready, I grasp the leaves near the base and then I flip the pot so the plant’s at the bottom. Sometimes, I’m lucky and my plant slips out, easy-peasy, done.
  • Sometimes, I’m not so lucky, and removing the plant is trickier. In these cases, I gently tap the pot against a table or counter edge to help loosen the sides.


Step 3: Clean Your Garden Forks or Blade

I clean my garden forks or serrated blade with rubbing alcohol to ensure they are sanitized. This helps ensure I don’t infect my Boston Fern with any fungal or bacterial diseases, which could mean they will die.

I leave the blade to dry before I move on to the next step of dividing my Boston fern.


Step 4: Divide the Boston Fern

Once my blade is sanitized and the fern is out of the soil and resting on its side on my grass or a tarp, I cut the root ball of my Boston fern into two halves, then into quarters, and then into eights.

If I use garden forks, I tear the root ball into halves and so forth.

I only manage to get 8 sections if my fern’s root ball is big.

I’m usually happy to have quarters and I also make sure that each section has enough stems, leaves, and roots as this will ensure the new baby plants will grow optimally in their new pots.


Step 5: Repot

Now that I have my sections of Boston ferns, I repot each into their own pot. Sometimes I like to plant several of these together when I have an extra-large pot.

When I choose the pots for the divided sections, I ensure that the new root balls each fit comfortably in the pot and that there are about 2 inches to spare on either side of the roots.

With regard to soil, I usually just buy a soil-less potting mix that includes peat moss but a well-draining soil of loam, moss, leaf mold, and coarse sand will work well too.


Step 6: Water and Light

With my baby Boston ferns in their pots, I give them water, ensuring they are soaked. The soil should be moist, not waterlogged.

These plants also need bright, indirect light to flourish, so I move my pots where my ferns can do some sunbathing.

I then only water my baby ferns when I’m sure the first inch of the soil’s dry.


Frequently Asked Questions about Dividing a Boston Fern


Can I split my Boston fern?

You can split, or divide, your Boston fern. This is one of the ways to propagate the plant, so from the mother plant, you can make between 4-8 new Boston ferns.


When can I divide my Boston fern?

The best time to divide your Boston fern is during spring, and to encourage growth, repot your ferns every 3-5 years. There are also other indicators that it may be time to divide and repot your plant. These indicators are when your fern is growing smaller leaves than usual, no longer growing leaves, or dead in the middle, or center.


The Final Boston Divide

To avoid buying new Boston ferns at quite a price point, propagate your plant by dividing the root ball into equal quarters or eights, so from one mother plant, you can have 4-8 new ferns.

You may also need to divide the fern when the middle dies, it grows leaves that are smaller than before, or every 3-5 years to help your plant grow optimally.

Following my step-by-step guide ensures the process will be smooth sailing.