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

Updated February 21, 2017

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Things You'll Need

  • Watering can
  • Water-soluble indoor plant food
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About the Author

Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a professional writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.