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Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata) Plant Care Guide

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata) Plant Care Guide


There are dozens of house plants that make our homes beautiful and also add some other health and medicinal values. Boston Fern is one such plant and is highly popular. It also is known as Nephrolepsis Exaltata and sword fern.

It is a plant that is commonly found in tropical regions around the world. It is an evergreen herbaceous plant and can grow up to 35 inches. There are some Boston Fern plants that also reach a height of 59 inches.

The plant can grow well in homes provided we take adequate care of them.

This article will provide you with some useful tips and suggestions that could help in ensuring that your Boston Fern plant grows the right way.

We also will look at some of the problems and common questions that need to be addressed as far as this plant is concerned.

Boston Fern Tips

Boston Fern Plant Care Basics

Most plants and trees are inclined to grow well in outdoor surrounding and environment. At the same time, plants like Boston Fern do grow well indoors. But you must ensure that adequate care and maintenance is taken.

You must have a clear idea about the various things and dependencies that are required for the right growth of this plant.

We are happy to share some of the most common requirements that should be in place for the best and optimal growth of Nephrolepis exaltata.



Boston fern needs soil that is rich in various types of nutrients. Ferns are known to grow best in porous and organic soil. The soil must be rich in humus. You can make this possible by use of various compounds such as composts, perlite or pine bark.

A large portion of these fern plants is grown as house plants. Hence, you must understand the importance of repotting them. This is critical because, over a period of time, these plants will become too big for the containers in which they are initially grown. It also would be a good idea to add peat moss to the soil during repotting.

This could help significantly in improving water retention in the soil.

The soil should also be moist and well-drained. Water should not stagnate. There are some variants of Boston ferns that perhaps can withstand poor drainage, but that is not an ideal situation.

Most varieties of Boston fern trees prefer acidic soils, though there are a few that do grow well in alkaline soils.



Light levels for this fern plant should be reasonable. The plant is designed to accept full sun at some points of time, and it also requires shady areas. If you want the plant to look healthy and happy, you must choose a fairly bright spot.

Further, you also must be sure that it does not receive too much of harsh sunlight. It would also be ideal to choose a north-facing window.

While east and west (in a pinch) are okay, you must stay away from the south-facing window or opening. This is because south always has full sunshine and ferns do not like harsh and full sunlight for extended periods of time.



We should bear in mind that all types of ferns are sensitive to watering, and Boston Fern is no exception. The soil should always be moist during all seasons except winter.

During winter you must be careful. You should water only when the soil surface is dry. In other words, during the hot weather Nephrolepis, exaltata would require regular watering, and it should be done several time.

While moisture is great, you must ensure that you do not overdo it. Excess water could lead to complete saturation, and the soil also becomes sodden.

Rainwater is the best option, and in case you are not able to manage rainwater always, you can use tap water. Be sure that the water temperature stabilizes and reaches the room temperature.

Very cold water could result in a shock to the roots and could damage the plant and stunt its growth.



Boston Fern plants love warm to average temperatures during the day. They also would like a gradual decrease in temperature at night. If you can maintain this balance, it will undoubtedly work wonderfully well on the foliage.

The temperature should be in the range of 16 to 26 degree centigrade. In no case, should the temperature get lower than 10 degree centigrade. You also should take care and ensure that the fern is well watered and warm.

This will go a long way in making the fronds to look attractive, healthy and bright.



Like most fern plants, Boston fern also requires high levels of humidity without which they will not be able to survive. They do love moist air quite a bit. They may not mind average levels.

However, if the humidity becomes low, the plant will suffer, and it might wither away. It is advisable to keep the plant away from radiators and hot air vents.

This is because these devices are designed to dry out the external air considerably and it could damage your favorite Boston Fern plant.

It is often considered to be a good plant for the bathroom. However, the bathroom should have natural light. It would not be a bad idea to mist the leaves regularly or find out some other innovative ways to increase humidity.



Boston ferns require fertilizer that is complete but light. It should have the right balance of phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. It should be in an equal ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20.

It should be available in liquid form and preferably water-soluble. It could also be in the form of granules with slow-release properties. Tablets or sticks could also be used.

However, according to some research, water-soluble fertilizers are preferred. This is because they are easy to dilute, and they reduce the risk of burning the Fern.



f you know the basics, propagating a Boston fern plant should not be very difficult. It could be done in many ways. You could accomplish it using the shoots of the plant.

This also is referred to as Boston fern runners. You also could divide the Boston fern plant. You can remove the stolons or fern runners from a mature plant.

This can be done by taking the offset of those runners that have formed roots and where they are in contact with the soil. This helps to create a new and separate Boston fern plant.



Nephrolepsis Exaltata grows typically up to 35 inches. In some cases, they are also known to grow up to 49 inches. Hence, when you plan to grow this plant, you must keep the growth pattern in mind.



You must have a reasonably good knowledge about repotting of this plant. You must go in for repotting only when you want it to grow to its full capacity and height.

Go in for repotting only when the roots have totally filled up the existing pot. When repotting, be sure that the same soil level is maintained when the plant was first set in the pots.

Be careful not to bury the crown because this will lead to what is known as rotting of the crown.


Watering Your Boston Fern The Right Way

Though water is extremely vital for Boston Fern, you must never overdo it. At the same time, you must also ensure that it is not under-watered. It would be better to water the plant when the soil becomes damp.

It would not be right to allow the soil to dry out completely. During summer, it might mean watering twice a week or even once daily, when the weather is really hot and dry.


Where Should I Water Boston Fern?

Ensure that the Boston fern plant is watered thoroughly. The water should be of room temperature. Never use cold water because it will cause what is referred to as root-shock and could lead to rotting of the roots. T

his will most certainly cause irretrievable damage to the Boston fern plant. If you can provide a humid environment, then the watering will certainly have a much better impact.


When To Water Boston Fern?

You must water the plant when you find that the soil is getting damp or has the risk of turning dry. During summer, daily watering might be required.

In winter, the soil tends to turn dry quite fast, and therefore you must be careful to avoid such a situation. At the same time, Boston fern cannot withstand stagnant water and it will wither and rot if the watering is done in excess.


A Few More Watering Tips

You must ensure that the plant stays hydrated at all points of time. During the rainy season, care should be taken to ensure that the water runs off and does not remain stagnant. This is important for those who grow this plant outdoors.


Propagation Of Nephrolepsis Exaltata

Dividing the roots is perhaps one of the most critical factors when propagating Boston Fern plants. Here are a few tips that could help in healthy and correct propagation of the plant.


Step 1:

It is difficult to propagate through seeds or spores and hence gardeners prefer to divide the healthy plants that they have. The process starts with cutting of the root ball of the fern. The divided parts must be planted in new pots.

Step 2:

Pressure might be required to remove roots. Large-sized ferns could get stuck to the plant container, especially the roots. Do not worry about exerting some pressure to remove and cut roots. These plants are designed to take harsh treatment.

Step 3:

The root ball should be cut into quarters. Ensure that the roots are spread before the actual cutting. Also, make sure that each quarter apart from roots also has an adequate number of healthy leaves.

Step 4:

Be sure that the roots of each plant are properly misted with water before potting is done.

Step 5:

Use porous, loose and clean potting soil. The soil should be moist uniformly and should crumble to touch.

Finally, ensure that the plant is divided regularly.


Signs That Your Nephrolepsis Exaltata Is Sick

While some problems related to Boston Fern might be human-made, others are caused by the weather or pests. We will have a look at some of the most common signs that could point to some problems with the plants.


Problem: The Leaves Are Discolored

This could be either because of improper watering, or exposure to too much of bright and harsh sunlight. Discoloration might also be caused by pests and over-usage or wrong usage of fertilizers. You must identify the root cause of discoloration and take corrective steps immediately.


Problem: Plant Looks Sick Because Of Diseases

Quite often we come across the fronds of the fern plant turning gray in spite of regular and proper watering. Pythium root rot could be the cause of such discoloration. It could lead to the fronds becoming stunted or withering away.

If the roots are stunted and brown, you can be reasonably sure that the plant is suffering from root rot.

The solution to this problem is being proactive rather than being reactive. The best option would be to buy plants that are disease-free. The potting soil should also be pathogen-free.

There are also some chemicals that could help in addressing the problem caused by Pythium roots. When use chemicals for treating the problem, be sure that the soil also is treated.


Problem: Fronds Turning Black

While fronds of the fern plant turning black are not always abnormal, you must be alive and aware of the situation. If you find that there is large-scale browning or blackening of fronds, there could be some problem.

There could be many reasons, and in most cases, nematodes in the soil are considered to be the culprits. This can be treated by adding generous quantities of compost to the soil.

This will help in the growth of friendly fungi that can destroy the nematodes. If the infestation is quite bad, it would be a good idea to remove the badly infected plants.


Related Questions


What should I do if I feel the soil of my Boston fern is too alkaline?

If you feel that your soil is too alkaline, there are simple solutions that could remedy the situation. Adding organic mulch helps in increasing acidity over a period of time. You also could add crushed limestone and/or oyster. This could also assist in turning the soil into acidic, but again, it will require patience and perseverance.


How To Care For The Plant From Outside?

There are some simple tips for proper outside care of the Boston Fern plant. Ensure that the soil is loosened regularly using a garden fork. Check the water regularly and water whenever you find the top layer becoming dry.


What Are The Health Benefits Of Boston Ferns?

Being one of the oldest plants on earth, they do have some fantastic health benefits. Yes, they do play a significant role in improving the aesthetics of homes, but they also offer some excellent and amazing health benefits. We will look at a few of them.

They could help in removing pollutants from the atmosphere. They are known to remove formaldehyde from the air effectively. Removal of formaldehyde increases humidity and it could go a long way in making the air fresh and pure.

It also could help in removing xylene. This is a harmful pollutant in the atmosphere. It is caused because of petroleum production. Indoor air often has xylene.

Improperly ventilated houses would do well to grow Boston Fern that could significantly reduce the pollution caused by xylene. It also could absorb Toluene.

This is a dangerous pollutant that could damage the central nervous system. It also could lead to upper respiratory tract irritation and necrosis. Gasoline is the major source of Toluene pollution in the atmosphere.

Boston Fern can help remove this harmful substance.


Are Boston Ferns Suitable For The Bathroom?

Yes, Boston Ferns can grow quite well in the bathroom. The reason for it is quite simple. Bathrooms have a high concentration of humidity, and this particular fern grows best in a humid atmosphere.

The plant also can handle temperature fluctuation in the bathroom.

However, it is important to ensure that the bathroom also has adequate sunlight. Further, the bathroom does not get uncomfortably cold and this could also be a reason why this closed space in your home could be ideal for growing Boston Fern.


How Do You Take Care For A Boston Fern In A Hanging Basket?

Though Nephrolepsis Exaltata thrive and grow best in shady and moist outdoors, it also can grow impressively well in a hanging basket or pot.

However, there are a few things that must be kept in mind. Hanging basket means smaller areas and lesser quantity of soil. Hence, it is important to ensure that the soil remains adequately irrigated.

The basket or pot should also have holes. This is vital because it will prevent the root system from becoming completely overcrowded. You also should use an organic potting mix and it should contain peat moss amongst other things.

The basket or pot should be carefully placed in a location where there is adequate sunlight and brightness. At the same time, care should be taken to avoid sunlight that is too harsh. A humid spot should be chosen because this fern likes humidity more than anything else.