How to Take Care of a Boston Fern


The Boston fern is a sword fern. In 1894 it was introduced to the Boston, Massachusetts area from the tropical jungles of Central and South America, where it began its fame as a favorite houseplant. Because its origins are in the tropics, the Boston fern needs humidity and temperatures consistently around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Boston ferns make attractive hanging plants, with their lacy fronds cascading over the edges of the pot. Healthy specimens can grow fronds that reach up to three feet long.

Step 1

Plant your Boston fern in a peat-based, acidic potting soil using a container that is at least eight inches in diameter and which has at least one drainage hole. Avoid heavy soil that stays wet because it will cause the roots to rot.

Step 2

Place your Boston fern on top of a plant saucer in which you keep moist pebbles. The pebbles keep the bottom of your pot from swimming in water, while the water in the saucer provides your fern with needed humidity. Boston ferns respond well to a daily misting of water in addition to the humidity the pebbles provide.

Step 3

Keep your Boston fern in an area where it receives filtered sunlight and where the temperature is a controlled 60 to 75 degrees. Never expose it to high heat. If the fronds begin to turn pale and they look dry, evaluate the lighting in your room or outdoor area; this condition often indicates that your fern is getting too much sunlight, according to Hill Gardens.

Step 4

Fertilize your Boston fern monthly with a half-strength solution of a balanced liquid plant food having an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10.

Step 5

Soak your Boston fern in the sink for a few hours when you water it, and wait for the soil to dry before you water it again.

Step 6

Snip off old fronds with your clippers or garden snips to keep the plant looking nice and to encourage new frond development.

Things You'll Need

  • Peat-based, acidic potting mix
  • Container with drainage hole(s)
  • Plant hanger (optional)
  • Plant saucer
  • Pebbles
  • Spray bottle
  • Fertilizer
  • Garden snips


  • The Garden Helper: How to Grow and Care for Boston Ferns
  • Hill Gardens of Maine: Boston Ferns
Keywords: Boston fern, house plants, tropical indoors

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.