How to care for your Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis')

Written by sharon sweeny
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How to care for your Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata 'Bostoniensis')
The fronds of Boston fern arch over the edge of the pot and hang down gracefully. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Originally popularised during the Victorian era, a well-cared-for Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata "Bostoniensis") is an imposing decorative element in any decorating scheme. Its long, arching fronds look equally well arching over a hanging planter or a plant stand. Several named mutations of the original Boston fern exist in the marketplace; some have ruffly or finely divided foliage, other sports grow well in lower light levels than the original.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Watering can
  • Water-soluble indoor plant food

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  1. 1

    Place your Boston fern in bright, indirect light. A good place is in front of an east-facing window or about a metre (several feet) from a west- or south-facing window.

  2. 2

    Water when the surface of the soil feels dry when you touch it. Do not allow the soil to dry out.

  3. 3

    Fertilise Boston fern monthly during the growing season with water-soluble indoor plant food mixed at half-strength. Too much fertiliser causes the fronds to turn brown, beginning at the tips. Not enough fertiliser causes the bright green fronds to fade to a yellowish-green.

  4. 4

    Provide extra humidity with a room humidifier. Misting the fronds of Boston fern is not effective in increasing its humidity and can contribute to foliar leaf spot diseases.

  5. 5

    Wash the fronds occasionally to remove dust and debris that can block sunlight from reaching the leaves. A gently spray from a kitchen sink hose or a shower is usually sufficient, or invert the plant and dip only its foliage into a basin of water.

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