Growing Boston Ferns


You know it's spring when you see a truckload of lush Boston ferns unloaded at your local home improvement store. Why so many? Because they are a nice addition to a shady porch, or to an indoor room with low light. Boston ferns are a consistent favorite for even novice gardeners, and work well in containers.

Step 1

Plant your fern in a container 2 to 3 inches wider than the nursery pot. The idea is to give the roots a little bit of room for growth without having the plant surrounded by so much soil that the moisture of a thorough watering will drown it. Make sure your container has a drainage hole, and if it will be indoors, a saucer to collect excess water and protect surfaces in your home.

Step 2

Remove the fern carefully from the nursery pot. If it seems stuck, lay the plant on its side and roll the pot back and forth gently while pressing the sides of the pot to loosen the soil.

Step 3

Place the plant in the container, and fill any gaps around the sides with potting soil, covering all roots and gently pressing into place. The fern should sit at the same level in your container as it did in the nursery pot. If the container is a bit deeper, add potting soil to the bottom to make up the difference.

Step 4

Water your Boston fern thoroughly. Ferns love humidity, so if you keep your plant indoors, maintaining humidity is key. Some gardeners prefer to mist the fronds with a spray bottle of water. Others place a layer of pebbles in the saucer under the pot and pour water into the pebbles to a depth of around 1/2 inch. The evaporation of this water provides humidity to the plant. A fern suffering from a too-dry environment will brown on the tips of the fronds.

Step 5

Place your fern in a shady or low-light location. Direct or bright sunlight can burn the delicate fronds. Water when the surface of the soil feels dry. Fertilize with a liquid fertilizer about once per month.

Tips and Warnings

  • An indoor fern can perform well year-round, but those kept outdoors must be moved inside during the winter, as they can't tolerate the low temperatures.

Things You'll Need

  • Decorative container or hanging basket
  • Potting soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Small pebbles
  • Spray bottle


  • University of Rhode Island: Indoor Ferns
  • Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Ferns for Indoors
Keywords: boston fern care, fern maintenance, growing boston ferns

About this Author

Dana Hall McCain is a freelance writer based in Dothan, Ala., and is a a regular contributor to numerous regional publications. She writes features and columns on a variety of topics, including the outdoors, faith and health/wellness. She received a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University in public relations/communication in 1995.