How to Grow and Care for your Boston Fern

What is a Boston Fern?

Looking for a plant that will bring those magical forest vibes to your home? The Boston Fern (also known as the sword fern or fishbone fern) is the perfect pick if you are looking to bring the woodland aesthetic to any space! A great pick for a humid bathroom, these plants thrive in hanging baskets with their delicate fronds dangling gracefully over the sides of their pots that can grow from 6 inches up to five feet long!


Boston Ferns have some particular needs as a fern, but if you put them in the right place, they truly aren’t too difficult to care for. They are most commonly grown inside as hanging houseplants but can also survive in the right conditions in zones 9-11. This particular variety of fern is known as being much more low-maintenance than its other fern counterparts, which often are much harder to manage, especially for new plant parents.


Are you looking to buy one right away? Lively Root lets you buy indoor plants online, such as the Boston Fern!


Toxicity Level

The Boston Fern is non-toxic for pets, cats, and dogs! It can be challenging for concerned fur baby and plant parents to find the perfect plants that can coexist with their pets. The Boston Fern is an excellent option as it can hang in a hanging pot away from paws that may want to snatch at the fronds, but if leaves did get snatched, there would be nothing to worry about.

Care Level

Especially compared to other ferns, the Boston Fern is extremely manageable. These plants love bright indirect sunlight and need some humidity, but beyond the extra spritzing and correct light conditions are very low-maintenance. They like their soil to dry out completely between waterings meaning you can go out for the weekend (or week) without them immediately withering away.

Great for People:

  • Who love a variety of textures in their plant collection
  • Who are on the go and need lower-maintenance plants
  • Who have pets
  • Who love woodland vibes
  • Who don’t mind spritzing their plants occasionally

Great for Spaces Like:

  • Homes with lots of indirect light
  • A bathroom that is humid and has a window
  • Hanging baskets 
  • The tops of bookshelves where they can hang down gracefully
  • Partial sun porches

How to Care for a Boston Fern

Light preference

Boston Ferns thrive under loads of indirect sunlight. You will see them happiest hanging in a bathroom or on a partial shade porch getting some morning sun. Especially in hotter climates, however, the afternoon sun is prone to burning their fronds. Inside, make sure Boston Ferns find a somewhat shady area so that they don’t get too much direct sun.

Water/Humidity

When it comes to water, Boston Ferns are pretty hardy. Make sure that their pot entirely dries out between watering by sticking a wooden skewer into the soil to check for any dampness. When you do water them, make sure to water thoroughly, making sure that the pot completely drains before putting them back on their saucer. If you notice the saucer filling with water, empty it by pouring it out of using a towel to dry it in order to prevent any rotting. If your plant isn’t in a humid room like a bathroom, make sure to put it near a humidifier or spritz it occasionally. 

Ideal Temps

Ferns are often sensitive to the cold, and Boston Ferns can be as well. They do best when temperatures are between 68°F-78°F. While they can survive in lower temperatures, they can only do so for short periods of time before being damaged. To keep them growing happily, make sure to keep them away from areas that might get very cool drafts, like near AC vents or chilly windows.

Plant Food/Fertilizer

Boston Ferns like to be fertilized twice yearly to grow happy and healthy! It is best to fertilize your plants in the spring and summer, where they grow the most, helping give them the boost they need. Use a balanced, liquid fertilizer formulated for indoor plants, and make sure to dilute it as required depending on the instructions on the product. Try to prevent pouring the fertilizer on the leaves and fronds to prevent the chemicals from damaging the plant itself.

Repotting Frequency

When you get any new plant, it is best to wait to repot them for about 6-12 months as they start to acclimate to their new home. You can certainly repot them earlier if you start to see the roots rise to the surface of the soil. Boston Ferns do best when repotted every couple of years or as needed if they start outgrowing their pot! Try to repot plants in the winter, watering your plant in their old pot before transferring them. Follow our guide when repotting for extra help

 

Propagation

In the spring, you can choose to try to propagate your Boston Fern through division! The night before you try, make sure to water the plant. Then, unpot then and wash the soil from around the roots carefully. Once clean, use a sterilized knife or scissors to divide the clump, with each new plant having several leaves and sufficient roots. Once separated, repot the fern in indoor peat-based potting soil amended with a rooting hormone and plant in a container 2 inches bigger than the root ball. Let them sit in bright, indirect light while rooting and place a clear plastic bag over them and spritz inside to create a greenhouse-like environment. Continue doing this until the roots are established again, about 6-8 weeks!

Cleaning

Ferns do best when you trim off their browning or discolored leaves - make sure to cut the stem all the way back to the base. Try to avoid cutting the top if at all possible. To clean the leaves from debris, you can wipe gently with a damp cloth or spritz with water to help clear them off! You also can occasionally water them in a bathtub or shower with a gentle watering can to simulate the rain that would wash them off in their natural environment.


 

Common Issues of the Boston Fern

Overwatering your Boston Fern is the fastest way to kill it. Root rot is a disease that can cause the plant to die quickly and often isn’t easily detectable until it is too late. Another common issue occurs from underwatering, which can lead to graying of the leaves and stagnant growth. Make sure to always water thoroughly once the soil has dried out on the top two inches to prevent problems with your fern! Also, always ensure your fern gets enough light - without it, they can start to get long, stringy fronds. 


Unfortunately, most plants are also susceptible to pests. To catch them before they become an infestation, always examine your plants as you water them, from the soil to under their leaves! Some of the most common pests include spider mites, scale, or mealybugs.

 

Complimentary Plants with your Boston Fern:

Neanthe Bella Parlor Palms have similar requirements to the Boston Fern, making them a great pair! You can put these plants on the same care schedule with bright, indirect light, moderate humidity, and low watering needs. These smaller palms add some natural flair to any space or countertop and can even bloom yellow flowers in the spring when in the right conditions!


Staghorn Ferns also have similar requirements to the Boston Fern, but have a very non-traditional aesthetic for a fern! The heart-shaped basal fronds are beautiful, and it grows quite a few pups! If you want to add another unique fern to your collection, the Staghorn Fern would look stunning next to your Boston variety and require the same light, watering schedule, and humidity! 


For more information on caring for your new indoor plant, check out our comprehensive care guide here.


Want to buy your plants online? Find plants such as the Boston Fern here!