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How to Care for your Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata 'Bostoniensis')

By Sharon Sweeny
The fronds of Boston fern arch over the edge of the pot and hang down gracefully.

Originally popularized 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 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.

Fertilize Boston fern monthly during the growing season with water-soluble indoor plant food mixed at half-strength. Too much fertilizer causes the fronds to turn brown, beginning at the tips. Not enough fertilizer 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 Will Need

  • Watering can
  • Water-soluble indoor plant food

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.