Care and Pruning of a Boston Fern


The Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) produces abundant long green fronds. Often grown as a popular houseplant, it can also be successfully grown as a lush ground cover in tropical regions. The plant normally grows 3 feet high with a spread of between 2 to 3 feet. The Boston fern spreads rapidly when grown outside in a yard. It often requires containment either by transplanting, pulling or laying down a plastic barrier. There are more than 50 varieties of Boston ferns, according to the University of Florida.

Planting Location

Plant the Boston fern in full or partial shade if locating outside in the garden. When grown as a houseplant, it does well in diffused light. The fern grows prolifically in well-draining soil that offers ample organic matter. Place in a hanging basket or potting container that offers abundant room for the plant's 3-foot fronds to spread outward.

Pruning for Prolific Growth

Severe pruning encourages the Boston fern to produce prolific growth. This is often done to ferns grown outside each spring. Prune severely to the ground and the plant will produce ample and abundant fronds. Severe pruning causes the fern to grow in a bushy mound and prevents a leggy appearance. In tropical regions, the fern easily returns from its root system.

Pruning for Appearance

The Boston fern requires simple year-round pruning to maintain its appearance as a houseplant or garden plant. Clip the outer edges of the fronds to give an even appearance. Remove any dead, yellowing or dying fronds. The hairlike projection stems of the plant are visually unappealing on a houseplant and can easily be pruned away to maintain the plant's overall neat and compact appearance.


When grown in a tropical location, such as Florida, the Boston fern receives ample humidity, but when grown indoors as a houseplant the humidity level often needs to be raised around the plant. Place the Boston fern's container in a saucer of wet pebbles to help raise the humidity level around the plant. Mist the plant daily using a simple hand-held mister. A humidifier placed in the room by the plant will also help raise the humidity.


Maintain an indoor temperature of 68 to 72 degrees F during the day and 62 to 65 degrees F at night for a Boston fern grown indoors, according to the University of Rhode Island. The Boston fern grows outside as a garden plant in USDA zones 8B through 11, according to the University of Florida. Plant the ferns year-round outside in tropical locations.


Fertilize the Boston fern using a water soluble fertilizer mixed at half strength. Apply once per month for houseplants. Fertilize in the spring, summer and fall for ferns grown outside in tropical locations.

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About this Author

Kimberly Sharpe is a freelance writer with a diverse background. She has worked as a Web writer for the past four years. She writes extensively for Associated Content where she is both a featured home improvement contributor (with special emphasis on gardening) and a parenting contributor. She also writes for Helium. She has worked professionally in the animal care and gardening fields.