How to Care for a Potted Boston Fern


The Boston fern, also known as a sword fern or fishbone fern, is native to tropical forests and swamps but is now one the most common houseplants. The leaves of the plant are light green and have a feathery appearance. Boston ferns thrive in bright filtered sunlight and humid conditions. A fern that loses its leaves or becomes lifeless is most likely not being cared for properly.

Step 1

Plant the Boston fern in a container filled with an organic potting soil mix that drains well. Place the Boston fern in a location that offers direct sunlight from an east or west window and a temperature that is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2

Mist the fern to increase the humidity levels once the temperature is above 70 degrees for extended periods of time. Place the fern on a tray filled with stones and water to increase the humidity around the plant during the hot summer and dry winter months.

Step 3

Water the fern once the soil dries out to several inches. Ferns do not respond well to being over-watered or being placed in standing water. Monitor the moisture levels more frequently during the hot summer months as the soil will dry out more quickly.

Step 4

Fertilize the Boston fern with a 15-5-15 fertilizer twice a month at the same time the plant is being watered. Ferns do not respond well to slow-release fertilizers. A fern that is not growing well may be over-fertilized.

Step 5

Repot a Boston fern once the plant becomes root bound in the container. Pot the fern in a container that is 2 to 4 inches wider in diameter. Move the plant to the new container without disturbing the root ball.

Things You'll Need

  • Growing container
  • Organic potting soil
  • Water mister
  • Water
  • Tray
  • Stones
  • 15-5-15 fertilizer


  • Do It Yourself: Growing and Caring for Boston Ferns
  • Santa Rosa Tropicals: Fern Growing Tips
  • The Garden Helper: How to Grow and Care for Boston Ferns
Keywords: grow Boston fern, care for Boston fern, plant Boston fern

About this Author

Jennifer Loucks has over 10 years of experience as a former technical writer for a software development company in Wisconsin. Her writing experience includes creating software documentation and help documents for clients and staff along with training curriculum. Loucks holds a Bachelor of Science major from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls specializing in animal science and business.